Run for cover

If you find yourself in a dangerous situation and you need protection quickly, you have to “run for cover.”

Today's story: GameStop
Explore more: Lesson #338
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Run for cover

Today’s expression is to “run for cover.” If you find yourself in a dangerous situation and you need protection quickly, you have to run for cover. There are lots of ways to use this, so let me share a few common ones—and then I’ll share how you heard it in today’s lesson.

Here’s the easiest way: you’re out and about, enjoying a nice day, maybe taking a stroll down a city street or even going for a walk in the park. Then, storm clouds start to obscure the sun. It starts getting dark. It looks like rain. You’re getting a little concerned, but you’re not panicking yet. Then it starts to pour down rain—and you don’t have an umbrella. You look at your friends or family and you yell: “Run for cover!”

You’re going to run as fast as you can for protection from the rain. Run for cover—go find a bridge to stand under, find a restaurant that will let you in, a doorway to an apartment building, it doesn’t matter. Just run as fast as you can to a place that will give you protection. Run for cover.

Here’s a funny story. I have only felt an earthquake once in my life—it was mild, but noticeable. I was on probably the fourth or fifth story of an office building in North Carolina—the east coast of the US, where earthquakes are rare. We felt the whole building shake. It didn’t feel dangerous, but it was a sensation I had never felt before. I knew immediately that it must be an earthquake: there was nothing else it could be. I looked around at the people in the room and we just kind of laughed and checked the news; after a few minutes, the news was confirmed.

One person in the room, though, had a different reaction. He ran for cover. As soon as he realized what it was, he jumped up from the big table we were all working at—he jumped up and ran to the nearest stairway and stayed in the stairway. He ran for cover. I kind of laugh now, but that was probably the safest thing to do. The rest of us were just enjoying the moment, laughing next to these huge glass windows. Maybe we should all have run for cover.

In Melbourne, Australia, pedestrians ran for cover after a speeding car jumped onto the sidewalk. They were in danger of being hit by the car, so they ran for protection; they ran to get out of the way. They ran for cover.

So those examples are both really running from real physical danger. We use it metaphorically when you seek help in a dangerous situation. And in today’s main lesson, I said that GameStop’s stock rose dramatically , after many individual investors started rapidly buying up the shares. But some big investors ran for cover: they were in real danger.

What happened? Remember, they were the short sellers. They bet against the stock when it was like $18: they thought it would be going lower. Instead it went high. The losses of two big hedge funds piled up and up and up—they stood to lose more money than their entire funds had. Those hedge funds ran for cover: together, they lost $5 billion in a week. They had to buy shares as the price was rising. A few hedge funds needed to be rescued by even bigger financial firms. When I said those investors were running for cover, they were looking for protection. They suffered losses, but they needed to stop the losses as quickly as possible. It’s like you being stuck in the rain—you’re wet, but you’re looking for protection to keep from getting even more uncomfortable than you already are.

You can use “run for cover” when you are trying to avoid criticism or avoid something bad happening. I remember a few years back, big companies—big, established global brands—found their ads were being shown next to offensive videos on YouTube. Starbucks, Pepsi, General Motors, AT&T, Johnson & Johnson—they all ran for cover when they realized that ads on YouTube might be shown right alongside a neo-Nazi video or a video supporting terrorism in the Middle East. Those brands ran for cover: they immediately suspended their YouTube advertising and tried to distance themselves from any offensive material on YouTube.

YouTube has since changed its system for advertising, but this sort of thing will always happen when big companies associate with sports stars, actors, celebrities, music stars, or user-generated content—the advertiser will often run for cover if the celebrity they’re associated with is involved in some kind of scandal.

Quote of the Week

All right, so I know what some of you are thinking. If GameStop well and truly is way, way above its true value, then isn’t now the time to sell it short? Shouldn’t new hedge funds step in and short GameStop? After all, it does have to fall down eventually, right? The market is definitely irrational with this stock. You can surely make money by betting against it when it’s so high.

That leads us to today’s quote. The origins are a little fuzzy; it’s often attributed to the economist John Maynard Keynes, so we’ll go with that. He was cautioning people from betting against irrational markets. Yes, markets can be irrational. Yes, most of the time they will return to reflect true long-term value. However, that doesn’t mean an individual can have success betting against a financial bubble. The bubbles can last quite a long time.

Here’s his quote: “Markets can remain irrational for longer than you can remain solvent.” That means, you might be right that markets are irrational—but if you bet against them, you might go bankrupt before markets return to their senses. “Markets can remain irrational for longer than you can remain solvent,” says, we think, John Maynard Keynes.

See you next time!

And that’s all for today. Thanks for joining us for today’s lesson. Remember we’re here every Monday and Thursday with new Plain English lessons—and you can get even more online at PlainEnglish.com. A free membership includes the full, word-for-word transcript and our archives of hundreds of expressions and phrasal verbs.

Coming up on Thursday, we’ll talk about an unintended consequence of wearing masks: how they hinder non-verbal communication. Think about that before Thursday and we’ll explore that in depth.

Speaking of in depth, if you’d like to go more in depth with Plain English, you have the opportunity to do so as a member of Plain English Plus+. What do I mean by in-depth? We walk you through exactly how to use the trickiest parts of language with video lessons and opportunities to practice. Today’s video lesson is all about how to use the phrase “as a result ” to show cause and effect. And with each lesson, we do another 10 or 20-minute video, showing you exactly how to sound more professional and be more versatile in English. Enough of those short, choppy, simplistic sentences! Watch these videos, practice in the forums, and you’ll see results before too long.

So if that sounds like what you need, come visit us at PlainEnglish.com/Plus.

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Story: GameStop