現代英語評註-7

[Is time little or short?] [soundings] [sea change] [Is "quality" an adjective?] [quality time] [pet peeve] [interested to vs. interested in] [young blood] [attitude problem] [deserving causes] [the point at issue] [What's the problem?] [using the computer] [more on using the computer] [Do you computer?]

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Is time little or short?

你是說 "It can be done in as short as ten minutes/two weeks/three years." 還是 "It can be done in as little as ten minutes/two weeks/three years." 呢? 即使查遍所有字典,你可能也找不到任何像前者這樣的例句。事實上,剛開始要瞭解 "in as little as" 和 "in as short as" 為何會有這樣的差異,並不是一件容易的事。

大多數具有相當英文程度的人都知道, "short" 和 "little" 皆經常搭配「時間」("time") 來使用,但用法截然不同。你可以說,you have little time, or a short time to do something 或 something takes a short time or a little time;然而,你可以說 time is short,但卻不可說成 time is little:

  • I quite understand that you may need a little time to think about this. (英國書籍)
  • They had had very little time to talk. (英國書籍)
  • The drugs currently available may only work for a short time. (美國電台)
  • Many youngsters start a personal pension scheme but then stop paying into it after a short time. (英國報紙)
  • You only have a short time left to apply. (英國廣告傳單)
  • Time was now extremely short. (英國報紙)

從這些例句中 "short" 和 "little" 與 "time" 連用的情況來看,我們發現它們顯示了高度的習慣用法,也就是說,它們是慣用語。這正好解釋為何你可以說 "in as little as ten minutes",但卻不能說成 "in as short as ten minutes" 的原因。事實上,"in as little as" 相當常見 -- 除時間外,它亦被用來談論距離和數量:

  • It can take only a few seconds for a child to drown in as little as 5cm (2in) of water. (英國雜誌)
  • You should begin to see results in as little as two weeks. (美國雜誌)

在英文資料庫中,只有一個例句使用了 ''in as short as",它看起來相當怪異:

  • I will give you an answer in as short as possible a time. (英國書籍)

但這個例句卻提供了問題的解答。如果句子中有 "time" 這個字,那麼 "in as short as" 就可跟時間詞連用,但這樣的用法仍不多見:

  • The vast majority of students make considerable progress in their use of the language, even in as short a time as one week. (英國廣告)
  • This thing allows you to watch as much television in as short a time as possible. (英國報紙)

我們似乎找不到很好的理由來解釋為什麼會這樣,但它們就是如上述這麼使用 -- 其實,這種情況是語言的常態,見怪不怪。


soundings

英文中有不少單字和片語是導源於航海,如 "sound the depths" 就是其中之一 -- 這是源自古代英國海軍測量他們船艦所在位置的海深。不過,還有一個片語也表示相同的意思,但卻比較常用,那就是 "plumb the depths";這兩個片語現在大多用於引伸的意思「探測」。值得一提的是,"plumb the depths" (of) 還有「達到 ... 最低點」的意思,如 "This new play really plumbs the depths of unpleasantness." (這齣新戲令人討厭到了極點。) 在英文資料中,"sound the depths" 僅出現 3 次:

  • The unmasking strategies of radical critics, then, failed to sound the depths of middle-class indignation and dismay. (美國書籍)
  • Doyle, a writer more naturally attuned to the cues and cadences of happiness, attempts in The Woman who Walked into Doors to sound out misery's depths. (英國報紙)
  • He was able to sound out depths in herself that she was unable to fathom. (英國書籍)

上面的最後一句也使用另一個導源於航海的字 "fathom" -- 這個字是測量水深的單位:「噚」(1.8 公尺),但現在也大多用於引伸的意思。當動詞用的 "to fathom",意為「理解,搞懂,弄清楚」,通常用於否定結構中:

  • It is little wonder that he found women hard to fathom and was more happy in the company of men. (英國報紙)
  • I just couldn't fathom out why he was ringing me up. (英國演說)

現在再回到 "to sound":動詞 "to sound" 的術語用法已產生兩個在現代英語中相當常用的單字和片語,一為名詞,另一為片語動詞。名詞就是 soundings (注意字尾的 s),其意有二,第一是「(以不同方法測出的) 水深;測量水深的動作」:

