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The great leveler?

[ 2011-12-13 13:41]     字号 [] [] []  
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The great leveler?

Reader question:

Please explain “the great leveler” and this sentence: “Retailers will have to adjust to the web, the great leveler.”

My comments:

That means retailers will have to learn to compete with one another online, in e-shopping on the web. On the web, there’s equal opportunity for all. Online, there’s a level playing field. Everybody is equal.

Hence, the web is called the great leveler.

Or leveller in British English, as the leveler is British in origin.

A leveler is something that literally makes a surface flat, even and smooth. In soccer, for example, a leveler refers to the goal that ties the score. “A sublime second-half free-kick from striker David Villa gave Barca the lead until the dying minutes when Milan got the leveler.” That’s Suite101.com (September 13, 2011) reporting on Barcelona’s 2-2 draw with AC Milan in UEFA Champions League action. The leveller there referred to the last, or fourth goal of the match, which LEVELLED the score.

In politics, levelers sometimes refer to people who advocate equality, equal rights for all.

Anyways, a leveler is something in front of which everyone seems equal. Illness, for instance, is a great leveler. People who don’t take good care of themselves often get ill, whether they are rich or poor, no matter.

Death, of course, is another great leveler. In fact, it’s the ultimate leveler. Death takes no prisoners and doesn’t play favorites. Young, old, rich, poor, black, white, no matter.

The law of attraction, for another example, is another great leveler in that good looks, wealth, smart dress and even good manners don’t guarantee you a mate. None of these good things guarantees success. Attraction is not a rational choice. It’s intuitive. People either feel attraction for you at the gut level or they’re not attracted to you, simple. And when it happens, it often happens instantly – hence, the welcome phenomenon of love at first sight.

However, people always can pretend. Of course. They may feign attraction in order to take advantage of you, your money or good looks or whatever good qualities you have.

But, that is another topic than what’s being discussed here. Here, I just want you to a good feel for great levelers, of one type or another, via these media examples:

1. The Internet has opened up a whole host of possibilities for pet owners who are now able to buy products on line. What has happened in years gone by, the major chains have dominated the markets and if you check carefully, you will find that they in most cases have branded their own products. When you see a dog collar at the local pet chain store costing $14, compared to a similar product that can be bought from a discount store at a fraction of the price, one wonders where the small pet store owner went. Well great news, the internet is becoming the leveler. Smaller pet wholesalers are now marketing products on the basis that they cannot be found in large pet supermarkets. Please, as a pet owner, support this move. Competition is always good.

- Pet News, PetCareAngels.com, undated.

2. Humour is the great leveller – that’s something many politicians certainly believe given how often they try to engage with the public by resorting to comedy and wit.

But it’s risky as anyone who makes a living from comedy will testify.

In “Make ’Em Laugh”, Mandy Baker talks to comedian Marcus Brigstocke about how politicians try to use humour in their speeches.

- Make ’em Laugh, BBC.co.uk, March 21, 2010.

3. When Dr Karen Woo went to Afghanistan it was not only to take her medical expertise to where it was most needed, but also to capture some of the country and its people on film, to show their desperate need for healthcare.

Her video footage shows children in Kabul suffering from the afflictions of war – the lost limbs, disease and malnutrition – and explains in detail why she felt drawn to face the risks of working in a conflict zone.

When the 36-year-old from Stevenage, Hertfordshire, was murdered, in August last year, in a remote area of the country, her fiance Mark “Paddy” Smith saw some of her film for the first time and decided to finish her work. For the past nine months, he has worked on an extraordinary project – a film that Woo began and that he has now completed, with a far different ending than she would have envisaged, but one that, he says, would have won her approval.

The Life and Loss of Karen Woo, to be shown on ITV next Sunday, is a moving documentary of two lives caught up in the complexity of Afghanistan.

“Karen’s principal reason for being in Afghanistan was to help people by using her medical skills. But she also really wanted to make a film to show the human side to Afghanistan, that people here were human beings and we all have our fears and worries,” said Smith. “Health is the leveller, everyone knows what it’s like to be sick. And when you can’t just run down the local hospital... it’s tough.”

- Karen Woo: film tracks murdered doctor’s doomed Afghan mission, The Observer, May 15, 2011.

4. New York’s Fordham University has received $25m from a graduate of the business school’s undergraduate programme, Mario Gabelli, chief executive of Gamco Investors, the asset management and financial services firm. As a result, the Jesuit University will rename its undergraduate business college the Gabelli School of Business.

The donation will enable Fordham to expand the number of student scholarships and chaired faculty positions as well as establishing the Center of Global Investment Analysis, to research and teach on capital markets.

Mr Gabelli, who also holds an MBA from Columbia University, has made donations to several educational institutions. “Education is the great leveller, the engine of America’s meritocracy, and it must remain so for the country to compete in the global economy,” he says. “My grandfather died in a coal mining accident in Western Pennsylvania, one hundred years ago, and my family always stressed the importance of education as a stepping stone to creating a better life. I am proud and blessed to be able to contribute to that effort.”

- Fordham receives its largest ever gift from alumnus, September 27 2010, FT.com.



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.


He waited in the wings?

Slap on the wrist?

Out on a limb?

Fear of God?

(作者张欣 中国日报网英语点津 编辑陈丹妮)