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            Not quite up to scratch? 不达标

            中国日报网 2021-01-22 12:17

            Reader question:

            Please explain “not quite up to scratch” in this quote from a restaurant review: “Let me start by saying customer service isn’t quite up to service.”

            My comments:

            Here it means the waiters and waitresses are not attentive enough to customers. They talk to each other, for example, more than they talk to you. Or, as is sometimes the case in some old, State-owned restaurant here in Beijing, the middle-aged waiters and waitresses never make a needless move and generally act as if they can’t be bothered.

            I’m exaggerating a bit but you get the idea.

            “Not quite up to scratch” means not quite up to normal standard, the usual standard, the usual high standard that meets customer expectations.

            The question is why “scratch”? Scratch as in a scratch in the face, leaving a thin line of blood marks?

            No, no face-scratching contest is involved here, but, in fact, another contest. We’ll come to that shortly.

            First, the scratch in “up to scratch” refers to a line drawn on the ground, as a mark for the starting point, say, in a running race. Before the race begins, runners are asked to move forward, up to the scratch or scratched line.

            Such a line is drawn in many sports games, but the expression “up to the line” is believed to have its origin in boxing. In boxing, in the old days, you see, a line is drawn in a circle. Outside the circle are the throngs of spectators. Inside the circle are the two fighters and a referee. Before the fight begins, the referee asks the fighters to move to the scratched line and stand toe to toe on each side of the line. The ref sees to it that each fighter’s front toe is up to the scratch or scratched line, indicating they’re ready to, as they say, rumble.

            Hence the expression “up to scratch”. It implies that everything is good – both fighters are in as good condition as required and they’re ready and raring to go. So, let’s hear the ref say “Box” and let the show begin.

            Normally, when both boxers are up to the scratch, of course, the show will begin. But, if for some reason a fighter isn’t able to make it, i.e. move up to the scratch, then the show is cancelled. The fighter who fails to show up at the line loses the match. His named is scratched (removed). He’s disqualified.

            Hence the expression, not up to scratch, meaning someone isn’t quite equal to the task at hand. In other words, he isn’t good enough.

            In boxing, after each round, fighters are allowed to take a brief rest, after which they’ll move up to the scratch again. Hence another expression, back up to the scratch, meaning things are back to normal (and good) again.

            Alright, here are media examples of people or things that are up to scratch or not up to scratch:

            1. Rolls-Royce Motor Cars will bring its first SUV, the Cullinan, to the global market Thursday at an event that will be streamed live over the internet. Before Rolls-Royce begins its broadcast, three limited views of the vehicle will be released to stir up excitement for its release, described by the company as “facets,” in keeping with the Cullinan’s gemstone namesake.

            The Cullinan diamond itself was discovered in South Africa in 1905 and named after Thomas Cullinan, the chairman of the mine from which it was sourced. At 3,106.75 carats, it remains the largest rough diamond of gemstone quality ever discovered. This significance eventually attracted the interest of British royalty, which today possess multiple gemstones cut from the Cullinan diamond. Due to the prominence of the gem for which it was named, Rolls-Royce must ensure its SUV is up to scratch with the world-famous stone.

            Despite the coyness of Rolls-Royce regarding the Cullinan SUV’s styling, much is already known of the vehicle’s appearance, thanks to its promotional campaign, “The Final Challenge,” which involves years of torture testing in the world's most extreme environments, some of which was filmed by National Geographic photographer Cory Richards, crowned the publication’s Adventurer of the Year in 2012. As a result of the video series, one can more or less figure out how the final product will look, as the camouflage does as much to conceal the Cullinan’s contours as spandex does to hide a gut.

            - Rolls-Royce Teases Its Cullinan SUV Before Thursday Reveal, TheDrive.com, May 8, 2018.


            2. Sir Lenny Henry delivered a letter to 10 Downing Street in an attempt to increase the number of women, BAME [black, Asian, minority, ethnic people] and disabled people working in film and TV.

            The letter calls for tax relief to help boost diversity behind the camera. Meera Syal and Adrian Lester also delivered the letter with Sir Lenny.

            Other signatories included Chiwetel Ejiofor, Thandie Newton, David Oyelowo, Dame Emma Thompson and Jodie Whittaker.

            “All we’re asking for is a seat at the table,” Sir Lenny told BBC News.

            “We’re still in a situation where we might not get a job because of the way we look, or somebody perceives that our education isn’t up to scratch, or we might not even get in the door for an interview.

            “To me, if there was a structure that said, if you choose to do this you will get a tax break — people understand that — and these things benefit the industry and bring in more money.

            “All we’re asking for is a seat at the table, but at the moment, we’re still behind the door like Dickensian children and that needs to stop.”

            - Sir Lenny Henry Calls for TV and Film Tax Break to Boost Diversity, BBC, November 6, 2018.


            3. A football journalist should never welcome the departure of a leading manager, particularly one as notable and quotable as José Mourinho.

            The guy has been good copy over the last decade and a bit, and remained so right up to the end. Although Manchester United trail forlornly in Manchester City’s wake in most aspects of football relating to the pitch, if you could pick up points for entertaining press conferences or providing pithy replies to questions rather than attempting to defuse them the situation could well be reversed.

            It was the football that caught up with Mourinho. He was found on the pitch, exposed as one-dimensional, stubborn and unimaginative, and though English football has undoubtedly lost one of its outstanding performers and truest claims to fame – many would argue the Premier League got properly going only when Chelsea arrived to get up the noses of Manchester United and Arsenal – the fact is life was getting pretty repetitive around Old Trafford and not in a good way.

            United have been a stuck record since Sir Alex Ferguson stepped aside. Although Mourinho at least tried to give the impression he was either bigger than the club or better than it deserved – possibly not the smartest way to court popularity – United still ended up pulling the rug from under him in a manner similar to their brusque treatment of David Moyes and Louis van Gaal, despite backing their latest manager with expensive signings.

            The only complaint Mourinho could have on that score was that United were not quite matching City in the expenditure stakes, though presumably he took the job fully cognisant of the fact a combination of Pep Guardiola’s charisma and Abu Dhabi wealth would make the neighbours much more of a threat than the noisy nuisance they proved for Ferguson.


            To his credit, Mourinho made this very point just before he was moved out. He said it was a little unfair for his best efforts to be compared with the impossibly illustrious past, because the two situations were quite different. United were once in a position of complete dominance, so that practically every wish could be realised, and now they are not, because no one is.

            It is a good thing for English football that Premier League-generated wealth is now shared more evenly and democratically, so no one club can easily get too far ahead, though perhaps someone could pass the message along to all those clamouring for regime change or radical reform at United to bring the product back up to scratch.

            - Manchester United cannot turn back clock – the era of one-club rule is over, TheGuardian.com, December 20, 2018.


            About the author:

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

            (作者:张欣 编辑:丹妮)


            Fall flat on his face? 一败涂地


            Team to beat? 最优秀的团队


            Looming large? 赫然耸现


            In your face? 咄咄逼人


            Cut and dried? 已成定局