Words and Their Stories: Bigwig

    Now, the VOA Special English program WORDS AND THEIR STORIES.

    Some expressions describe people who are important, or who at least think they are. One such expression is bigwig.

    In the seventeenth century, important men in Europe began to wear false hair, called wigs. As years passed, wigs began to get bigger. The size of a man's wig depended on how important he was. The more important he was -- or thought he was -- the bigger the wig he wore. Some wigs were so large they covered a man's shoulders or back.

    Today, the expression bigwig is used to make fun of a person who feels important. People never tell someone he is a bigwig. They only use the expression behind his back.

    Big wheel is another way to describe an important person. A big wheel may be the head of a company, a political leader, a famous movie star. They are big wheels because they are powerful. What they do affects many people. Big wheels give the orders. Other people carry them out. As in many machines, a big wheel makes the little wheels turn.
    Big wheel是另外一种描述重要人物的方式。Big wheel可能是公司负责人、政治领袖、或著名影星。他们是Big wheel,因为他们极具影响力。他们的所作所为能够影响很多人。Big wheels下达命令,其他人来贯彻落实。就像在许多机器中,大轮带动小轮转。

    Big wheel [became] a popular expression after World War Two. It probably comes from an expression used for many years by people who fix parts of cars and trucks. They said a person rolled a big wheel if he was important and had influence.
    二战后,Big wheel变成一个常用表达,它可能源于轿车或卡车修理工人使用了很多年的一种说法。这些工人称,如果一个人很重要而且有影响力,就由他来转动大轮。

    The top of something is the highest part. So it is not surprising that top is part of another expression that describes an important person. The expression is top banana. A top banana is the leading person in a comedy show. The funniest comedian is called the top banana. The next is second banana. And so on.
    某个物体的顶部是最高的部分,所以top是另一个描述重要人物的短语的一部分,这并不奇怪。这个短语就是top banana。Top Banana是喜剧中的主角。最有趣的喜剧演员被称为top banana,接下来就是second banana。以此类推。

    Why a banana? A comedy act in earlier days often included a part where one of the comedians would hit the others over the head with a soft object. The object was shaped like the yellow fruit: the banana.

    Top banana still is used mainly in show business. Yet the expression can also be used to describe the top person in any area.
    Top banana仍主要用于娱乐行业。然而,这个短语还可以用来形容任何领域的重要人物。

    A kingpin is another word for an important person. The expression comes from the game of bowling. The kingpin is the number one pin. If hit correctly with the bowling ball, the kingpin will make all the other nine pins fall. And that is the object of the game.

    So, the most important person in a project or business is the kingpin. If the kingpin is removed, the business or project is likely to fail.

    Kingpin is often used to describe an important criminal, or the leader of a criminal gang. A newspaper may report, for example, that police have arrested the suspected kingpin of a car-stealing operation.