Today's English1: The Ordinary People Who Brought Down the Berlin Wall

Today I’m gonna read a new article from THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: The Ordinary People Who Brought Down the Berlin Wall. These are the praragraphs that I like:

Paragraph 1#

Thirty years later, the fall of the wall seems like a miraculous ending for the most indelible armed standoff of the Cold War. But the nonviolent collapse of the wall was a close call. Political leaders’ grand strategies had provided the context in which it could unfold, but on Nov. 9, 1989, it was the actions of average East Germans that made it happen. Caught unprepared, the secret police, border guards and military forces scrambled to reassert their power, but it was too little, too late. The closer we look, the clearer it becomes that the peaceful demise of the wall depended largely on the actions of ordinary people.

Some words#

  1. miraculous /məˈræk.jə.ləs/ adj.

    very effective or surprising, or difficult to believe:

  2. indelible /ɪnˈdel.ə.bəl/ adj.

    1. An indelible mark or substance is impossible to remove by washing or in any other way:

      • indelible ink

      • The blood had left an indelible mark on her shirt.

    2. Indelible memories or actions are impossible to forget, or have a permanent influence or effect:

      • I have an indelible memory of that meeting with Anastasia.

      • In his 20 years working for the company, Joe Pearson made an indelible impression on it.

  3. standoff n.

    a situation in which agreement in an argument does not seem possible

  4. unfold v.

    1. to open or spread out something that has been folded:

      • He watched her expression as she unfolded the letter.
      • She unfolded a deckchair and sat down.
    2. If a situation or story unfolds, it develops or becomes clear to other people:

      • Like a lot of people, I’ve watched the events of the last few days unfold on TV.
      • As the plot unfolds, you gradually realize that all your initial assumptions were wrong.
  5. scramble /ˈskræm.bəl/ v.

    1. to move or climb quickly but with difficulty, often using your hands to help you:

      • She scrambled up the steep hillside and over the rocks.
      • He scrambled into his clothes (= put them on quickly) and raced to get help.
      • As the burning plane landed, the terrified passengers scrambled for the door (= tried to reach the door quickly).
    2. an act of hurrying:

      • As soon as the plane landed there was a mad/wild scramble to get out.
  6. demise /dɪˈmaɪz/ n.

    the end of something that was previously considered to be powerful, such as a business, industry, or system:

    • The demise of the company was sudden and unexpected.

The long sentence#

Political leaders’ grand strategies had provided the context in which it could unfold.

本句子是“介词 + which + 名词”引导的定语从句,其中的 which 含有 this 和 that 的意思。本句的意思是:政治领袖的宏大政策规定了不能开放的环境。在“provided the context”之后,紧跟in which,指代前面的政治环境,后面“it could unfold”进一步解释。


  1. We arrived at noon, by which time the demonstration was over. = We arrived at noon, and by that time the demonstration was over. 我们中午到时,游行已经结束。
  2. I may have to work late, in which case I’ll telephone. = I may have to work late, and in that case I’ll telephone. 我可能会晚点下班,那样我会打电话的。
  • “介词 + which + 名词” 中的“名词” 是否可以省略?


    1. 使句意更加明确。

      He lost his temper, at which point I decided to go home. 他发脾气了,这时我决定回家了。这里的point使得句意更加明确。

    2. 如果意思明确仍然带上名词的话,是为了进行强调

      The picking of the fruit, for which work they recive no money, takes about a week. 采摘水果这项工作没有工资,大概要花一周时间。此句which后面的名词work完全可以删除,而且不影响表达。