  • The latest soundings are from 1858 but at a large scale, and maps and air photography show the positions of the rocks and islets to be correct. (英國雜誌)

然而,引伸的意思「試探」(對人的試探) -- soundings 的第二個意思 -- 則比第一個意思常用許多:

  • The Football League board will take soundings at the meeting and then decide whether to accept or reject the deal before the FA deadline runs out later that day. (英國報紙)
  • Trafalgar, which made soundings last week, launched its £ 1.2bn (GBP) bid worth £ 10.77p (GBP) a share as soon as the market opened. (英國報紙)
  • "Certainly, from our own soundings and calls we are getting from individual shareholders, the small shareholders are one hundred percent behind calls for change," he said. (澳洲報紙)

片語動詞 to sound out 的意思與 "soundings" 的第二義非常相近,也是「試探」:

  • By chance, he met Sanjurjo, Goded, Varela and Millan Astray at the Ministry of War. Varela told him that Sanjurjo wanted to sound him out about the forthcoming coup. (英國書籍)
  • Conceal your strength under a charming exterior and sound out potential sources of help in the career or financial stakes. (英國一份報紙的占星專欄)

除了對人的試探外,你也可以試探 (sound out) 意見、可能性和狀況:

  • I don't expect any solutions to be found today. Today we are going to sound out the possibilities and then I think we all need a long time for reflections and considerations. (美國電台)

sea change

這次讓我們再來看一個與海有關的片語的引伸意思:sea change。我們利用網路搜尋引擎搜尋的結果產生了 31,000 個與 "sea change" 有關的連結,真是可觀;這顯示此一已有 400 年歷史的片語仍然相當常見。在一項英文資料庫中,"sea change" 出現 364 次,其中恰逾三分之一在這兩個字之間使用連字號。"sea change" 最常出現在具公信力的大報中,較少出現在書籍和八卦小報中,且不常出現在沒有演說稿的的演說中,而在美國的廣告傳單及其他廣告品、信件等等,則完全付諸闕如。

sea change 引伸的意思是指「重大的轉變」,但這種轉變是漸進的,而非一夕之間的變化。現今吾人在指經歷 "sea change" 的事情大多是指民眾生活方面:政治、民意調查和人民的態度。不過,儘管 "sea change" 意為重大變化,但它們並非永久性、不可逆轉的變化:

  • Callaghan said shortly before the general election that he sensed a `sea-change' in British politics of a kind that occurred `perhaps once every 30 years'. (英國報紙)

"sea change" 在句子中最常見的結構是後面接介系詞 "in":

  • Newspapers are touting at least the beginning of a sea change in public opinion about AIDS. (美國電台)
  • His own conversion is typical of what he calls the sea change in attitude among most judges over the past 25-30 years. (英國報紙)

另一相當常見的結構是後面接以 "that" 引導的限制性形容詞子句:

  • Cook attributes the sea change that came over his writing to what had gone on before leaving London in the Seventies. (英國雜誌)
  • There are some men who just cannot envisage the sea change that'll come of having women as colleagues in equality. (英國演說)

再者,現今的人事物似乎比較可能經歷 sea change,而且有時是一種正面的變化:

  • MacKenzie awoke and knew at once that he had suffered a sea change. He had regained his peace of mind. (美國書籍)
  • The Newsletter of the Friends of Edinburgh University Library has undergone a sea-change. (英國新聞簡訊)

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Is "quality"an adjective?

quality 被用做形容詞已行之多年,如 "quality journalism","quality papers" 或 "quality press" 已經是固定的連用語。 但實際上,它的應用較此廣泛很多。朗文當代辭典 (Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English),最新牛津辭典 (New Oxford Dictionary of English) 都有列出 "quality" 當做形容詞,來修飾名詞的用法,如 "quality beers"。"quality" 這種位在名詞前面當修飾語的形容詞用法俯拾即是,例句多得不勝枚舉。這個字通常位在 player, service, work, product, education, care 以及 press, newspapersjournalism 等字的前面,意為「一流的」、「高品質的」、「高水準的」等等。現在讓我們來看看幾個例句:

  • We have some quality players and the right balance of youth and experience. (英國報紙)
  • RAINBOW LANDSCAPING CO. does quality work! (美國廣告)
  • We have to be more clever in the way we deliver quality education, instead of just occupying more seats in lecture theatres," he said. (澳洲報紙)
  • There are more ways of influencing the course of debates like this than the more customary analysis of medical journals and the quality press would suggest. (英國雜誌)  

