名人教英文 – 企鵝與北極熊= 南轅北轍

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30/11/2010

名人教英文 – 企鵝與北極熊= 南轅北轍 毛孟靜

有讀者來電郵問, 「南轅北轍」英文怎麼說?快速即食的答案,是poles(極)apart(相隔、分離),是指南極south pole 與北極north pole 之間的距離,跟原文的南與北、根本是兩個極端的意思,非常相襯:

?They are poles apart. They don’t get along well.(他們南轅北轍,相處不來。)

?Reality and poll reporting can be poles apart.(真實情況跟民調結果可以南轅北轍,完全兩回事。)

Poles apart 是正規的日常用法,由南北極引伸開去會聯想的動物,分別是企鵝和北極熊,於是就可以帶出得意的講法:

?They are like penguins and polar bears,they are just too far apart to be able to spend any time near one another.

(他們就像企鵝和北極熊,各自生活在兩極,不可能共聚一堂。)

熟習這個用法,透過語文亦學會通識,會記得南極有企鵝,北極有北極熊,兩者截然不同,就不會搞亂了。

所有語文都會提及動物,但因為文化有別,出來的意象會讓我們覺得陌生,像sittingduck(坐的鴨子),那是什麼意思呢?是以水面靜止不動的鴨子,帶出一點傻兮兮的感覺,來形容毫無防禦、赤裸裸成為攻擊目標的意思:

?If we do this, we will become sitting ducks.(如果我們做這個,就會成為沒有還擊力的受襲對象。)

To duck,當然不是解做「去做鴨」,而是去避開。To duck the police,避開警察。我們的一句日常用語, 「百足咁多爪」,以蜈蚣來比喻人際網絡之充沛豐盛,用英文來講,卻不好直說centipede。同樣的意思,西方人不說昆蟲, 改用海產動物:

octopus,八爪魚。

Octopus,亦即我們的「八達通」,四通八達的一個網絡:

?The tycoon and his financial octopus= The tycoon and his octopus-like financial network

(那富豪跟他的四通八達財經脈絡)

作者電郵:claudiamo@civicparty.hk

網上聲檔:english.mingpao.com/mp3_12.htm

 

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