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Lion's share

[ 2011-10-25 13:32]     字号 [] [] []  
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Lion's share

Reader question:

Please explain this sentence, “lion’s share” in particular: “When the business folded, he took the lion’s share of the assets.”

My comments:

When business failed, “he” took most of the valuables left, perhaps more than he should.

Theirs is, say, a small photo printing business. And when business was so slack that they couldn’t even make enough money to pay for the rent of their little office, they decided to close shop and part company, pardon the pun. He, for instance, took the printing machine and computer, leaving his partners sharing the rest, which consists of a few cheap sitting chairs and a worn out table, as well as clippings and pictures on the wall.

In other words, he might have taken more than his fair share.

What we are concerned here, though, is the idiom, a lion’s share, and it came from Aesop’s fables. This, from Wikipedia:

The early Latin version of Phaedrus begins with the reflection that “Partnership with the mighty is never trustworthy”. It then relates how a cow, a goat and a sheep go hunting together with a lion. When it comes to dividing the spoil, the lion says, “I take the first portion because of my title, since I am addressed as king; the second portion you will assign to me, since I’m your partner; then because I am the stronger, the third will follow me; and an accident will happen to anyone who touches the fourth”.

In the Greek version of Babrius it is a wild donkey and a lion who go hunting. The lion divides their take into three, awarding himself the first because he is king of the beasts, the second because they are “equal” partners, and suggesting that the ass runs away quickly before daring to touch the third. The moral Babrius draws is, “Measure yourself! Do not engage in any business or partnership with a man more powerful!”...

Another version that first appears in the Middle Ages is more cynical still. A fox joins the lion and donkey in hunting. When the donkey divides their catch into three equal portions, the angry lion kills the donkey and eats him. Then the fox put everything into one pile, leaving just a tiny bit for herself, and told the lion to choose. When the lion asked her how she learned to share things this way, the fox replied, “From the donkey’s misfortune.”

Hence, a lion’s share originally means the lion gets everything. Today, the expression is mostly used to mean most of something or a large part of it.

Which is only fair to the lion in the wild, if you ask me.

The lion in the wild, you see, never wants to touch food after he’s eaten his or her fill. Unlike bankers and wealthy families in general, the lion never hoards, nor does he speculate. He eats his full and leave the rest of the food to everyone else, be they cheetahs, hyenas, wolves or vultures.

To be perfectly fair, humans have their share of egalitarians too. Warren Buffett, for instance, wants to pay a bit more taxes.

But to be fairer still, Buffett is an exception rather than the rule and for all that I care, you cannot readily tell if he really hopes to pay more taxes or if it’s just PR – he is merely saying so because, with the economy the way it’s been for three years and Wall Street being currently occupied by protesters, it is the right thing to say under the circumstances.

Privately though, I think Buffett means it. However, all things considered and generally speaking, I still think the wealthiest humans are the greediest of all species.

Don’t you agree?

Alright, here are a few media examples of “a lion’s share”:

1. The lion’s share of the assets of the late Prince Rainier of Monaco is to be divided between crown prince Albert and Rainier's oldest daughter Caroline, sources said on Wednesday.

Though considered a state secret, Rainier’s wealth is estimated by various sources to be worth as much as $2.5bn, consisting of mainly of real estate.

According to US biographer J Randy Taraborrelli, Rainier’s will as of the year 2000 grants the 47-year-old Prince Albert the title of “His Most Serene Highest” as well as the royal palace with 235 rooms, the castle of Marchais near Paris with extensive hunting grounds, private jet, yacht, collection of antiquities including 180 vehicles and a stamp collection considered one of the most valuable in the world.

Albert will also receive, says Taraborrelli, the shares of the Monte Carlo casino, worth millions.

The cash inheritance is to be divided between Albert and Caroline, who retains in addition the family villa La Vigie in the French town of Roquebrune-Cap-Martin and most of her mother’s jewelry.

Rainier’s youngest and most rebellious daughter Stephanie, 40, is to receive only $17m, to be paid out in monthly installments of $50 000, as well as a six-room chalet in the French alps and a New York City apartment.

- Albert to inherit lion's share, News24.com, April 6, 2005.

2. Girls are twice as likely as boys to be repeatedly bullied throughout their time at school.

Research from Warwick and Hertfordshire universities shows that girls who are bullied at the age of six are more than twice as likely still to be victims at the age of 10 than boys of the same age.

Girls tend to be clearly identified as victims among their peer group and develop a reputation for being bullied that is hard to shake off.

This can also be exacerbated by the tight-knit and relatively inflexible nature of female friendships.

The researchers said: “This leads the aggressor to bully more, and the victim to develop ... low self-esteem, loneliness, depression, anxiety and sickness, which increase in severity and make victimization persist longer.”

- Girls suffer lion’s share of bullying, Tes.co.uk, January 16, 2009.

3. With most women opting to work when the kids come along, a new survey has found that the fairer sex still spends twice the amount of hours on domestic duties as fathers.

The survey was conducted by Australian Bureau Statistics which found that 60 per cent of mothers are employed.

Out of these, 60 per cent are in part-time work and these women spend an average of 19 hours a week working, 19 hours caring for children and 23 hours on domestic chores.

Even those women who work full time spend, according to the survey, and average of 18 hours per week on household chores – a figure that’s twice as much as that of their male partners.

The poll also found that nearly two-thirds of parents with children under 15 are “always” or “often” pressed for time.

Families Australia chief executive Brian Babington said the statistics showed the difficulties in balancing work and family life.

“It’s increasingly clear that Australian families are under pressure to balance work and family life. We welcome developments such as the inquiry into paid maternity leave as a way of addressing some of these imbalances, particularly for women who are still doing the lion’s share of housework,” News.com.au quoted him, as saying.

- Women ‘still doing the lion’s share of housework’, LifeStyle.in.MSN.com, May 14, 2008.



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)