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Behind the eight ball again?

中国日报网 2014-07-08 11:22


Reader question:

Please explain “behind the eight ball” in this: “Costs will go up and we will be behind the eight ball again.”

My comments:

Costs are going up and the company is in financial trouble one more time. In other words, they’re probably going to lose money, i.e. failing to make a profit again.

That’s, more or less, what “behind the eight ball” means here.

Of course, you have to play the game of pool to understand this, the eight ball version of the game to be exact. In Eight Ball or Eight-Ball pool, two players play 15 balls numbered 1 through 15. As a matter of fact, each player plays seven balls first, with one player owning numbers one through seven while the other nine to fifteen. The eight ball (denoting Ball Number 8, not eighth ball) is played only after a player pockets all the seven balls (knocking them into one of the six side holes, or pockets round the table) is he or she is allowed to hit the eight ball. He/she who is the first to knock down the eight ball wins a game, or frame.

In accordance with the rules of the game, players are not allowed to touch the eight ball while aiming to hit one of the other seven balls they’re supposed to hit. Therefore, if they find the white ball, the cue ball, immediately behind the eight ball, they’re in a position of difficulty. In fact, the closer the cue ball is to the eight ball, the greater area of blockage it creates.

Thence comes the saying “behind the eight ball”, meaning a position of difficulty from which one is unlikely to extricate themselves.

I actually play the Eight Ball pool and so I find this expression very easy to understand. However, there are different stories as to the origin of this expression, some disputing even whether the expression derives from Eight Ball pool in the first place. However, it doesn’t really matter, so long as you understand it correctly and know where to put it in use correctly.

Use it, for example, among people who play the game and who easily understand what you’re saying. Don’t, for example, use it outside of sports circles many of whom may have no idea what you’re talking about.

Incidentally, if you know nothing about the game of pool, of which the Eight Ball is but one form (others include the Nine Ball popular in the United States, Snooker, which Ding Junhui plays, and professional billiards, popular in Europe), here are a few stanzas of the Pool Song by the Dubliners, an Irish band, which will give you something of an idea of this fun game, indeed sometimes a silly game once you find yourself helplessly addicted to it:

Well, this pool you will find is a game designed
For foolish illiterate louts
You push in four bob and you pull an old knob
And a big shower of balls they come out
They're placed on a table and then if you're able
To knock them all into a hole
More money goes in, you start over again
And you lose every bob of your dole

Now in the Irish Free State
All the people are bate
From watching and playing this game
In their necks they have cricks
That no doctor could fix
And their backs and their shoulders are maimed
Their arses protrude in a manner most lewd
From being hoisted aloft in the air
And their eyeballs are sore
And dripping in gore
And they act in a manner most quare

So if you meet a young man
Who’s face it is wan
And his eyes have a vacant stare
His jawbone is slack
And his head is thrown back
And he can’t tell a cob from a mare
His nostrils dilated, his brow corrugated
His manners like those of a fool
On your shirt you can bet
That you have just met
A man that's gone plain mad from pool

There you go^_^.

All right. Here are media examples of people who find themselves behind the eight ball:

1. One of the most common problems for remote teams is team member turnover. Your project is humming along, or you’re finally caught up on your work and, BAM, Joanne in Topeka gives her notice (if you’re lucky) and you’re behind the eight ball again. She seemed happy and was doing a good job. What happened?

According to a new employee engagement study from Blessing White, there’s a reason even your best, happiest team members are likely to jump ship on you. It’s not what’s happening now; it’s what they’ll do in the future.

According to the report, 26% of your employees who think of leaving do so because they don’t see a future where they are. That's almost three times the number of people who think about leaving because they don’t like their manager. This is a little shocking because we’ve always been told that the major cause of turnover is manager-employee relationships.

- Why Your Best Employees Leave and How to Keep Them, CBSNews.com, April 14, 2011.

2. AFTER perhaps the worst week of his White House campaign, Mitt Romney’s team is taking the long view, insisting the Republican candidate will be able to bounce back by November 6.

As polls showed President Barack Obama ahead in key battleground states and panicked conservatives rained criticism on Romney, the candidate held at least five fundraisers over as many days beginning last Friday without a single public event.

Just seven weeks away from election day, it was an extraordinary gap, and veteran campaign reporters said they could not remember the last time a presidential candidate stayed off the trail for so long in the final stretch.

Romney aides dismissed the pause as the normal ebb and flow of politicking, insisting their strategy was geared towards November.

“The race is very close,” senior adviser Kevin Madden told AFP as thousands of supporters gathered under a blistering Florida sun for a Romney rally on Thursday.

“This is not an election that's going to be won or decided here in September. Ultimately it’s going to be decided in November, and that’s where we put our focus - all the way until election day.”

Observers, including several Republicans, say the party’s nominee put himself behind the eight ball when a secretly filmed video surfaced showing him branding “47 per cent” of Americans as government-dependent freeloaders.

The remarks emerged as Romney was already in damage-control mode over a statement accusing Obama of sympathising with Islamist protesters that was released just hours after the killing of four Americans in Libya.

Romney’s remarks in the video, shot at a May fundraiser and published by Mother Jones magazine earlier this week, kicked up the worst firestorm of his campaign - and yet the candidate is not shying away from the message, but doubling down on it.

- Battered Romney has tough week, TheAustralian.com.au, September 21, 2012.

3. World No. 1 Rafael Nadal put the kibosh on the best-laid plans of upset-minded Albert Ramos, downing the southpaw Spaniard, 7-6(2), 6-4, to win his 40th consecutive match at the Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell on Wednesday afternoon.

“It was a positive victory for me,” Nadal said afterwards. “I feel that I had to suffer, I had to come back from difficult situations.”

Just after his compatriot David Ferrer was knocked out of the draw by a surging Teymuraz Gabashvili (3rd-seeded Fabio Fognini was also ousted), Nadal found himself behind the eight-ball when Ramos stormed out to a break lead in the opening set. Though the eight-time Barcelona champion would right the ship and eventually earn the chance to serve for the set at 6-5, Nadal was broken when the world No. 103 fought back from 30-0 down to win the next four points, sealing the break with a backhand winner down the line.

But just as he has always done in the past in Barcelona (he has now won all five tiebreakers he has played at the event), Nadal would take the tiebreaker in style to grab the lead from Ramos by winning the final five points on the trot.

- Nadal Restores Normalcy in Barcelona with Win over Ramos, TennisNow.com, April 23, 2014.




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.



Reading the riot act?

Keep his power dry?

Finest hour?

Running up the white flag?

An endless balancing act


(作者张欣 中国日报网英语点津 编辑:陈丹妮)




An endless balancing act


Running up the white flag?


Finest hour?


Raw end of the deal?


Keep his power dry?


Reading the riot act?

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