"quality journalism" 這個片語是用來指至少會有一些嚴肅性報導與分析的報紙和雜誌,與版面充斥花邊新聞、小道消息、扒糞醜聞、清涼美女照、影視和體育新聞、重量較輕的報章雜誌形成對比。之所以會有這種「輕重之分」,是因為英國的所有「嚴肅性」報紙都以英文叫做 "broadsheet" 的大尺寸紙張來印刷 (全開的報紙),而其他報紙則使用尺寸較小的 "tabloid" 版式 (16 開版)。(若干嚴肅性報紙也有 tabloid 版面,但主新聞和分析一定刊在 broadsheet 版面。) 雖然 "broadsheet" 和 "tabloid" 剛開始純粹是用來說明報紙尺寸的不同,但不久它們都被賦予強烈的含意,前者代表正面,而後者代表負面 -- 國內一向稱 "tabloid" 為「小報」,不過最新的稱呼是「八卦報」。"broadsheet" 幾乎都是跟 quality (亦是當形容詞用), seriousupmarket 等字連用:

  • When there were just the two serious Sunday broadsheets, the power these two sophisticated and gifted women [the papers' film critics] exercised between them was awesome. (英國報紙)
  • [The Director General of the BBC] has always stressed an upmarket, broadsheet agenda but some journalists have tried to shift to tabloid concerns. (英國報紙)

相對地,"tabloid" 則大多跟 hack, tittle-tattlesensationalism 等名詞 (在此,tabloid 當形容詞用),以及 sleazy, downmarket, lurid, sensationalist 等形容詞連用:

  • Home Office staff are being told to stop using complicated English and write instead like `tabloid hacks'. (英國報紙)
  • ...a divorced photographer forced to get a job at a sleazy tabloid newspaper where she has to track down and trash the rich and famous. (英國報紙)
  • The editors of Britain's sensationalist tabloid newspapers have promised to heed an official warning to leave Prince William alone. (澳洲報紙)

想當然耳,tabloid 本身很少使用這個字,原因可能是唯恐自曝其「短」。顯然地,它們是被看倌 tabloidism (這個字在英文資料庫中出現兩次) 了。


quality time

quality 的形容詞用法真的俯拾即是,在現實生活中也是處處可見。現在讓我們來看看在英國所見到的兩個實例:英國銷路最好的 broadsheet newspaper「每日電訊報」(the Daily Telegraph) 在其頭版上自稱是「英國最暢銷的高品質日報」(Britain's best-selling quality daily);Midlands 一所大學在當地公車的廣告海報上推銷該大學的「一流教育」(quality education)。

有人或許也看過 "quality time" 這個片語 -- 在此,quality 亦是當形容詞使用 -- 美國人使用得很頻繁,如 "I spend at least an hour of quality time daily with my children." 。這個片語意為「專門用來培養親子關係或從事某一活動的時間」。

不過,這個片語及其觀念在英國也同樣相當常用且行之有年。在英文資料庫中,它出現在 237 個引句中,其中 47 個來自美國資料,餘者來自英國或澳洲資料。底下為若干例句:

  • Pauly sold her business to spend quality time with her toddler. (英國雜誌)
  • As a way of sharing quality time with children, reading to them beats everything. (英國報紙)

"quality time" 的觀念剛確立就遭到質疑和批評:

  • I am very sceptical about quality time. Children just need time and you cannot legislate for when they will need it. (英國報紙)
  • People talk about quality time but parenting is also about bad quality time, the need to have the tears, the need to have the bad quality time when parents and children get fully bonded. (澳洲報紙)

正如預料地,有一些人已開始使用相對的用語 quantity time 來與 "quality time" 形成對比;在英文資料庫中,"quantity time" 出現在 7 個引句中,它的意思僅與 "quality time" 有關,且都是用來與 "quality time" 形成對比 -- 一個重「質」,一個重「量」:

