A ship is only as good as the people who serve on it

< Previous | Next >

Ocham

Senior Member
Japanese
I don't understand how "as good as ..." serves in the context below. I guess a ship can be a ship only when the sailors on it serve best, but I'm not sure.
Would anyone give me a hint?

A ship is only as good as the people who serve on it — and the AMERICAN SAILOR is the BEST in the world.
(Donald Trump on US Navy USS General Ford)
 
  • Dretagoto

    Senior Member
    Inglés británico
    This is to do with how the well the ship works/performs, either as a naval vessel (as here) or a commercial vessel. Without a crew, it's just a large piece of floating metal - it requires people to maintain it, to pilot it, to fill it, etc. The ship may be well-built and engineered, and technologically advanced, but that is only relevant if the people who work on it are good at their job.

    Therefore, the ship can only reach its maximum potential (it can only be as good as possible) with a good crew (the people who serve/work on it). Trump's assertion is that US navy personnel are the best in the world, and that those people make the difference.
     

    lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    And of course to say that something is "only as good as" in this way is a common turn of phrase.

    A building is only as good as its foundation.
    A story is only as good as its villain/ending.
    A company/business/team is only as good as its people.
    etc!
     

    kentix

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    If I swap bicycles with the winner of the Tour de France (whose bicycle is worth ten times more than mine), and we race, he will win anyway. The bicycle is only going to perform as well as the person who rides it performs. He could probably beat me on a unicycle. :)
     

    Ocham

    Senior Member
    Japanese
    I've got lost again after reading "A chain is only as strong as its weakest link." I looked it up and knew that it was originally "A chain is no stronger than its weakest link." It really makes a sense but seems to have quite a different meaning from the other suggestions here. Anyway, all your suggestion and information are very helpful. Thanks a lot.
     

    RedwoodGrove

    Senior Member
    English, USA
    A chain is only as strong as its weakest link.
    Equal to:
    A chain is no stronger than its weakest link.

    (?) Unless someone can show me what's wrong. :)

    I looked it up and knew that it was originally
    There is usually no "original" to such expressions except where it is coined in a single instance by a single person on an identifiable occasion.
     

    lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I've got lost again after reading "A chain is only as strong as its weakest link." I looked it up and knew that it was originally "A chain is no stronger than its weakest link." It really makes a sense but seems to have quite a different meaning from the other suggestions here.
    You're right, this example does differ from the others. Not only does it not use the word "good" but it cites the worst/weakest element of something rather than its best/strongest – the thing that will weaken that something rather than act as its main strength. Here's another example, from a HuffPost article: The desire to achieve something is only as strong as the smallest distraction that can take you away from it.

    In short, the phrase "only as … as" can be (and is) adapted to all sorts of different situations.

    It can even be used as the basis of a joke. Groucho Marx: A man is only as old as [the woman] he feels.
     
    < Previous | Next >
    Top