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Let’s keep afloat

[ 2011-10-11 17:33]     字号 [] [] []  
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Let’s keep afloat

Reader question:

Please explain “side jobs” and “keep me afloat” in this sentence:

“I’ve just been working side jobs and things to keep me afloat.”

My comments:

“Side jobs” refers to other work than your main job. If you moonlight, that is, do anything extra in the evening (under moonlight) for pay after your day job, you’re doing side jobs.

In other words, side jobs are part-time work in addition to your main job, often called full-time job.

The more meaningful and interesting phrase to grasp here is the other: “keep me afloat”. That means for the speaker to be able to make ends meet.

Obviously, we’re not talking about swimming here, but the water analogy is the thing to examine. Literally, to keep afloat is to remain above water, such as ships are described as being afloat (borne on water). Opposite that is for ships to run aground (hit the bottom of the lake and park by the bank) or sink (get submerged in deep water). Figuratively speaking, therefore, for people or companies to keep afloat is for them to keep their head above water, that is, to remain solvent, i.e. to make at least as much money as they spend.

Opposite that is for them to go underwater, i.e. to go broke or bankrupt.

As the world is still feeling the effects of the global financial crisis which began in earnest in 2008, perhaps it is time we all learned to remain afloat (or at the very least master this very vivid and useful financial term).

If, for instance, your day job is not doing the work of supporting yourself and family, you must get side jobs and what other occasional odd work you can get to keep you and family afloat. To use the water analogy again, treat the odd jobs as pieces of wood to grab at when, swimming in the lake, you find yourself drowning.

A depressing scene to imagine to be sure, but at least the image is one of floating – After all, it’s not one of those dreadful sinking feelings. And so, hopefully, the odd jobs will keep you afloat and happy. Not swimmingly happy perhaps, but, again, in this day of omnipresent financial woes, it is good enough to remain afloat, however you can.

In a way, to keep afloat now is to, as the Chinese say, “keep up with the times”.

Here are a few media examples of people and companies as well as indeed whole countries trying to keep afloat:

1. JONATHAN LEAHY LIVES in Douglas, in Cork. He is 37 years old and has four children, of whom the eldest is doing her Leaving Cert next summer. His three-bedroom house is too small for six people, but there is nothing he can do, because he can’t sell to trade up.

He bought the house in 2005 for €360,000; now it is worth about €280,000. “We are really struggling to find space, and even finding a corner where my eldest can study for her Leaving in peace is impossible. When I approached the bank and asked about the possibility of selling up and getting a new mortgage, or even a loan so we could extend our house, I was told the only option available to me was to save.” In fact, the bank official did not even turn on the computer before declining his request.

Leahy says with his outgoings there is no room for savings. “I haven’t had a pay rise for five years and have seen my wages cut and taxes and other costs rise. It is like we are drowning, and the water gets a bit deeper each month. It is a constant battle to keep afloat.” He knows he is lucky to have a job but can’t see “any light at the end of the tunnel”. He is angry. “We have done nothing wrong but are still being punished.”

- ‘It is a constant battle to keep afloat’, Irish Times, October 1, 2011.

2. Has cancer changed his political position? “Oh yes. Certainly. No question.” He’s more old Labour? “Old Labour? It has certainly made me more aware … yes, it’s made me more leftwing is the answer. It has made me realise the importance of public service and community. The other thing that has moved me is being in intensive care, which is really tough for the nurses. I don’t know what they get, £35,000 a year? [The highest pay-grade is £34,189.] They do 12-hour shifts on one patient who is seriously ill and then they start talking about Wayne Rooney or whatever, and you realise with that level of inequality it’s impossible to continue to get people to do these jobs because these jobs are based on the sense within society that there is some fairness about the level of contribution and the level of reward and that has broken down. So that changed me.”

Gould has had a more complicated relationship with money than one might imagine. While Rebuck made a fortune, he struggled. Another irony is that it's only now he is dying that he is earning a decent whack as vice chair of Freud Communications. Until recently he was in debt, he says, and had serious money issues. I look at him – and the house – disbelievingly. How could he have been broke? Didn’t he and Rebuck have a joint account? Now it’s his turn to look at me disbelievingly. They had separate accounts? “Oh yes, of course. God, yes. Yes, yes of course. We had a small joint account, but basically we have our own accounts. My accounts were always very precarious. Keeping my [consultancy] business going was very hard.” He pauses, and says he knows it sounds ridiculous to talk about money problems. “At the end of the day I own some of this house and Gail would have bailed me out, but I think she’d reached a stage where she’d had enough. And I really didn’t want to dump her with money problems. Look I’m not saying in any normal person’s lives I had problems, I am saying though that I didn’t equip myself with glory when it came to making money, so Gail did keep me afloat, and I finally turned that around.” He started at Freud in 2007, shortly before being diagnosed, and Matthew Freud has continued to pay him a salary throughout his illness. Gould says he is one of the few people he still sees a lot of.

- Philip Gould: ‘If you accept death, fear disappears’, Guardian.co.uk, September 20, 2011.

3. American International Group and U.S. authorities are in advanced discussions over a radical restructuring that would split the insurer into at least three government-controlled divisions in an attempt to keep it afloat, the Financial Times reported on its website, citing people close to the situation.

The insurer’s board is due to meet on Sunday and the company is on track to announce the overhaul as early as Monday, said the report, citing people close to the situation.

The restructuring, described by one insider as a “controlled break-up,” could lead to the end of AIG’s 90-year history as a stand-alone global insurance conglomerate.

It also could provide a template for carving up other troubled financial groups -- such as Citigroup -- should they be brought under government control, the people involved said, according to the report.

Under the plan, the government would swap its current 80 percent holding in the insurer for large stakes in three units – AIG’s Asian operations, its international life insurance business and the U.S. personal lines business. A fourth unit, made up of AIG’s other businesses and troubled assets, could also be formed, the FT reported.

- U.S. may break up AIG to keep it afloat, Reuters, February 26, 2009.

4. Facing a dire choice of additional pain or bankruptcy, Greece on Friday heralded drastic new cuts and tax increases to win rescue loans from its European partners and the International Monetary Fund - and avoid a disastrous default on government debt.

Prime Minister George Papandreou said cuts are inevitable if the country is to keep afloat.

“The measures we must take, which are economic measures, are necessary for the protection of our country. For our survival, for our future. So we can stand firmly on our feet,” Papandreou said in parliament.

Greece spent freely for years and ran up debt equal to 115 percent of gross domestic product. It has been in effect shut out of bond markets to refinance its debt pile because investors fear default and are demanding high rates of interest the government says it cannot pay.

- Greece plans drastic cuts and tax increases to keep country afloat, AP, April 30, 2010.



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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(作者张欣 中国日报网英语点津 编辑陈丹妮)