English 中文网 漫画网 爱新闻iNews 翻译论坛
当前位置: Language Tips > Zhang Xin

Go for broke?

[ 2011-11-11 11:16]     字号 [] [] []  
免费订阅30天China Daily双语新闻手机报:移动用户编辑短信CD至106580009009

Go for broke?

Reader question:

Please explain this sentence, “go for broke” in particular: “Gordon’s ‘go for broke’ strategy comes up short.”

My comments:

Gordon failed. His strategy didn’t work. It was perhaps too risky.

That’s it – “go for broke” suggests Gordon has not been cautious enough. He threw caution to the wind, so to speak, and took unnecessary risks.

Well, unnecessary from hindsight. At the time, Gordon thought he could win and win big by risking everything and going all out.

In another cliché, Gordon put all his eggs into one basket and this time, it didn’t work. “Comes up short” means it was close, but wasn’t enough.

Anyways, “go for broke” is the idiom to remember here. Phrase.org says the term comes from pidgin English from Hawaii.

Pidgin English? That’s imperfect English spoken by non-native English speakers. “Long time no see”, for instance, is Chinese pidgin, or Chinglish. It sounded awkward to the native ear in the beginning to be sure but now it seems to be accepted as a legitimate phrase by one and all, at least colloquially. “Go for broke” is of a similar nature. It is originally a gambling term, meaning that a gambler puts all his money in – in the hope of winning big – and therefore run the risk being “broke”.

“Broke”, of course, is the colloquialism for being bankrupt. If a person is broke, he’s lost all his money. If a company is broke, it’s bankrupt – it has to close shop because it has run out of money.

Hence, you see, to go for broke is to “go for it” in a big way in order to achieve big success, taking perhaps too much risk in the process – at the risk of being “broke”. A “go for broke” strategy is therefore one of a “do or die” (life or death) nature.

In other words, too risky and, perhaps, unwise.

I suggest you use this strategy sparingly if, that is, you ever use it, for there are not so many do-or-die situations really. Usually it’s give and take, more or less, a little gain here and a bit of loss there. And in these situations, cautions pays. If you gamble, for instance, and do not win today, well, tomorrow is another day so long as you’ve not lost all your money.

Well this makes it sound like I’m advocating day-to-day gambling. I’m not. I think I’ve just picked a poor example. But since we’re at it, let me make this clear, if you do gamble, I’d prefer you to go for broke, that is, put all your money in and do it just once. Then go home, win or lose.

Easy for me to say, of course, since it’s your money and your lifestyle at risk. At any rate, my position is, I don’t think there are so many do-or-die situations in everyday life to warrant the adoption of a go-for-broke strategy. Usually caution pays best in the long run. Don’t go all out every time. Go slow. As the saying goes, slow does it, do it easy.

However, there apparently are situations toward which people are compelled to take the “go for broke” attitude, as seen in the following examples:

1. Hillary Clinton went for broke on Super Tuesday, investing $5 million of her own money into her battle with Barack Obama.

“I loaned it because I believe very strongly in this campaign . . . and I think the results last night proved the wisdom of my investment,” said Clinton, who beat Obama in key delegate-rich states like New York and California to earn a virtual draw in Super Tuesday’s delegate count.

Top campaign staffers agreed to forgo paychecks to help save campaign cash - staving off talk of thinning her army's hefty payroll.

- Hillary Clinton lent her campaign $5M, New York Daily News, February 06, 2008.

2. Towering 6-foot-5 in the University of Oregon’s Hayward Field, Andrew Wheating started his heat in the men’s 800-meter race of the 2008 Olympic Trials in his usual spot — at the back of the pack. Then he electrified fans with his come-from-behind finish, taking second and qualifying for the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games.

At the time, Wheating was a 20-year-old sophomore at the University of Oregon and had been running less than four years. The tall Vermonter literally came out of nowhere.

In Beijing’s Bird’s Nest Stadium, Wheating missed making the 2008 Olympic semifinal by the width of a knee, finishing fourth in his heat behind three guys who tied for first. It wasn’t the mark the unheralded runner hoped to make.

It was a different story back home. Now an Olympian, Wheating returned to Oregon in the fall of 2008 a marked man.

“The target on my back was gigantic, enormous,” he said. “Everyone was looking at me as the guy to beat.”

The stress wore on the unassuming athlete, and his results showed. He won plenty of races — including the 2009 NCAA outdoor 800 title. But he wasn’t dominating and setting personal records like he had the year before.

Maybe his critics were right. At 6’5”, was he really meant to be a world-class runner?

By summer 2009, he was nursing injuries — first a torn calf muscle, then in July he was diagnosed with a stress fracture in his hip. In August, he contracted mononucleosis. For weeks, he hobbled around on crutches and did nothing, except think about what had happened during his junior year.

Then in September, he began to swim. He spent an hour-and-a-half in the pool every day. And he didn’t even kick. He used leg floats and let his ailing leg drag behind as his arms did all the work.

The aerobic work paid off. A month later — in late October — he began running again and “was clicking off these 4:45 miles like nothing,” remembers Wheating.

Then he sat down with his coach, Vin Lananna, and laid it out. He didn’t care about targets any more. And he no longer cared who wanted to beat him either. They all wanted to beat him. But he wanted to beat them more.

Let’s go for broke,” Wheating told Lananna. “It’s my last season as a college athlete. Let’s try to win everything I can.”

- Andrew Wheating: without limits, Trackfield.teamusa.org, December 14, 2010.

3. For all Joe Frazier achieved, the former world heavyweight boxing champion, who has died of liver cancer aged 67, was destined to remain in the shadow of his nemesis, Muhammad Ali, who twice beat him in the most famous trilogy of fights the sport has ever produced. The third of those 1970s encounters – memorably dubbed the “Thrilla in Manila” – is generally remembered as the greatest fight of all time.

A crowd-pleasing heavyweight, Frazier’s relentless attacking approach included one of the most savage left hooks in boxing. Despite invariably conceding height to his opponents, the 5ft 11.5in Frazier, who had a crouching and weaving style similar to the one which made Mike Tyson such a daunting proposition several years later, used his stocky physique to unload frightening hooks to head and body. “I like to hit guys and see their knees tremble,” he said. “I like to feel my strength and go for broke.” It was this uncompromising attitude that earned him the nickname “Smokin’Joe”.

- Joe Frazier obituary, Guardian.co.uk, November 8, 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.


Pull the plug?

Cold comfort

True to form?

Dropped the baton?

(作者张欣 中国日报网英语点津 编辑陈丹妮)