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In Its Face and Breathing Down Its Neck

Apr 28, 2023

Hello and welcome to “English for Economists,” episode 72. Today, I’m going to talk about a recent article published earlier this week by the Economist Magazine, which highlights the delicate position of South Korea as it tries to balance its relationship with both the United States and China. The article’s title is “South Korea has America in its face, and China breathing down its neck.”

Before I dive into the idiomatic expressions you’ll learn today, I’d like to encourage you all to please share this podcast with your friends, give it a like, and make sure you subscribe. Your support helps me grow and create even better content for you!

So listen to the title again: “South Korea has America in its face, and China breathing down its neck.”

Let’s examine the two idiomatic expressions in the title. The first one is “in its face,” and the second one is “breathing down its neck.” Now, both of these idioms imply some sort of pressure or assertiveness from one party towards another, but the meanings are really quite different. Let’s break down these idioms and see how they are used in the context of the article, as well as their original meanings.

“South Korea has America in its face”. “In its face” – This idiom suggests that the United States is being somewhat aggressive or assertive in its dealings with South Korea. The expression originally had a literal meaning, referring to someone being physically close to another person’s face in a confrontational manner. Over time, it evolved to have a more figurative meaning, indicating assertiveness, aggression, or provocation.

“Breathing down its neck” – This idiom means closely watching, monitoring, or pressuring someone. The expression likely originated from the imagery of someone being so close behind another person that they can feel the breath on their neck. It conveys a sense of pressure, scrutiny, or pursuit, as if someone is right behind you, ready to take action or capitalize on any misstep.

In the context of the article, the United States and China are pressuring South Korea over its foreign policy decisions and balancing its relationships with both superpowers.

As a reminder, the title of the article I discussed today is “South Korea has America in its face, and China breathing down its neck.”

Now, before I wrap up this episode, let me introduce another related expression: “at odds with.” This phrase is similar to the idioms I just discussed and means to be in disagreement or conflict with someone or something. For example, South Korea might find itself at odds with both the United States and China if it fails to adequately address their concerns.

Vocabulary Review In summary, today you learned about:

The idiomatic expression “in its face,” which suggests an aggressive or assertive attitude from one party towards another. The expression originally referred to someone being physically close to another person’s face in a confrontational manner but evolved to have a more figurative meaning.

The idiomatic expression “breathing down its neck,” which means closely watching, monitoring, or pressuring someone. The phrase likely originated from the imagery of someone being so close behind another person that they can feel the breath on their neck.

The related expression “at odds with,” which means to be in disagreement or conflict with someone or something.

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That’s it for today’s episode of “English for Economists.” Thank you for joining me. I’ll be back soon with another English lesson.

 

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