  • People are complaining all the time that they do not have time for their personal relationships. Hence this notion of quality time. This idea overlooks the fact that relationships need time: it's not quality time but quantity time. (澳洲報紙)
  • People bought into the notion that you don't have to spend quantity time with your kids, just quality time. (美國書籍)
  • I'm going to have to rely on my mum, on having quality time, not quantity time with my child. (英國書籍)

pet peeve

這個片語必須大一點的字典才有收錄。根據「最新牛津英語辭典」(New Oxford Dictionary of English),"peeve" 起源於 20 世紀初期;該字典也表示,它是 "peevish" 的逆構字 (back formation -- 由另一個型態相似的字所衍生而來的字,字形比較單純,起源也比較晚。例如:escalateescalator 的逆構字),後者則起源於中古世紀英語。peevish 意為「易動怒的、脾氣暴躁的,大發雷霆的」,它在英文資料庫中出現 104 次 (它的動詞是 peeve,而 peeved 也可當形容詞用)。

  • In high school I shared a locker with a Dutch exchange student and I remember him asking me one day in a peevish tone why everybody, absolutely everybody, wanted him to like America better than the Netherlands. (美國書籍)
  • Debbie Price raced down the stairs, preceded by a large, loose-limbed man with a peevish look and a bulging briefcase. (英國書籍)
  • Gary Curtis, a Chicago businessman, is peeved at United because he was stranded for an hour on a plane that needed a light bulb replaced. (美國報紙)

所以,pet peeve 是指讓你討厭、不悅、發怒的人事物。一般認為 "pet peeve" 的惱怒、討厭程度比 "pet hate" 低了一些;換言之,"pet hate" 是指特別令你強烈厭惡的人事物:

  • My pet hate is to answer a ringing telephone and hear the caller ask: `Who's that?' (澳洲報紙)
  • Regular readers are already aware that three of my pet hates are estate agents, politicians and pompous people. (英國雜誌)

不過,英文中還有一些字詞的意思與 "pet peeve" 大致相當,可惜一般字典大多沒有收錄:pet aversion, bete noire, nobody's darling 等;此外,有句英文成語也具有同樣的意思,那就是 like a red rag to a bull -- 原意為「像 (鬥牛士) 用來激怒公牛的紅布」,引伸的意思為「使人發火的人事物」,不過,很奇怪地,迄今我還搞不懂,微軟出版的 World English DictionaryBookshelf 2000 為何都將 like a red rag to a bull 寫成 like a red flag to a bull。

  • This train service is one of my pet aversion. (美國報紙讀者投書)
  • She calls him her bete noire. (她叫他是討厭鬼) (英國書籍)

如果你跟某人非常親近,你可讓她或他知道你的 pet name (暱稱):

  • Charles II's pet name for his mistress the Duchess of Portsmouth was Fubbs. (英國報紙)
  • His pet name for her was Bird; she called him Big Fish. (英國書籍)

pet peeve 在英文資料庫中出現 16 次,大多來自新聞報導:

  • One of shoppers' top pet peeves is waiting in long lines while other registers or windows stay closed. (美國報紙)
  • In a recent interview, four of the five people indicated that their pet peeves were motor vehicle-related situations. If driving is so irritating, why do so much of it? (美國報紙)

雖然 peevish 具有強烈的負面含意,但這並不表示 pet peeve 也帶有這種含意。沒有人喜歡被說成 peevish,但承認自己是一名 pet peeve 並不是丟人現眼的事。

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interested to vs. interested in

在英文字典和文法書籍中,interested (形容詞) 的後面一般都是接 "in" 和動名詞,而接 "to" 和不定詞的情況幾乎掛零。然而,在網路英文資料庫中,"interested + to" 出現 1,019 次;其後最常接「感官」和「發現」之意的動詞:know, see, hear, read, learn, find, note, discover。在許多情況中,這個結構意為「某人發現某事令人感興趣或有趣」:

  • I was interested to read your article about windowboxes. (英國報紙)
  • You will be interested to hear that we are working on special features for both ladies and left-handers. (英國高球雜誌)
  • You may be interested to have a brief update on the position of trainees six months after leaving their courses. (美國信件)
  • We were interested to see that a number of seats were reserved for pregnant women or for the war-wounded. (英國書籍)

然而,這個結構的前面通常加語氣助動詞、現在式動詞或副詞如 "always":

