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Went straight over my head 不知所云

中国日报网 2018-08-10 10:52


Reader question:

Please explain “went straight over my head” in this sentence: “I don’t know a word of Korean, so most of the lyrics went straight over my head.”

My comments:

The speaker is talking about a song that’s in Korean. The speaker doesn’t speak the language and so he has great difficulty understanding the song. He or she, the speaker may be able to enjoy the melody, but has no idea what the song’s about, what message it conveys.

The speaker has no clue.

That’s what “went straight over my head” means here. To use a swimming analogy, the speaker feels completely out of his or her depth.

In the swimming pool, one end of the pool is marked “shallow water area” and the other “deep water area”. In the shallow end of a standard pool, the water is like a meter deep; at the deep end, it’s, like, 1.8 meters. Suppose one swimmer is 1.75 meters in height. If he or she goes into the pool at the shallow end, the water won’t go above their head if they stand on the floor of the pool. But if they try to stand straight up on the deep end, the water will – will go above and over their head. In other words, they’ll be submerged in water.

That’s dangerous, of course, if they cannot swim.

Hence, by extension, if some idea or concept is described as going straight over somebody’s head, it means the idea or concept is too advanced, complex or sophisticated for that somebody to understand. In other words, the idea or concept makes him/her feel overwhelmed and inadequate, unable to cope.

In our example, since the speaker doesn’t understand the Korean language, he or she feels like a swimmer, a beginner in fact thrown into the pool at the very deep end. And that makes them feel completely at a loss.

All right?

All right, here are media examples of people who feel this way, when they fail to understand something – something that goes over their head:

1. Hours before the historic power shift in the Senate takes place, House Democratic Leader Richard Gephardt, D-Missouri, who is often accused by Republicans of being a strict partisan, announced his willingness to compromise with the GOP.

“I stand with olive branches in both hands, ready to sit down and talk to see what we can work out,” he declared Tuesday.

But Gephardt said he thinks GOP leaders missed the message of Sen. Jim Jeffords when he left the Republican Party two weeks ago to become an independent.

“[House Majority Leader] Dick Armey said, ‘We want to be more bipartisan, but we’re not going to negotiate with Daschle and Gephardt.’ I mean, it’s like the message went over their head or around them and they didn’t get it,” Gephardt said.

“We’ve always been willing to compromise,” the longtime Democratic leader said at a news conference. “We are willing to come halfway and in some cases we’ll go more than halfway.”

- Gephardt: ‘I stand with olive branches in both hands’, CNN.com, June 5, 2001.

2. Just because we get older doesn't mean the life lessons we learn from children's books are any less important.

We asked Louise Lareau, the managing librarian at the Children’s Center at the New York Public Library, to recommend the books that every adult should read again.

Here are 19 of the most compelling….

“Anne of Green Gables” by L.M. Montgomery

“Anne of Green Gables” is a bestseller for good reason. The fiery, independent red-haired orphan captures the adventurous spirit of childhood.

The book makes you see the magic of the world around us in nature, friends, and neighbors through Anne’s eyes.

“Charlotte’s Web” by E.B. White

Who doesn’t remember the story of Wilbur, the tiny runt piglet, and Charlotte, the wise old spider?

Charlotte’s beautiful webs with words save Wilbur from slaughter and thrust him into the limelight of the county fair. The witty, compassionate book teaches adults and children alike about friendship and loss.


“Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” by J.K. Rowling

J.K. Rowling's first book in her world-renowned “Harry Potter” series reignited the fantasy genre. The story of a seemingly ordinary 11-year-old boy with glasses turns into a wonderful tale of hidden magic and fantastic beasts.

“As children, we may have overlooked the hints left by the author about the series’ ending,” Lareau says. Too true.

“The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” by C.S. Lewis

You may have loved this series as a child, but the fantastically detailed and complex story of Narnia is worth re-exploring as an adult.

The allegory may have gone over your head as a child, but you understood that the author had built the most incredible world,” Lareau says.

- 19 children’s books you need to re-read as an adult, ThisIsInsider.com, March 31, 2017.

3. On June 12, 1898, Emilio Aguinaldo, the Philippines’ first president, declared national independence from Spanish colonial rule. The Filipino independence movement had been spreading throughout the colony since 1896. After three centuries of Spanish oppression, Filipinos could almost taste their hard-earned freedom.

But no foreign power would recognize Aguinaldo’s declaration. In the eyes of the world, the Philippines belonged to Spain unless handed over to another recognized government. On Dec. 10, 1898, Spain sold the Philippines, along with Guam, Puerto Rico, and Cuba, to the United States for $20 million.

In 1899, US President William McKinley justified the annexation of the Philippines, saying that Filipinos were incapable of self-government. It was the United States’ duty to prepare them for democracy, despite the fact that Filipinos already had a national constitution and democratically elected leaders. McKinley failed to mention that the country had a strategic location in the Pacific and an abundance of arable land, mineral deposits, and vast coastlines, vital features of ports and naval bases.

Filipinos fiercely resisted the arrival of a second colonizer. The Philippine-American War lasted from 1899–1902, but scattered rebellions against US occupation continued until 1913. The outgunned Filipino army was forced to rely on guerrilla tactics and surprise attacks. US troops responded by destroying entire villages, torturing prisoners, and starving civilians in concentration camps. Soldiers held racist attitudes toward Filipinos, calling them “savages” and “niggers.” Between 1899 and 1905, 1.4 million Filipino soldiers and civilians were killed in what scholars consider a genocide.

