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Flat footed?

Reader question:

Please explain “flat footed” in this sentence: She said her first romantic role caught her flat footed.

My comments:

Apparently the actor had previously been used to playing other roles – other than romantic roles. Perhaps she had played the role of a teacher, an assistant, a secretary, but never someone in a romantic role.

Hence, the first time she got a chance to play that role, say, the leading woman in a romantic comedy, she was surprised and for some time felt ill at ease and unprepared.

That’s what it means to be caught flat footed. Being flat footed, literally, is the position we take, for example, when we are standing round at a party talking with each other, with a cup of beer or other beverage in hand. In this position, we have our body weight firmly and evenly spread on both feet.

This standing position is not the position we take when we are running or getting ready to run. When we get ready to run, we lower our head and chest a little and raise our heels, letting our body weight fall on the toes. This way, when, say, the signal to run is heard on the racing track, we take to our heels and away we go, without delay. This way, for that matter, we can take to our heels immediately when there’s an emergency happening in the room we’re partying.

Well, in a room full of people partying, drinking, talking, singing and generally making merry, you’d look silly if you were always on your toes, of course, as though you were expecting a fire to break out at any moment.

You’d look very silly that way but, well, you get the picture. To be flat-footed is the opposite to being on one’s toes – and ready to run or react immediately when quick reactions are called for.

Hence and in short, for us to be caught flat footed (or flat-footed) is for us to be caught unawares and therefore unable to react quickly.

In other words, we may be left dumbfounded momentarily, perhaps speechless and definitely unable to move, not knowing exactly what to do.

Then, hopefully, we recover our senses quickly, realize what’s going on and are ready to make a move accordingly – before it’s too late.

All right, let’s read a few media examples to hammer the point firmly home:

1. Last week, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan convened a summit with local civil rights leaders to address the fear caused by President Trump’s immigration executive orders.

Unlike a lot of other summits, it wasn’t just talk.

Unfortunately, it hasn’t worked that way when it comes to the city’s gun violence.

Speaking at a city of Chicago luncheon in August, state. Sen. Kwame Raoul, D-Chicago, said he would propose a “data-driven” bill in the Illinois General Assembly to crack down on repeat gun offenders.

Besides Raoul, state Reps. Elgie Sims Jr., D-Chicago; Mike Zalewski, D-Riverside, and state Sen. Tony Munoz, D-Chicago, have been working on the legislation since fall 2016.

But as Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson points out, a bill to stiffen penalties for repeat gun offenders has still not been introduced in Springfield.

“What a lot of people don’t realize about legislation, it just doesn’t happen overnight. Sometime it could take up in a couple of years for legislation to take place in a way that it will be supported enough to become law,” Raoul told me.

“I have been working on something more targeted in its approach than having a wide net approach that catches up lot of people,” he said, pointing out that “we are suggesting a significant enhancement at a time when the legislature has “embraced the notion of trying to reduce the prison population by 25 percent in 10 years.”

“I am hopeful that we can get it [legislation] done in the next couple of weeks,” Raoul said.

Meanwhile, Chicago ended 2016 with 780 homicides, the most in two decades, and 103 people have been killed since the beginning of the year.

As legislators labor over language that would be acceptable at a time when criminal-justice reforms are being hotly debated nationwide, repeat gun offenders are taking advantage of our lax gun laws.

I agree with Raoul that one piece of legislation that puts a repeat gun offender in prison for a longer time, by itself, is not going to solve the violence problem.

Still, it could help police keep unrepentant gun offenders off our streets.

Just as the Democrats are aggressively moving to protect a vulnerable immigrant population against unfair policy, they should show a sense of urgency in protecting the lives of innocent people at risk because of rampant gun violence.

If nothing is done, soon, Democrats run the risk of President Trump catching them flat-footed, again.

- Where’s the sense of urgency on gun violence? by Mary Mitchell, February 27, 2017.

2. The biggest fuss came at the first Wellington concert, at 6pm on June 22: the group was angry that the Town Hall’s in-house PA was woefully inadequate and underpowered. Johnny Devlin, one of the support acts, spoke to the volume-hesitant Town Hall sound man, and offered to help improve the PA for the next day’s two concerts. He contacted Philips Industries and an alternative PA was hired. A roadie who helped set it up told me the replacement PA included several 100 watt amplifiers, a big Altec flare speaker and a couple of 15-inch speakers by the organ at the back of the hall, and a couple of columns of speakers on each side of the stage. When Devlin was asked what he wanted in return, he just said “a photo with The Beatles”. The group obliged.

The police were unprepared for the frenzied reaction of the fans at the concerts. At first the constables sat in the front row, with their helmets underneath. They found this left them flat-footed when it came to the stage invasions that constantly took place. So for the second show they were seated in front of the stage, but facing the audience.

Everyone mentions the noise: the screams drowned out the music. “It was hysteria,” said Greg Cobb, who was 14 and later worked in the music industry. “You could only hear the opening of every song.” Another Wellingtonian, Barney Richards, said, “As soon as they came on stage it was one continual scream. I was fairly close to the stage and above this continual scream I could catch occasional snatches of songs. I heard a few bars of ‘I Want to Hold Your Hand’ and then nothing more, just this scream. You couldn’t hear the music, you could just see them mouthing the lyrics.”

- Beatles invade New Zealand, 1964, AudioCulture.co.nz, June 19, 2014.

3. James B. Comey, who was ousted today as FBI director by President Trump, learned about his firing from a TV news report while speaking with FBI agents in Los Angeles, according to an FBI source.

He was caught flat-footed,” said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Comey was surprised by the news but kept talking to the agents, the source said. Another source said that once the news flashed on the screen, Comey was ushered into another room to meet with aides.

Comey was set to speak Tuesday night at an FBI recruiting event in Hollywood. But the source said that in the wake of his firing, Comey will not go forward with the program. TV coverage showed Comey boarding a jet at Los Angeles International Airport. The jet took off about 6 p.m. and was headed for Washington, D.C., according to the plane’s flight plan.

More than two dozen reporters were standing outside the Directors Guild of America, where the event was taking place, awaiting Comey.

The source said Comey was at both the FBI's Los Angeles field office and the DGA building Tuesday.

Deirdre L. Fike, the assistant director in charge of the FBI in Los Angeles, did not discuss Comey's dismissal during her opening remarks at an event aimed at recruiting more minorities into the agency on Tuesday night. She said the director, whose name was still listed on a PowerPoint presentation detailing speakers at the event, had to “return to Washington unexpectedly.”

- Comey was 'caught flat-footed' and learned of firing from TV while talking to FBI agents in L.A., source says, LATimes.com, May 11, 2017.

本文仅代表作者本人观点,与本网立场无关。欢迎大家讨论学术问题,尊重他人,禁止人身攻击和发布一切违反国家现行法律法规的内容。

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.

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