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Child in a candy store?

中国日报网 2013-01-18 13:06

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Reader question:

Please explain “being in a candy store for four years” in the following passage (School within a school: MIT Concourse, MIT.edu, December 10, 2012.):

The single best thing about college for MIT Professor of History Anne McCants was “exploring ideas ravenously.” It was like being in a candy store for four years," she says. Now, as newly appointed director of Concourse, a learning community for MIT freshmen, McCants says her goal is to give today's students the same heady experience of intellectual adventure and discovery...

My comments:

If only all students thought that way.

Well, “four years” refer to the length of most college studies for an undergraduate. “Like being in a candy store” is “like being a child in a candy store”.

Professor McCants thinks Concourse provides such a variety of exciting courses that all students will “feel like children in a candy store for four years”, never getting tired of the studies.

This is the phrase in full: Feel like a child in a candy store.

You know what children feel like in a candy store, or shop, don’t you?

Yes, they’re open-eyed, excited and practically cannot help themselves but help themselves with all the lovely packaged candies on display.

It’s a feeling that you have everything you want in the world all to yourself.

Or something like that.

In short, the idiom “feeling like a child in a candy store” is an age-old old phrase, probably as candy shops themselves – imagine what it felt like for kids in those days when the first candy stores opened to business.

Anyways, “feeling like a child in a candy store” is so widely and frequently used that it now feels like a cliché, i.e. it sounds old and not at all fresh. But it is a vivid phrase to learn and put into use.

Put it into use, that is, in situations where you feel a lot of excitement, even bewilderment at what’s in store for you to explore. You’re being adventurous and are extremely happy.

Incidentally, I think the original phrase might be “a kid in a candy store” rather than a child. Come to think of it, I’ve come across “kid” in the phrase much more often than “child”. “Kid” being American English for a child, this phrase might indeed be American in origin.

That’s what I think. You?

Never mind. Here are media examples:

1. A chance phone call inspired Lee Woodruff, a contributor to CBS This Morning, to write her first novel. The author, with her journalist husband, Bob, had written the bestselling In an Instant, which chronicles the family’s path to recovery in the aftermath of Bob’s traumatic brain injury in Iraq. Since then, Lee has become the go-to person for brain injury information, which is why a friend called about an accident in which a 17-year-old drove a car into a young child riding his bike. The child subsequently recovered from a brain injury. “What struck me was the randomness of the act,” Woodruff tells Show Daily. “That one ‘in an instant’ moment is probably why it hit home, because my moment was when I picked up the phone and got the news about Bob. And as a mother I wound up thinking, ‘God, this could have so easily happened to my 17-year-old son.’ And look at all of those lives that were affected by that one moment.”

In Woodruff’s novel, Those We Love Most, a teenage boy thinks he’s driving down an empty street, and a mother, distracted by a text message on her phone, neglects to watch her bike-riding child. Then disaster strikes.

Like many writers, Woodruff pulled things from her own life to enrich her story. Her father, for example, suffers from dementia, and in the book the main character’s father has a stroke. The author explains, “Watching my mother care for my dad gave me some insights into what that must be like—to see a loved one in their sunset years really diminished by something like a stroke or dementia.” And of course, seeing how her own family and friends responded to her husband’s predicament, and how he recovered himself, fueled the underlying spirit of Woodruff’s book.

“Someone once told me, or I read somewhere, that loss is not the end. It’s merely an indication to change. And that’s the theme of this book. We all are going to lose something – one’s job, a breast, whatever it is. We’re all going to have to deal with that at some point in our lives,” Woodruff says. “What I’ve seen as an advocate for veterans and as a wife who went through something bad is that human beings are built to survive. Most of us are capable of resilience in pretty incredible ways.”

This is Woodruff’s first experience at Book Expo. “It’s going to be like being in a candy store,” she says. “For some people it’s makeup; for others it’s technology. For me it’s books—my dream come true! I just want to go and stare over the counter. I’m going to feel like the kid in kindergarten at the big kids’ school.”

- PW Talks with Lee Woodruff, June 5, 2012.

2. Dozens of trainers line the stairs to Tara Palmer-Tomkinson’s private world: pink, blue, green, purple, red - every imaginable colour - as if an army of exercisers had strayed into her penthouse maisonette. Does she run? “No, never,” says the whirlwind as she clatters up to her South Kensington eyrie in Jimmy Choo stiletto boots.

The theme of zany excess is repeated everywhere. In her sitting room there's not one vase of flowers but three huge ones, fighting for attention, and enough bottles of booze to run a nightclub, although she scarcely drinks. Surfaces are crammed with framed photos, scores of them, mostly showing Tara partying like crazy. Even her staff come in droves: there's a Ukrainian changing/breaking light bulbs, a Ukrainian tidying up, and further Ukrainians (presumably) mysteriously banging doors on the floor below, so that the whole place shakes.

