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True to form?

[ 2011-11-01 13:06]     字号 [] [] []  
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True to form?Reader question:

Please explain this headline: Top seeds playing true to form.

My comments:

To paraphrase: Top players win as expected.

In other words, no upsets – lesser players are falling by the wayside.

Again, as they are expected to.

In other words, no surprises.

Top seeds, by the way, refer to the best players participating in a tournament. They’re “seeded”, given particular positions according to how well they’re likely to play. The player most highly expected to win is seeded No. 1. He will not meet the No. 2 seeded player until in the final. The seeding system is so designed that the top players play each other last, so that fan interest will be kept going, and going up, and up to a climax in the final, the last game of the tournament.

This system is also meant to avoid the unsavory situation where some or most top players are gone in the early stages of a tournament because they have played each other first. In that case, fan interest will be gone too because the top players are the ones fans pay to see in the first place.

Anyways, “true to form” is the idiom to learn here. Form as a sporting term describes an athlete’s physical condition – some say this term originates in racing, horse racing, that is. Anyhow, if a player is in good shape, no injury or illness that is, they say he’s “in form” or “in top form” (in the best condition). If he’s not “in form” or if he’s “off form”, then he’s not his good old self and is not expected to play as well as he once did.

Form, you see, is the way something exists, is presented, or appears – fill out a form, for instance. Form is also a type of something, something that exists in many types – In other words, how you categorize things. Trains, for instance, are a very cost-effective form of transport. Not the Gao Tie (High-speed Rails) of course and perhaps not these days in general, but at least it used to be that way. And so let me modify that statement: Trains are a very cost-effective form of transport, or at the very least they used to be.

The focus here though remains “true to form”, or indeed “true to type”, as both expressions are used with fair frequency. It means, once again, that someone is behaving in a way you expect them to, because you have seen them done it many times before.

It’s worth noting, however, that this expression is more often used with sarcasm or in situations of which you’re critical, i.e. in situations where people keep behaving in a certain way and you don’t like it. Peter is never punctual, for instance, and he was late again for a meeting yesterday. That’s when you can say: Peter, true to form, was late again.

Alright, without further ado, let’s see a few examples:

1. So, how does U.S. News & World Report decide that Harvard and Princeton rank as America’s top “national universities”?

True to form, the news magazine's annual ranking of the best colleges, released Tuesday, is top-heavy with Ivy League schools. (Harvard and Princeton tied for the coveted No. 1 spot, and the six other “ivies” also made the grade.) And while the rest of the list also contains few surprises, the exhaustive methodology behind the rankings is shrouded in a bit more mystery.

Since its first ranking was published in 1983, the magazine has used a three-step process to compile its lists.

- Do you have to be a math whiz to understand 'Best College' rankings? CSMonitor.com, September 14, 2011.

2. “Fall”, as a synonym for autumn, is special to the United States. There, true to form, America makes the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness into something uniquely commercial, turning an Old English monosyllable into a diphthong, (“fa-all”), and scaring up big tourist opportunities. Go to New England and you find these incandescent leaves igniting a last burst of tourism before winter closes in. Here in Robert Frost territory the upstate “road less travelled” fills with camper vans, posses of stray bikers, retirees and “empty nesters”. It helps that, as October rolls around, the foliage of Vermont and New Hampshire never fails to perform the role allotted to it by nature. Especially in some trees, such as the maple, glucose is trapped in the leaves after photosynthesis stops. The combination of sunlight and the first chills of autumn turns this glucose blood-red.

So while America lurches from left to right in a nationwide nervous breakdown, this part of the US displays sturdy, traditional American colours: a spectrum of viridian-olive-green-lime-yellow-sepia-orange-russet-vermilion-purple. Among the beeches and silver birch, the willow, oak, dogwood and spruce, the arboreal palette ranges from amber, saffron and russet to ochre, orange and cinnamon. Laurels and white cedars don't mutate, of course, but it’s not unusual to see maples seared in half between brilliant summer green and blazing autumn gold.

- New England: the gold rush, The Observer, October 30, 2011.

3. For one hundred years black guillemots have made their homes around Bangor harbour.

The little auks with their distinctive black and white plumage and bright red legs, feet and throats have been fondly nicknamed “Bangor penguins” by residents.

Unlike penguins, the black guillemots can fly - a frantic skittering across the waves as they head for their nests in the breeding season.

The rest of the year they excel at bobbing about on top of the water before diving deep beneath Belfast Lough, streamlined and efficient in their hunt for butter fish - those slippery little creatures children find, but can’t catch, in rock pools.

This year, however, the nesting holes around the piers are mostly empty. The breeding pairs have lost eggs and chicks to a clever predator - the hoodie, or hooded crow.

Raucous and wily, the hoodies are small in number, but their thefts from the guillemot nesting holes have almost completely wiped out this year’s brood.

Dr Julian Greenwood of Stranmillis College has studied the black guillemots in Bangor for over 30 years. He rings and records the birds which have made their homes in convenient crevices around Bangor Bay and in the holes specially created by North Down Council in the piers when the harbour area was redeveloped.

Dr Greenwood is also chairman of the Northern Ireland RSPB committee, so he understands that the hooded crows are behaving true to type.

“Often there’s been the odd egg or chick which has disappeared but this year it’s been extraordinary. It’s been a virtual wipe-out,” he explained.

“It’s part of nature and usually with predators they don’t have a huge effect on the animals that they’re predating upon, but in this particular example they are having that effect and it’s just unfortunate.”

- Hoodie havoc among bird life on Bangor harbour, BBC.co.uk, July 19, 2011.



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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