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Now, Words and Their Stories from VOA Learning English.


On this program, we explore words and expressions that Americans use in everyday conversations.


Often, some of the most common expressions were first used many years ago, when life in the United States was very different than it is now.


Today, let's consider the term circle the wagons. A great way to show your loyalty to a group of people is to protect them. One way to do that is to circle the wagons.

今天,让我们来研究下短语“circle the wagons(严阵以待)”。展现一个人对于集体忠心的一个最好方式就是保护他们。保护的方式之一就是严阵以待。

"Circle the wagons" or "circle your wagons" means that members of a team or group must work together to protect themselves from some outside danger. Generally, they prepare for a possible attack.

“circle the wagons”或者“circle your wagons”意思是团队或者团体成员必须协同合作以御外来危险。一般来说,他们是为潜在的袭击做准备。

Some language experts say this expression comes from the time when many Americans were moving away from the East Coast to what is now the western United States.


During the 1800s, many settlers traveled west from the East Coast in covered, horse-drawn wagons. At night, or when threatened during the day, the wagons would stop moving. The drivers then would line up all the carriages in a circle. This was a way of protecting the settlers from attack. They would keep their cattle and other animals within the circle.


Although "circle the wagons" was first used in the 19th century, don't let it stop you from using it today.

尽管“circle the wagons”在19世纪才开始使用,但这并不影响这个短语在今天的使用。

You can circle your wagons any time you feel you need to protect the interests of your group: from a sporting events to a political campaign to a project at work.


Circling your wagons means you are in a defensive position.

“circle your wagons”意味着你处于一种防御状态。

Now, if circling your wagons is a way of protecting your group, then a circular firing squad is just the opposite.

如果说“circle your wagons”是一种保护自己团队的方式,那么“a circular firing squad”则刚好相反。

A firing squad is one way to carry out an execution. In the military, soldiers form a straight line as they prepare to fire at the prisoner. If the soldiers are in a circle, they would shoot each other. So, a "circular firing squad" is a group that comes together to fight a common enemy or opponent. But in the end, disputes among the group's own members do more damage than the enemy.

“a firing squad”是执行死刑的一种方式。在军队里,当士兵要对囚犯执行死刑的时候,他们会站成一排。如果士兵们站成一圈,他们会射杀到彼此。所以,“circular firing squad”是一个团队与共同的敌人或对手作战。但是最后,团队成员之间的内部纠纷对团队造成的损害比敌人造成的还大。

Americans often use this expression when talking about politics. A political party is rarely able to get all of its members to agree on every issue. And when they disagree on big issues, they can sometimes fight amongst themselves.


Some other terms for a circular firing squad are "self-destructive internal conflicts" and "mutual recriminations."

和“circular firing squad”意思相关的一些其他表达有self-destructive internal conflicts(自毁性内部冲突)和mutual recriminations(相互指责)。

"Mutual" describes something that two or more groups or people share or have in common. For example, mutual respect is when people respect each other.

“mutual”描述的是两个人或者更多团体或者许多人共享或者共有的事物。例如,互相尊重(mutual respect)指的是两个人彼此尊重。

A "recrimination" is an angry statement in which you accuse or criticize a person who has accused or criticized you. Children on the playground often use recriminations.


"You're stupid!"


"No, I'm not! YOU'RE stupid!"


"Am not!"


"Are, too!"


Now, let's hear these expressions being used in a short conversation.


Well, the meeting at work today was ... interesting.


That's one way to describe it. I call it ... brutal. As soon as the chief said "budget cuts," people started circling their wagons.


That's understandable. If there is going to be less money, she might cancel some projects. So, everyone wants to protect their people and their projects.


That's true. But we have to remember that we're all working for the same business. Our bigger goal as a company is the same.


You're right. We don't want to turn into a circular firing squad. Internal disputes are an easy way to destroy the company.


Yes. And that is exactly what our competition wants.


And that's it for Words and Their Stories.


Hopefully, in work and in life, you circle your wagon more often than get involved in a circular firing squad.


I'm Jonathan Evans.


I'm Anna Matteo.


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