Neither the flat, nor its owner, seems to do stillness. “Oops, sorry for flashing my pants at you,” she says as she lifts her Alexander McQueen tweed skirt to wipe enormous glasses. TPT - the original It Girl, later known as Twit Girl - is as frenetic as her surroundings. She arranges herself demurely to chat on her white leather sofa opposite a vast television screen that's belting out MTV. A second later she's up again, fetching something, dealing with somebody, or taking a breath of fresh air on her roof terrace. The glass doors are wide open, even though it is a wet February evening.

Restlessness is as much a feature of her conversation as of her rubber-pencil body. In rapid, loud bursts her life story pours out, punctuated by sudden halts when she doesn't want to go somewhere - her family’s royal connections (her father, Charles, is one of the Prince of Wales’s closest friends) or her cocaine days.

Although now 35, she's still like a teenager - occasionally petulant, but mostly impulsive and eager to please. At any moment I expect her to start bunny-hopping round the room, as she did in the jungle during the 2002 series of I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here! The reality TV show revived her image three years after she collapsed into rehab: “It was the first time anyone had ever voted for me,” she says, poignantly. She must be hoping to repeat that coup by appearing on Comic Relief Does Fame Academy this weekend.

“Shall I sing for you?” she offers, putting on a backing track and throwing herself on to the piano stool that bears the numberplate TARA1. Her fingers rippling over the keys, she performs a song (which must remain secret) that she's been preparing for the show. As suddenly as she starts, she stops - after missing a top note - and turns from the piano like a crestfallen child. “I don’t expect to last more than three or four rounds,” she says. “But how great is it to be a pop star even for a day? I’m so glad it’s for Comic Relief. Not being paid should mean I’m not slated.”

After years of being thought a snooty freeloader, Tara is desperate to be liked. Therapy allows her to talk easily about her “shame” and feelings of inadequacy. But she doesn’t do solemn for long. Brightening up, she flashes the mischievous look and Cheshire-cat grin familiar from the gossip columns and off she goes, reciting one of her (rather witty) poems. “Even now, everyone thinks I must be on speedballs, but I’m not,” she says, proudly displaying the newly reconstructed nose made out of cartilage from her ear and skin from her scalp. The operation was carried out last August, after some terrifying pictures of her concave nose appeared in the papers. She claims they owe more to Photoshop's ingenuity than to her nonexistent septum, but she’s not denying that she needed the op. "I wish I’d had it done five years ago,” she says wistfully, “then people couldn’t say I must be on something. My doctor says if I ever use [cocaine], it will collapse again - and he won’t repeat the operation.”...

The It Girls – “posh, rich, society girls”, as she puts it – provided endless pictures and column inches. Manufacturers showered her with cars, dresses, shoes, perfume and holidays. “I was like a child in a candy store,” she says. “I just said: ‘Wow, thanks’. I didn’t know it wasn’t done to accept freebies. I was only 23 and very naive; I didn’t realize people expected something in return.”

- ‘I’ll die another Miss Havisham’, Telegraph.co.uk, March 1, 2007.

3. Responding to reports that President Obama is considering signing as many as nineteen executive orders on gun control, Republicans in Congress unleashed a blistering attack on him today, accusing Mr. Obama of “cynically and systematically using his position as President to lead the country.”

Spearheading the offensive was Rep. Steve Stockman (R-Texas), who charged the President with the “wanton exploitation of powers that are legally granted to him under the U.S. Constitution.”

Calling him the “Law Professor-in-Chief,” Rep. Stockman accused Mr. Obama of “manipulating a little-known section of the Constitution,” Article II, which outlines the power of the President.

President Obama looks down the list of all of the powers that are legally his and he’s like a kid in a candy store,” Rep. Stockman said. “It’s nauseating.”

The Texas congressman said that if Mr. Obama persists in executing the office of the Presidency as defined by the Constitution, he could face “impeachment and/or deportation.”

Noting that the President has not yet signed the executive orders on gun control, Rep. Stockman said that he hoped his stern words would serve as a wake-up call to Mr. Obama: “Mr. President, there’s still time for you to get in line. But if you continue to fulfill the duties of President of the United States that are expressly permitted in the Constitution, you are playing with fire.”

- Republicans Accuse Obama of Using Position as President to Lead Country, NewYorker.com, January 15, 2013.

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About the author:

Zhang Xin is Trainer at chinadaily.com.cn. He has been with China Daily since 1988, when he graduated from Beijing Foreign Studies University. Write him at: zhangxin@chinadaily.com.cn, or raise a question for potential use in a future column.

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