Moments that take our breath away

中国日报网 2016-06-14 11:19



Moments that take our breath away

Reader question:

Please explain “take our breath away” in this quote: “Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.”

My comments:

Literally, this means that if your life is deprived of special moments of great joy and satisfaction, it probably doesn’t matter whether you live to a ripe old age.

He or she who talks like that has a deep understanding of those special moments in life, “moments that take our breath away”, which literally means they make us forget to breathe.

Not for long, of course, or we’ll be suffocating. Actually what happens is even though we continue to breathe in and breathe out, we are so fully attracted to a person or event or are utterly engrossed in something or activity, we become unaware of our breaths.

For example, beautiful sceneries often do that to us, taking our breath away. Or as poets put it, so engrossed are we that times flies.

We forget the time, in other words. Or, plainly put, a whole afternoon may be gone in a jiffy.

Anyways, if something takes our breath away, it’s very engaging and shocking and surprising.

And when we talk about things in that manner, that they take our breath away, usually we are addressing things that are extremely beautiful and mesmerizing. Indeed, we also say they’re breath-taking.

By the way, terrible things are capable of doing that to us, too, if their effect on us is shocking enough.

Needless to say, in our example quote above, the speaker is talking about good moments, moments that make life worth living.

Alright, no more, ado – Let’s read a few media examples to get a better feel of those breath-taking moments, both good and bad:

1. First he saved her life — and then he took her breath away.

The brave British tourist whose foot was crushed by an out-of-control taxi in New York City last month was reunited for the first time with the good Samaritan plumber who saved her life.

Siân Green hugged Dave Justino tight after the hero surprised her on “The Dr. Oz Show.” The emotional moment was taped Friday and will air Tuesday, but the Daily News got a sneak peek.

“I just, I, I, the appreciation and I just, oh, thank you,” Green, 23, exclaimed after host Dr. Mehmet Oz brought Justino on stage.

Oz was among the passersby who tended to the pretty Brit after the Aug. 20 crash at E. 49th St. and Sixth Ave. But it was Justino who used his tool belt as a tourniquet to stanch Green’s bleeding.

Her leg eventually had to be amputated below the knee, but she might have died if not for the plumber’s resourcefulness.

“You don’t have to say thank you,” Justino told Green after she finished showering him with praise. “I tried. I wasn’t even thinking … I just saw you there and the only thing I had was my belt and that’s what I needed.”

- Victim of New York taxi crash gushes over hero plumber on ‘Dr. Oz’, New York Daily News, September 30, 2013.

2. Two women in East Nashville who were attacked on the same night tell an eerily similar story of what happened to them.

Their stories have prompted a third woman to come forward with a terrifying attack that happened in March in East Nashville.

When Michelle Campbell watched the news on Monday night, it took her breath away and took her back to the night of March 13 when she survived an attack from a man fitting a similar description.

On Saturday night at Dino’s a woman was grabbed in a headlock and robbed. She was able to get away.

Hours later another woman survived an attempted carjacking and an attempted rape in an alley behind fooBAR about a mile away.

“I was on my back and he started pulling up her dress,” “Nicole” told Channel 4 News on Monday. Channel 4 is using a different name to protect her identity.

Both women got away safely. Both said the attacker seemed unsure of what he wanted at first and both women described their attacker as a 5’6”, 155 pound African American in his late 20s or early 30s with a close cropped beard.

- New victim steps forward after weekend attacks in East Nashville,, October 6, 2015.

3. A Kingsport, Tennessee, waitress was shocked when she learned that a patron had left her a $600 tip on Oct. 15.

Lauren Ball said she getting ready to go on vacation to Florida with her father when she received the generous tip, the Kingsport Times-News reported.

She had reportedly just paid for her 2-year-old son’s birthday party and decided to work one more shift at the Waffle House on Stone Drive to put some extra money in her pocket before the trip.

Ball said she knew she would be lucky to make even $30. Still, she did her job and started making jokes with one of her tables about Harry Potter.

Ball stepped outside to have a cigarette, where one of her customers joined her and told her that his friend was going to leave her a $200 or $300 tip. Ball didn’t believe him.

The generous tipper came out and showed his friend a picture of the bill. The cook also came out and asked the man if the tip was real. The man said that it was.

Ball went back inside to see what all the commotion was about, and she saw that the man had left her a $600 tip.

It took my breath away,” Ball told the Kingsport Times-News. “It made me sick to my stomach, but in a good way.”

Ball reportedly ran outside to thank the man with tears running down her face. She asked him why he would do something like that for a complete stranger. The man simply told her he liked to do nice things for people.

“I told him he was an angel,” Ball said.

She shared a photo of the bill on Facebook and captioned it “proof that angels are walking amongst us.”

- ‘It Took My Breath Away’: Waffle House Waitress Receives $600 Tip,, October 26, 2015.


About the author:

Zhang Xin is Trainer at He has been with China Daily since 1988, when he graduated from Beijing Foreign Studies University. Write him at:, or raise a question for potential use in a future column.

(作者:张欣 编辑:丹妮)

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