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Cut him down to size?

[ 2011-11-18 18:03]     字号 [] [] []  
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Cut him down to size?

Reader question:

Please explain this sentence – That really cut him down to size.

My comments:

In other words, that really put him in his place.

“That”, more often than not, refers to criticism, a verbal attack of one hurtful remark or other aimed at letting “him” know that he’s not as good as he thought he was.

Or as important, great, impressive, popular.

You see, when you cut something down, you make it smaller. That’s the idea.

Carpenters, for instance, chop a huge block of wood and then cut it down to different sizes for different use. That’s probably where this idiom, “cut down to size”, comes from. But the thing to remember, as I just said, is that when you cut something down, you make it smaller. It’s not going to get any bigger.

Hence, if you cut some person down in size, not physically of course with a butcher’s knife, of course not, but with verbal criticism, you let him know through words that he’s smaller, if you know what I mean, than he believes he is. Usually this happens after someone brags about (exaggerates) his personal accomplishments, charm, or popularity, things like that. You then cut him down to size by telling everyone present that this isn’t true, that he didn’t accomplish anything at all and so forth.

Down to SIZE? Yes, down to his regular size, that is, his proper size. Down to what befits his real stature and form, down to what’s proper and appropriate.

Anyways, you cut people down in size with criticism. You belittle them, disparage them, discredit them, scoff at them.

Or what other disapproving words you have – yours truly, you see, is not very impressively expressive when it comes to making critical remarks.

The long and short of it is, though, when you cut somebody down in size, you generally speak contemptuously of them, or their achievements.

Or you may cut them down to size through actions, actions that serve the same purpose, conveying the idea that they’re no good.

Or at any rate not as good as they purport to be.

Alright, media examples:

1. If you want to cut him down to size you need to emotionally remove yourself from his selfish behavior. If he allows his arrogance to shine through when you two are out in public, walk away from him. Don’t become a partner to his mistreatment of others. If he prefers using you as a target to pump up his own self esteem, distance yourself from him. That may mean spending less time focused on him and more time doing the things you enjoy. If there’s no one to play into this type of negative behavior, your husband won’t feel he’s accomplishing anything by continuing to do it.

- Dealing With an Arrogant Husband? How to Cut Him Down to Size, SooperArticles.com, May 4, 2011.

2. Many argue that the newspapers are more useful to Rupert Murdoch as a source of political influence than as a profit centre.

Indeed, it is the political dimension that may hurt News Corp far more than any financial losses at News of the World.

Already there are rumblings that News Corp’s planned bid for BSkyB could be held up by Ofcom, which must ensure the buyer is “fit and proper”.

And the revelations will strengthen the voice of those - like the business secretary Vince Cable - who argue that Mr Murdoch has got too big for his boots, and want to cut him down to size.

- News of the World: Counting the cost, BBC.co.uk, July 11, 2011.

3. Once the City could have relied on government to fight its corner. But the protesters currently camped in the churchyard of St Paul’s Cathedral, near Paternoster Square, the Stock Exchange’s home since 2004, reflect a broader anger that makes it tricky for politicians to speak up for finance. The share of Britain’s GDP accounted for by financial services, including the retail kind such as arranging mortgages, has been steadily shrinking since 2007. If the City is cut down to size, so be it, say some. The economy should in any case be “rebalanced” away from creating paper assets and towards manufacturing.

- London as a financial centre, The Economist, October 29, 2011.

4. The main Nobel Prizes were endowed by Alfred Nobel who established five prizes, the three subjects above, plus literature and peace or world fraternity.

The economics Nobel Prize came later; it was created more than 70 years later by the Swedish Central Bank in 1968 to celebrate the Bank’s 300th anniversary.

So far 67 people have shared in 42 Nobel Economics Prizes.

Only one of them has been a woman.

The prize even attracts criticism from those who are awarded it.

The Swedish economist and Nobelist Gunnar Myrdal later advocated its abolition on the ground that it had also been awarded to “reactionaries” such as the Austrian Friedrich Hayek and Professor Milton Friedman of Chicago.

Funnily enough, both Myrdal and Hayek shared the 1974 Prize.

Even more curious, in his speech at the prize dinner, Hayek said that if he had been asked about the establishment of a Nobel Economics Prize, he would have decidedly advised against it.

Hayek’s speech is a cautionary tale.

“The Nobel Prize confers on an individual an authority which in economics no man ought to possess,” he said.

“This does not matter in the natural sciences. Here the influence exercised by an individual is chiefly an influence on his fellow experts; and they will soon cut him down to size if he exceeds his competence.

“But the influence of the economist that mainly matters is an influence over laymen: politicians, journalists, civil servants and the public generally.”

This is a sobering thought.

- Nobel prize winners meet to discuss the world economy, BBC.co.uk, August 31, 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.


Bad blood?

Go for broke?

Cold comfort

Pull the plug?

(作者张欣 中国日报网英语点津 编辑陈丹妮)