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Bad blood?

[ 2011-11-15 10:59]     字号 [] [] []  
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Bad blood?

Reader question:

Please explain “bad blood” and this sentence – “I’m genuinely curious about the root cause of the bad blood between the two.”

My comments:

“Bad blood” simply means bad feeling, the hostility, and mutual hatred between the two persons involved. And “I” wonder what led to it in the beginning. “I” want to know the original cause of it.

Bad blood as a phrase means essentially bad relationships. Why is “blood” having anything to do with relationship? Perhaps you’re familiar with the term “blood relations”. That is family relations, relatives of the same family, members that share the same blood which runs through the same family through generations.

That’ll suffice, I hope, because “bad blood” usually suggests that the mutual hatred between people have been there for some time, the result of some argument or quarrel in the past. Think of family feuds, disputes between two families lasting generations. That’s a typical case of bad blood running loose. Indeed, some of these disputes are called “blood feuds” – suggesting, among other things, that these quarrels had often led to fights, resulting in a lot of spilled blood.

A WiseGeek.com explanation says this idiom originates in the 19th century (“With its origins in the early 19th century, the idea of bad blood is often associated with a breakdown in communication between members of a family unit”). I suspect that it may have a longer history than that, considering the fact the feuds between families or members of the same family have been as old as families and clans can remember.

But I don’t know for sure. Doesn’t matter either, so long as you understand the meaning of this useful phrase and learn how to put it in use.

Here are examples in the news:

1. England bowler Graeme Swann has insisted that there is no “bad blood” between England and Pakistan in light of the spot-fixing convictions.

England’s victory over Pakistan in last summer’s Test series was marred by the corruption allegations, which resulted in former Pakistan captain Salman Butt, along with bowlers Mohammad Amir and Mohammad Asif, being jailed for partaking in a cheating scandal.

Any bad blood between the two teams was drawn in that series and was soon put to bed,” Swann told Sky Sports News. “We’ve had 12 months of cricket since then.

“I know the England team have moved on and I’m sure the Pakistan team have as well so I’m not expecting any bad blood.”

- Graeme Swann insists England, Pakistan drawn line under scandal, SportsMole.com, November 4, 2011.

2. Clearly enjoying the megaphone he retains as a former president and spouse of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the elder statesman has second-guessed Obama’s decisions, at times even offering unsolicited advice in the media.

A month after Obama took office, Clinton told an interviewer that the new president needed to “put on a more positive face.” About a year later, he critiqued Obama as not being more forceful with Democrats dragging their feet on health-care reform. Then this summer Clinton penned a cover story for Newsweek, offering Obama a list of 14 ways to put more people back to work. Senior White House officials ended up borrowing some of the ideas—including cutting corporate taxes and investing in energy—that became part of Obama’s broader message to grow the economy.

When together, Clinton and Obama appear cordial and cool. Senior officials insist there’s no bad blood—including over the messy 2008 Democratic primary where Obama beat Hillary Clinton for the nomination after months of her husband questioning her opponent’s experience and knack for leadership.

- Clinton Snubs Obama’s Millionaire Tax, TheDailyBeast.com, September 21, 2011.

3. On a cold and grey afternoon in Washington DC the jubilation that swept through the streets a week ago has all but gone. The screaming crowds and honking cars that engulfed the city last Tuesday night, confirming Barack Obama’s electoral victory, have been replaced by a drone of traffic and the throaty hum of Joe Frazier singing to himself in an anonymous hotel room.

“I ever told you I was a great singer?” the old fighter eventually asks. Three giant rings glitter on his gnarled fingers as Smokin’ Joe, a heavyweight crooner with the blues in his bones, looks up and whoops: “I’m still smokin’, man!”

It might also be said on bleaker days, when Frazier is alone at home in Philadelphia with only his haunted memories for company, that a mere wisp of smoke still rises from the ashes of his legacy. Frazier’s immense achievement as world heavyweight champion, at a time when boxing carried such sporting and political resonance, was torched by Muhammad Ali’s jibes and taunts.

As easy as it is to love Ali, and especially his enduring image as the bravest and funniest and most significant sportsman in living memory, he was unspeakably cruel to his bitterest rival. Demeaning Frazier as “flat-nosed” and “backward”, as a gorilla and an Uncle Tom, Ali’s banter was soured with malevolence. Having been so scorched and trashed in the past it is little wonder that Frazier’s name did not appear among the black pioneers exalted last week alongside Obama.

Ali himself, meanwhile, was celebrated again as the black American who, after Martin Luther King, did most to confront racial prejudice in a once seething country. “I lived with it for years,” Frazier shrugs at his neglect. “But I like Obama. I think they picked a fine guy in him. Listening to him speak, it sounds like he’s going to be fair and clearcut.”

The bad blood between Ali and Frazier is a darker and more tangled business. But here in Washington, at the start of a new era for America, Frazier offers up a reminder of how he and Ali were once friends. “I helped him out,” Frazier says. “I felt sorry for him in a way.”

In 1967, having embraced Islam and changed his name from Cassius Clay, Muhammad Ali refused to fight in the Vietnam war. “I will face machine-gun fire before denouncing Elijah Muhammad and the religion of Islam,” he insisted. “I’m ready to die.” As the reigning heavyweight champion of the world, and at the height of his dazzling powers, Ali was stripped of both his title and his licence to box.

Broke and vilified, Ali started calling Frazier, his eventual replacement as world champion. “He’d be phoning every other day to say, ‘You got my title, man! You got to let me fight you!’” As he repeats that plea Frazier slips into an impersonation which sounds less like Ali in his fast-talking pomp than his old foe after Parkinson’s disease had made his speech slurred and halting. “I said, ‘OK, I’ll see what I can do.’

“I went to see President Nixon at the White House. It wasn’t difficult to get a meeting because I was heavyweight champion of the world. So I came to Washington and walked around the garden with Nixon, his wife and daughter. I said: ‘I want you to give Ali his licence back. I want to beat him up for you.’ Nixon said, ‘Sure, I’d like that.’ He knew what he was doing and so Ali got his licence back.”

Ali had been in exile from the ring for three years before Frazier’s intervention in 1970. Did Ali thank him? “I don't remember. Maybe he did - but I doubt it. I was just happy he got his licence back so I could clean him out.”

Frazier had also given Ali money, but that did not stop the sudden animosity which welled up in the returning hero. Ali was initially amusing. “Joe Frazier is too ugly to be champ. He can’t talk. He can’t box. He can’t dance. He can’t do no shuffle and he writes no poems.”

But the joking soon stopped. “Joe Frazier is an Uncle Tom,” Ali ranted. “He works for the enemy.”

Joe’s son, Marvis, winces on the sofa opposite his father and me. “I used to get beat up every day at school by guys who would say, ‘Your dad’s a Tom”. It was terrible.”

A compelling new documentary, The Thrilla in Manila, is unflinching in the way it documents the systematic racial abuse Ali directed against Frazier for the next five years - culminating in the final fight of their epic trilogy in 1975. They had each won one bout and Ali demeaned Frazier as a big black gorilla who communicated in grunts rather than words.

Frazier looks at me wearily when I ask him about such ridicule. “I know my destiny. I was born into animosity, bigotry and hatred. We had water for white folks, and water for coloured folks. White lines, black lines. I came from Beaufort in South Carolina and it was tougher than Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi.”

- Still smokin’ over Ali but there’s no time for hatred now, The Guardian, November 11, 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.


Go for broke?

Pull the plug?

Cold comfort

Dropped the baton?

(作者张欣 中国日报网英语点津 编辑陈丹妮)