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An excerpt from The Economist:

As such provisions have grown in popularity, two things have happened. First, the list of misdeeds covered has lengthened. What initially applied solely to criminal financial conduct now extends to almost anything that might damage a firm's reputation. That includes creating a toxic corporate culture, sexual harassment and “inappropriate” personal relationships; cupping backsides is taken as seriously as cooking books.

How to understand the bold text? Why does it fit into the context: cupping therapy and cooking books?

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    Think of the shape of a cupped hand, and the shape of someone's backside. The extract mentions "sexual harassment". What used to be seen as flirting is now off limits – taken as a serious offence. And "cooking books" are not recipes – it means to fiddle the company accounts. Their books (accounts) are "cooked". Commented Feb 22, 2021 at 8:59
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    @WeatherVane your comment should have been an answer! It adresses all the difficulties I had when first trying to understand the quote in question. Commented Feb 23, 2021 at 8:52

2 Answers 2

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Think of the shape of a cupped hand, and the shape of someone's backside. The extract mentions "sexual harassment". What used to be seen as flirting is now off limits – taken as a serious offence. And "cooking books" are not recipes – it means to fiddle the company accounts. Their books (accounts) are "cooked"

Direct quote from @Weather Vane, who didn't post this as an answer

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Unwanted touching by another person of a sexually significant area of the body is sexual assault.

In the workplace, this is taken as seriously as fraud or falsifying financial records (that is what 'cooking the books' means). In modern times, misdeeds other than finance-related ones are considered by employers to be significantly damaging to their reputation. This is particularly so if the assaulter is senior to the victim, and even more if the victim has made complaints that have been ignored.

Cupping someone's backside means holding one or both of someone's buttocks in the curved hand or hands. It is one example of casual sexual touching, that is assault if unwanted, that can happen in the workplace or elsewhere.


Definitions from the Macmillan Dictionary

to cup (verb, transitive)

to hold or support something in your hands after making them into a curved shape

backside (noun, countable, informal)

the part of your body that you sit on

cook the books (phrase)

to change accounts and figures dishonestly, usually in order to get money

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    This explains half the question. Adding an explanation for "cooking books" would greatly improve this answer
    – Kevin
    Commented Feb 22, 2021 at 19:03
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    @Kevin The first line provides that explanation: "fraud or falsifying financial records" is followed by the parenthetical ("cooking the books"). Commented Feb 22, 2021 at 19:05
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    I'd delete the bloody thing if I could, it has provoked so many annoying comments, but I can't, since it has been accepted. Commented Feb 22, 2021 at 19:41
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    This is ELL, I think you need to provide more context for what "cupping backsides" means, rather than just the definition of two words.
    – T.J.L.
    Commented Feb 22, 2021 at 20:23
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    If you want a better answer edit it yourselves.
    – johnDanger
    Commented Feb 23, 2021 at 1:44

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