Garden path?

中国日报网 2016-11-29 14:21



Garden path?Reader question:

Please explain “garden path” in this sentence: “I guess we were all led down the garden path in believing our pensions were secure.”

My comments:

Here, the speaker suspects they were cheated on their pension plans. To say they were led down the garden path in believing their pensions were secure is to say they were duped into believing so.

But, alas, the pensions weren’t safe.

Question is, why is being led down the garden path equivalent to being cheated and deceived?

Take a walk up and down a traditional Chinese garden, especially a large one involving a few ponds, even lakes and man-made mountains you’ll get the idea.

The garden path isn’t anything like the major streets in the inner city of Beijing, which are all straight lines going either east-west or north-south. Garden paths, on the other hand, are all small and winding. They zigzag their ways now into the woods, now round a pond and then up a mountain. Sometimes a path leads to a dead end. Sometimes a path forks into two, or three, etc and so forth.

The idea behind the garden path is of course to add intrigue and mystery, while taking full advantage of the scenery. To the visitor, though, it may bring confusion – especially for the first-time visitor, who may lose his way anywhere.

To many, the confusion created by the garden paths is welcome. But anyway, this is the origin of the idea of someone being led down (or up, for that matter) the garden path, meaning metaphorically that this someone has been deceived or cheated in some way or other.

And here are media examples:

1. Thank you for the May 13 cover story, “The market’s message.” Certainly the saddest statistic has to be the 22 percent of Americans who exited the market near the bottom, 87 percent of whom are still in cash today with the stock market hitting record highs – which brings me to your article’s focus: Is it a good time to enter the market?

The answer to the question of when the market is at a peak is this: The market peaks when individual investors capitulate and put their money, with zeal, into equities. As a 35-year investment professional it always disturbs me that equity mutual fund inflows (a measure of small investor activity) peak near the time the market does and, conversely, redemptions peak near market bottoms (i.e., buying high and selling low) – defining tragic performance for the small investor time and again.

The remedy is in becoming a true investor – a concept that seems lost today with high-frequency trading, the proliferation of derivatives and options, leveraged and deleveraged exchange-traded funds, and short-long strategies, to name a few. The small investor is led down the garden path of attempting to grow riches from a mix of potent investment vehicles and propitious timing. It doesn’t work that way.

Families build wealth through disciplined, consistent saving and investing. The billionaire investor Warren Buffett gives us three famous quotes on this subject. “Our favorite holding period is forever.” “Look at market fluctuations as your friend rather than your enemy; profit from folly rather than participate in it.” “We believe that according the name ‘investors’ to institutions that trade actively is like calling someone who repeatedly engages in one-night stands a ‘romantic.’”

- Readers Write: Most Americans should be investors, not traders, by Paul H. Collins,, June 17, 2013.

2. A young man who wants to marry a girl tells her many flattering things. He makes many promises. He comes to pick her up in a flashy motor car to impress her with his wealth. Except that the car is not his. It is merely borrowed from a well-to-do friend.

There is an old proverb, rume risinganyepi hariroori which can be loosely translated as a man who does not tell lies will never marry (the woman he is courting)”.

If you want people’s support don’t tell them the truth. If you want their votes as a candidate don’t tell them what you are really up to, tell them what they want to hear. People want to be told lies. Or so the powerful think.

For many years now we have been told that “sanctions” have destroyed our economy. That a travelling ban on a small “elite” has shut down our factories and deprived our workers of employment and income.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Before 1980 the entire United Nations, almost the whole world, was barred from trading with this country and yet its economy did not collapse.

The first government after Independence inherited a functioning economic system. It contained structural injustice and needed reform, but it was productive.

A doctor cannot heal a patient unless he has arrived at a correct diagnosis. If we do not know the truth about our condition we will die. The power-hungry are blind. They do not want to see that it was their greed that destroyed production.

Just grabbing and gulping down what others have grown does not produce anything. Once all is eaten hunger returns. Just owning land does not make crops grow.

“What is truth?” a certain Pontius Pilate asked skeptically. Men of power rarely have much respect for truth. This is why their empires do not last.

Too many lies eventually undermine power. The powerful end up living in a cloud-cuckoo-land, losing touch with reality.

We need people with a passion for truth, people who are not satisfied with mere headlines. People who know the difference between “sanctions” and a “travel ban”, between farming and talking into a cell-phone, between occupying land and working it.

Voter intimidation and falsified election results distorted the true will of the people.

Governments lacked genuine majority support and, therefore, legitimacy. The truth was suppressed and we were denied our freedom. Only “the truth makes us free”.

Corrupt leaders have robbed government of tax revenue. If you steal a thousand dollars you go to prison. Steal a million and you go free. Steal anything if you have an uncle in the corridors of power.

We need to beg for funds to run our elections. Where are the Chiadzwa diamonds? Where are the taxes?

All this happens because we are afraid of being punished for “speaking truth to power”. Honest people are being gagged by oppressive legislation and accused of “defamation” for wanting to know the origin of wealth in our impoverished country.

That is why we need a lively opposition in Parliament. Africa thinks being in opposition is a waste of time, is failure. Far from it.

Without an opposition free to ask embarrassing questions we are all led down the garden path and end up in a ditch because nobody warned us.

For a similar reason we need free media, freedom of information and expression, reporters and journalists who never tire of finding out the truth. If you just want to earn a top salary journalism is perhaps not such a good idea.

But if you have a passion for asking questions and having them answered, never taking no comment for an answer, then a desk in a newsroom may be the right spot for you.

- If you want people’s support don’t tell them the truth,, August 25, 2013.

3. Former England captains Alan Shearer and Rio Ferdinand questioned Hodgson’s handling of the squad.

Shearer was particularly scathing and wondered why Jack Wilshere and Raheem Sterling were given playing time, with the former’s season wrecked by injuries and the latter struggling for consistency at Manchester City.

The former Newcastle striker told the BBC: “After the three group games I didn’t think England were good enough.

“It looked to me as if Roy was making it up as he was going along. He didn’t have a system, he didn’t know his best players, we were tactically inept, we had players in the squad who didn’t deserve to be in the squad.

“How on earth can he pick Jack Wilshere? He hasn’t played 90 minutes for over a year, played 141 minutes in a season. How on earth can he be deemed fit enough or good enough to represent England?

“Raheem Sterling, he’s put his neck on the line for him and he hasn’t performed, hasn’t been playing for his team.

“Harry Kane on corners in the first game, the list is endless. From start to finish has been pretty hopeless.

“Our players caved tonight, I thought the manager caved as well.”

He added: “We’re blinded by our Premier League.

“We think our Premier League is one of the best in the world for talent, it’s not. We’re totally and utterly reliant on foreign players and foreign managers for this excitement.”

Ferdinand said: “It’s embarrassing to be honest.

“If you get into a tournament and you don’t know your best team or your best formation you’re running into trouble and it was proven in all the games we played.

“We just got past Wales with seconds to go and didn’t beat all the other teams that on paper we should have put aside easily.

“I was excited by this England team going into the tournament and I think I was led up the garden path a little bit because qualifying was so easy.

“I didn’t expect us to win this tournament and I didn’t say we were ever going to have a chance of winning it but I thought we’d come out of this tournament with a little bit of positivity.

“Absolutely gone, bereft of ideas.”

- Former England Players Back Roy Hodgson's Decision to Resign as Manager,, June 27, 2016.


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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