Come under fire

When someone comes under fire, that person is subject to heavy criticism.

Today's story: Soccer in Qatar
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Come under fire

To come under fire is to be heavily criticized. That’s our phrasal verb today: to come under fire. Here’s how you heard it before. Qatar has come under fire for the working conditions of its migrant workers. That means, Qatar has been heavily criticized. We’re not talking about a couple of tweets or some angry social media posts. The international group Human Rights Watch has calculated that as many as 4,000 people will die in the construction of World Cup stadiums, if the past trends hold. They called it a “21st century slave state.” That’s pretty strong criticism.

Workers say if they sustain injuries at work, their employers don’t pay for medical care. The ones who are willing to talk says that everyone hates them for being migrant workers. Several documentaries tell the stories of the migrant workers. Human rights groups and some foreign media—mostly British—are heavily criticizing the process. Qatar is coming under fire for the system.

To come under fire literally means, people are shooting guns at you. You might hear that troops came under enemy fire in a war zone: that means the enemy was shooting at the troops. But in speech, we more commonly use “to come under fire” to mean, to be heavily criticized.

There was a trial in Dallas, a pretty high-profile trial, of a police officer who shot a citizen. The officer was in the wrong, and was convicted of murder. The judge sentenced the officer to prison, and then gave the officer a hug and a Bible. The judge sentenced someone to prison for murder, and gave that person a hug and a Bible. Now the judge is coming under fire. Was the judge truly impartial? Is it the role of a judge to hug a defendant? Why is a representative of our supposedly secular government handing a Bible to someone in court? The judge is coming under fire; she is being heavily, heavily criticized from a lot of people in the media.

We’ve talked about the Democrats running for president; there are still a lot of them in the race, all hoping to be the one to face Donald Trump in the general election next fall. I told you the leader in the polls before was Joe Biden, a former vice president. But now a senator, Elizabeth Warren, is leading in the polls. Now that she’s leading, she’s coming under fire from everyone else in the race. Before, Biden was coming under a lot of fire from the other candidates. But now that Elizabeth Warren is leading the race, she’s starting to come under fire. How come? Easy: all the other candidates want to improve, and the best way to improve in the polls is to attack the person leading. She’s coming under fire for not having a detailed health care plan. She’s even coming under fire for her campaigning and debating style. She’s being heavily criticized, but that comes with the territory in politics, right? Whoever wins this round will definitely come under some serious fire when they go up against Trump next fall.

If you follow Twitter controversies, you might know that a sports executive in the United States tweeted about the protests in Hong Kong. If you were looking for the perfect example of “to come under fire,” you got it. This guy sent out a one- or two-line tweet supporting the protesters, and he came under fire from players, the media, corporate sponsors, fans, and China itself. America’s basketball league does a lot of business in mainland China, and the last thing they needed was to be in the middle of a political controversy. So this executive came under serious fire from all sides for his tweet.

JR’s song of the week

JR’s song of the week this week is “Monsters” by James Blunt. The song was nominated by Anisio in Brazil. It’s kind of a sad song. The singer is talking to his father, who is dying. And the singer is saying that, first of all, he wants there to be peace between them; but secondly, that he, the singer, is ready to take over the role of his dad in the future. One of the lines is, “While you’re sleeping, I’ll try to make you proud.” It’s a good song, and I think a reflection of real life. James Blunt’s father, Charles, has cancer. The song of the week is “Monsters” by James Blunt, and special thanks to Anisio for nominating it. If you’d like to nominate your favorite song in English, please email [email protected].


That’s all for today’s episode. Thanks again for joining us for episode 201. Thanks also to JR for shuttling back and forth between places in Mexico—he’s visiting his family in a small, small town without good internet access, so it makes it hard for him to download long audio and video files. He has to take a taxi to the nearest city and go to a café to get good download speeds—so he’s been drinking a lot of coffee the last couple of weeks!

Remember we’ll be back on Monday. The topic is musical biopics, and why they’re so popular all of a sudden. I’ll also tell you which one is my favorite, and it isn’t one of the new ones. So stay tuned for that; that’s coming up on Monday.

If you’ve enjoyed today’s episode, then you’ll love Plain English Plus+. It’s our new membership just for people who are serious about learning English. The thing I like best about it is the video lessons. For today’s episode, for example, the video lesson is all about how to use the word “ever.” Monday’s video is going to be about how to use the expression “if there were.” The videos are between about eight and twelve minutes and they tell you step by step how to use these little parts of the English language—with lots of examples, and opportunities for you to create your own examples. This is a great way to make your speech and your writing richer and more professional. If this sounds like something you’d like, then you can sign up by visiting PlainEnglish.com/Plus.

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Story: Soccer in Qatar