Dodging a bullet 逃过一劫


Reader question:

Please explain “dodged another bullet”, as in this sentence (a basketball coach talking about another close win): “We dodged another bullet. We’re very, very fortunate.”

My comments:

In other words, they’re very, very fortunate to have come out with another close win. Apparently in this game as well as in the previous one, this coach’s team could’ve lost. Both times, however, the opponents, say, missed makeable shots in the closing minutes or seconds of the game.

The American expression “dodging a bullet” is literally descriptive of a person moving out of the bullet’s way and therefore escaping from being injured or killed.

This is by and large an American expression because presumably mass shootings happen so often in America that people have a lot of practice doing this thing, dodging bullets.

There’ve been 385 mass shootings in the United States as of December 1, according to a CBSNews article (There have been more mass shootings than days this year, December 1, 2019), quoting data from the nonprofit Gun Violence Archive (GVA), which tracks every mass shooting in the country. The GVA defines a mass shooting as any incident in which at least four people are shot, excluding the shooter.

However, be as it may, this expression is not to be taken literally. In actuality, you see, nobody is quick enough to knowingly dodge a bullet. More likely, the bullet shooter just misses their target.

Rather, by using this expression, people want to convey the idea that they’ve had a narrow escape, be it an escape from physical injury or a metaphorical escape from a harmful or difficulty situation.

In other words, they’ve got themselves in trouble but somehow are able to escape unscathed. Or they may dodge a bullet by avoiding a potentially troublesome situation altogether.

And, without further ado, here are media examples:

1. A new poll says more than 40 percent of America’s baby boomers stayed with their employer for more than 20 years. But it's unlikely that their children or grandchildren will experience the same job tenure.

The survey of more than 1,000 Americans 50 and older by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research shows that 41 percent of those employed workers have spent two decades with the same company, including 18 percent who’ve stayed at least 30 years.

But it’s a trend more common among the older baby boomers than younger ones, and traditional pensions appear to be one of the driving factors.

Among those who have had at least 20 years with a single employer, the survey found that about half are excited about retirement, but a third are anxious about their post-work lives.

David McQuinn, 61, is retiring Tuesday after 30 years with MiTek, a construction and engineering firm in suburban St. Louis. He says there were times he thought about leaving but he liked his co-workers and his senior position and also owned stock in the company.

“I started working young and I’ve been a man in a hurry my whole life,” he says, “and now I’m in a hurry to not be in a hurry.”

His experience exemplifies a trait among boomers: more attachment to the company than the younger generations. But even among older Americans there’s a gap in employment tenure: Half of those aged 65 and up but only a third of those age 50 to 64 have stayed with the same employer for at least two decades.

The shift may be less about differences in attitude than changes in jobs — and benefits.

About two-thirds of those who stayed with one employer for 20 or more years had a pension, according to the survey, compared with only a third of those who had never stayed that long with one employer.

Those defined benefit pension plans are slowly disappearing. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that only 18 percent of private workers were covered by these plans in 2011, down from 35 percent in the early 1990s. More common now are plans like 401(k)s, which are more portable from one employer to another.

The agency has reported that a larger proportion of older workers than younger workers had more tenure on the job. For example it said, in January 2014, the average tenure with the current employer was 7.9 years for people 45 to 54, compared to 10.4 years for those 55 to 64.

“Think of all the choices people have today. I mean, who ever heard of a social-media analyst five years ago?” says Joe Coughlin, the director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s AgeLab.

Coughlin says higher churn in the labor market also means companies will have to work harder to hire and retain the workers they need, and this creates leverage.

“Millennials think this way instinctively,” he said. “They’ve seen their parents laid off by these large corporations, so there is less trust.”

Joe Abraham, 65, says he’s sure he “dodged a few bullets along the way” during his 36-year career as an attorney at Ford Motor Co.

Now retired, he says the raises and benefits he got from Ford were not worth giving up for something else. Plus, he just liked his colleagues.

- Poll: Age, income factors in staying with single employer, AP, May 10, 2016.

2. Cher was not the biggest fan of Dominic Cooper when she first met the actor on the set of Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again.

Cooper told Vanity Fair that the legendary singer was immediately wary of him when they first met — much to his delight. He described the hilarious moment Cher found out he and costar Amanda Seyfried dated for three years after they filmed the first movie. The two split in 2011.

“She took one look at me and didn’t trust me at all—and told me so herself, which I laughed out loud at,” Cooper said. “After Amanda made it clear that we used to, once upon a time, be together, Cher said [to Seyfried], ‘You dodged a bullet there.’ ”

Cooper said Cher was joking and the two later got close, even grabbing dinner once in London recently, months after they finished shooting the sequel.

“She’s so funny. She’s a really wonderful person to be around,” Cooper said. “She was kind of just mesmerizing actually; there’s a reason she’s that popular. There’s a reason why everyone stands up and screams when she comes on-screen, because she’s someone who’s so good at doing that. She’s at her best when she’s performing. It was unlike anything I’d ever seen on a film set.”

- Cher Told Amanda Seyfried She ‘Dodged a Bullet’ After Meeting Ex Dominic Cooper on Mamma Mia 2,, July 19, 2018.

3. Major UK supermarket chains have threatened to pull New Zealand products from their shelves following high-profile cases of migrant worker exploitation.

As consumers become more discerning, suppliers, manufacturers and retailers are facing added pressure to make sure ethical standards are met at every step in the supply chain.

As well as being abhorrent examples of treatment by employers, cases of migrant worker exploitation in New Zealand export industries have the potential to do reputational damage to those industries and the country as a trading nation.

Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway said there had been some occasions where New Zealand had “dodged a few bullets” following stories about worker exploitation.

These near misses showed the real risk – another reason for the Government to continue on its path to stamping out worker exploitation, he said.

The coalition Government has spoken extensively about stamping out migrant exploitation, and is in the process of putting in place new policy settings and carrying out research in an effort to better understand the extent of the issue.

The Labour-NZ First coalition agreement promised to “take serious action on migrant exploitation, particularly of international students”.

While that work was underway, along with beefing up industry standards and independently-audited accreditation schemes, some employers continued to slip through the cracks.

Lees-Galloway said a few bad employers did damage to wider industries and New Zealand as a trading nation.

The supply chain had become more of an area of focus, and retailers in some of New Zealand’s key markets were looking a lot more closely at labour standards.

“If you get a reputation that migrant workers are exploited, it does damage to your ability to sell products into those markets.”

- Export industry dodges bullet,, January 17 2019.


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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