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take up the slack

Discussion in 'English Only' started by Wookie, Jan 21, 2008.

  1. Wookie

    Wookie Senior Member

    Korea, Korean
    Zambia is taking up some of the slack, doubling its tobacco production this year. By 2008, analysts predict, it will produce 82 million pounds of flue-cured tobacco a year. That is twice the yield of that in the mid-1970's, before farmland was nationalized, but still far less than Zimbabwe and Malawi each produce now. (source)


    What does "take up the slack" mean in this example?
    According to a dictionary, it means "to do the work which someone else has stopped doing, but which still needs to be done."
    But I don't think it exactly fits to the example above.
     
  2. deddish Senior Member

    Ontario, Canada
    English .ca
    The dictionary is close, but it doesn't have to be someone else's work. If you were being lazy, you can pick/ take up your own slack.

    In this example though it could be saying that Zambia is stepping up and producing more tobacco because other people aren't producing as much as they used to.
     
  3. Wookie

    Wookie Senior Member

    Korea, Korean
    From what can you say other people aren't producing as much as they used to?
     
  4. deddish Senior Member

    Ontario, Canada
    English .ca
    If there's a slack to be picked up, it's because someone has let it drop. (The expression probably comes from sailing, pick up the slack line because someone else has dropped it. And I'm sorry if I'm being confusing, "take up the slack" also exists and is used prominently, I just hear "pick up" more often here.)

    Therefore, if the slack that they're picking up is tobacco production, it must mean that someone else has let their production drop, yes?
     
  5. Wookie

    Wookie Senior Member

    Korea, Korean
    I wonder if this is based on the context that I provided.
    Because I still don't see other countries let their production drop from the context.
     
  6. deddish Senior Member

    Ontario, Canada
    English .ca
    I don't know how to explain. It's like, if someone's found a solution, you understand that there must have been a problem. For slack to exist, it means someone else must have let it drop. Simply the phrase "taking up the slack" means that someone must have let it fall, otherwise, there is no slack to be taken.
     

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