flatfooted

peter199083

Senior Member
Mandarin
In a news report, the Singapore lawyer-turned-politician Indranee Rajah talks about how she plans to reverse-engineer her atheletic experience in schooling years into her policy administration as the education minister. The report reads:
AS A former school netball player, Ms Indranee Rajah knows this: “You cannot stand flatfooted in court, you have to be on the balls of your feet.” And she hopes to take this fleet-footedness to education today.
I take 'flatfooted' as antithetical to 'fleet-footedness'. Fleet-footedness is to agility as flatfooted is to stillness. However a quick google on 'flatfooted' surprisingly yields nothing other than a postural abnormality. With my conviction compromised, I would like to enquire your knowledge or experience in the reasonableness of the diction within this particular context.

edit: add a hyper link
 
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  • PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    It's fine.
    OED:
    2.b. U.S. Unready, not ‘on one's toes’.
    1912 in Amer. Speech (1951) 26 31/1 (Baseball terminology) Flat-footed, unprepared, caught napping.

    1963 J. Joesten They call it Intelligence i. v. 51 The C.I.A...was caught flatfooted by the military coup in Baghdad.
     

    dojibear

    Senior Member
    US English
    In the US, "ready" and "not ready" are opposites. Sports are used as a metaphor.

    Ready to respond to a situation is "on the balls of your feet".
    Not ready to respond to a situation is "flat-footed".

    "Fleet" means "fast", so "fleet-footedness" means "fast in a footrace". It doesn't mean "ready".
     

    peter199083

    Senior Member
    Mandarin
    "Fleet" means "fast", so "fleet-footedness" means "fast in a footrace". It doesn't mean "ready".
    You put your finger on a great mystery. Readiness indeed differs from fastness.

    However the difference that the minister seeminlgy fails to distingush must not be over-emphasised at the expense of a simple binary choice that an education minister has to make on behalf of its citizens- either to stick to its existing education system, or alternatively to adapt it to the world's vicissitudes. For a policy statement of national significance, it is way more important to accentuate readiness/fastness than to tell their difference. Her convenient identification of readiness with fastness gives way to the main thrust of her message: Singapore should change its education system.
     

    dojibear

    Senior Member
    US English
    Her convenient identification of readiness with fastness gives way to the main thrust of her message: Singapore should change its education system.
    Reading carefully, I notice that Ms. Rajah does not use the term "fleet-footedness". She uses "on the balls of your feet". Then the writer equates that with "this fleet-footedness".

    AS A former school netball player, Ms Indranee Rajah knows this: “You cannot stand flatfooted in court, you have to be on the balls of your feet.” And she hopes to take this fleet-footedness to education today.
     
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