An American civil government was established in 1901 with McKinley’s appointment of William Howard Taft as its governor-general. He drafted plans for a transportation network, a justice system, and hospital facilities. To further “pacify” Filipinos, Americans introduced a free and universal public school system, with English as the medium of instruction. Within the year, there were more than a thousand American teachers in the Philippines. And over the next four years, the number of elementary schools grew to 3,000, with nearly half a million enrolled students. By 1913, Spanish and English were the official languages of the Philippines.

Education played an important role in the American colonial agenda. According to Filipino psychologist Virgilio Enriquez, language carries the morals, practices, and goals of the society it represents. Through English, Filipino students were conditioned to equate the United States with civilization, righteousness, and opportunity. Filipino culture, on the other hand, was given little value. The historian Renato Constantino called it miseducation, as Filipinos “learned no longer as Filipinos but as colonials.” The public school system primed a new generation of Filipinos to conform to American interests.

War and education were two sides of the same coin, two forms of oppression that would bring a lasting effect on the Filipino psyche. Oppression is the root of colonial mentality, the belief that the colonizer is inherently superior to the colonized. E.J. David, a Filipino psychologist, writes that Filipinos internalized the traumas of war, racism, and the devaluation of their culture, and began to believe they truly were inferior. Gradually, Filipinos conformed to the American way of life in their attempt to become more like their colonizer. The United States gained control of the Philippines through war, but it was education that snuffed out their revolutionary spirit. These attitudes would be passed down over generations; they explain the confusion and shame held by many toward their Filipino identity.

Colonial mentality can be observed among other peoples with similar experiences of oppression. In the United States, Korean and Vietnamese immigrants who speak with heavy accents are derogatorily labeled “FOB” or “fresh off the boat” by the more Americanized Korean and Vietnamese members of their community. Among the Latino community, being guero, or fair-skinned, is preferred over being dark-skinned. But more than a set of attitudes, internalized oppression may have consequences for mental health. Historical trauma experienced by Alaska Natives has been linked to depression, substance abuse, and domestic violence. A study among Latino college students found that a low sense of connection to their ethnic identity and loneliness are strong predictors for suicide risk.

For Filipinos, the symptoms of colonial mentality can be found in everyday life. It begins in childhood, when a parent will pinch the bridge of their child’s nose to make it higher and narrower. Skin-whitening products remain popular as fair-skinned or “mestizo” celebrities dominate local media. In a 2014 study, 85% of Filipinos held a positive view of Americans, a rate higher than Americans’ own view of themselves.

But to Bea, she and her family are genuinely Pinoy. “No one instilled upon me that English is better, being white is prettier.” Yet one can take pride in being Filipino and still hold subtle inferiorizing beliefs. In the future, Bea wants her children to be foreign citizens “only because it’s easier to retire there.” In 2010, David conducted a study with 102 participants, and found that 6 out of 10 Filipinos and Filipino Americans may have colonial mentality.

Today, English remains firmly cemented in its place as an official language of the Philippines. It is the language of business, law, and academia. The ability to speak in English with no “barok” accent is an instant boost in status. English is partly to thank for the Philippines’ economic boom; the business process outsourcing industry employs 1.15 million Filipinos in places like call centers, and remittances from OFWs — money sent to the country by overseas Filipino workers in nations like the United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia, and, of course, the United States — hit $28.1 billion in 2017. English proficiency, on an individual and national level, is seen as the ticket out of poverty.

This makes the demand for English education seem more than reasonable. Of her time at school, Bea recalls, “The only way of communicating with literally 99% would be English.” She studied at Rosehill, an exclusive all-girls school in Antipolo City. The school is nestled inside a gated village beyond the city proper. “We’re very closed,” says Bea. “’Cause we’re dropped off in school, we’re picked up from school. We don’t commute.”

The girls spoke English in class, during breaks, and after school hours. Either they were raised as ingliseras, or they conformed to the school culture. “I was never pressured,” Bea recalls. “For others, it’s evident they had a hard time.” She also pitied her peers who had to straddle the language barrier between two worlds. “I feel like, kawawa naman because they had to adjust in school. But when they go back home, their world is, like, Tagalog.”


Bea’s mastery of English was not without its advantages. In 2016, La Salle hosted the Harvard Project for Asian and International Relations, a conference that brought together student delegates from all over the world to discuss political, economic, and social issues. She was the go-to. “They needed locals to help the delegates around.” A self-professed extrovert, Bea effortlessly connected with people from different cultures. The event was also her opportunity to make business contacts. “I have calling cards of this German guy who had a startup in Germany.”

But on most days, Bea struggled to relate to her peers. Pop culture references went over her head. “I wish I knew more words so I could relate to their jokes,” she says. Bea knew next to nothing about local music, shows, and celebrities. She never saw any local films “unless a teacher made me watch it.”

- Confessions Of An Inglisera, BuzzFeed.com, May 9, 2018.


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.

(作者:张欣 编辑:丹妮)


Paving the way 铺路


Striking out 完全失败


Fly on the wall 墙上的苍蝇?


On a loop? 循环往复


We hear crickets? 什么也没听到


解读符文 Reading the runes?

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