  • We'd be interested to hear your views about any aspect of the Mercury 2300 Service. (英國資訊小冊子)
  • I'm sure the taxpayers would be interested to know much your trip to the Gold Coast had cost. (澳洲報紙)
  • He is always interested to listen to the opinions of the players. (英國報紙)
  • I'm interested to know what effect the arrival of western scientists among what's the equivalent of a stone-age tribe must be. (英國電台) 

在英國 Cobuild 所出的一本文法書 Grammar Patterns 2 (1998) 中,其 "Nouns and Adjectives" 章節中有講到這種句型。該書將 interested 與其他後面接 "to" 和不定詞的形容詞掛鉤,如 determined, eager, keen, tempted 等等。作者稱這些形容詞是屬於 "willing" 類別的形容詞,因為它們是在表示某人想要或願意做某事。他們尤其將 "interested" 的此種用法與 "glad" 和 "pleased" 這兩個形容詞產生關連 -- 它們的「行為模式」完全相同:

  • 'Always glad to help the police,' he said. (英國小說)
  • I'd be interested to see what other women thought about it. (澳洲報紙)
  • I shall be very pleased to help you in every way I can. (英國小說)

young blood

young 是個大家非常常見和熟悉的形容詞,在網路英文資料庫中搜尋發現使用 "young" 的引句至少有 14,000 句。如果我們縮小範圍,只看最前面的 100 條引句,最令人印象深刻的是它大多指人 (people)。的確,"people" 是最常出現在 "young" 右邊的搭配詞,其次依序是 "woman"、"girl"、"men"、"boys" 和 "children"。所以,"young" 的主要意思是指人:

  • Both parents and young people rated reading as the top skill. (英國報紙)
  • ... a young woman in her early twenties. (美國書籍)
  • When I was young, it [my birthday] meant an annual trip to a tiny shop in Kilburn for a navy blue coat with crisp white collar and cuffs. (英國雜誌)

這個形容詞左邊的搭配字若是 "the",則它可當意思非常相近的名詞使用:

  • But the young are gradually moving away from the land. (英國雜誌)

另一個相關的名詞意思是指幼小的動物 (動物之子):

  • It can take five years or more from the time a pair is obtained before they breed. Once they start, however, they usually produce young every year. (英國雜誌)

如果我們不厭其煩地檢視前 1,000 條引句,我們會發現有數個用來指年輕人的固定片語:

  • Paul Cuffee at a very young age, was fascinated by the challenge which `the mighty waters' offered. (英國雜誌)
  • the changing values of the younger generation (美國電台)
  • We are blessed with some very good barristers. But Shane was the young lion and it will be interesting to see who takes his place. (澳洲報紙)
  • He had some really exciting young turks working for him at the time. (美國書籍)
  • While `getting paid' is the priority of most young bloods, Lou and Michie at least sound like they care about the music. (英國雜誌)

young lionyoung bloodyoung turk 的用字不同,但意思都是指有才華的年輕人,不過一般字典大多沒有收錄。英文資料庫中也有 "young offenders" 和 "bright young [person]" 的搭配詞以及下面這一句:

  • Here in this house she had spent her own young years. (英國小說)

然而,根據所有英文字典,"young days" 比這個片語常用太多了:

  • In my younger days I rode on the steam trains of the North London Railway from Broad Street to Potters Bar. (英國雜誌)

誠然,搜尋這兩個片語所獲得的結果顯示,後者比前者還要常見 3 倍以上 (177 條引句對 55 條引句)。

根據字典,"young" 可以指人,動物,甚至植物,但在前 1,000 條搜尋所得的引句中,除了比喻用的 lions 之外,唯一非指人類的搭配字是 "horses"。此外,"young" 亦可用來指「酒」(57 條引句),而 young at heart (129 條引句) 是個很有用的片語,大家應該熟記且永遠保持「人老心不老」,例如:"He may be 66, but he's always young at heart."。


attitude problem

你們或許看過 "girls with attitude"、"ladies with attitude" 和 "I'm deaf with attitude" 等等這樣的片語或句子,但你們知道這種用法的意思及其來源嗎?

這種用法的意思必然是由 "attitude" 的核心意思「態度」衍生出來的;如果人家說 you have a bad attitude or an attitude problem,他們的意思是說,你態度不好,有敵意,很難相處:

  • I was told I was a good player with a bad attitude. (澳洲報紙)
  • I don't like your attitude, Markham, I find it insubordinate. (英國書籍)
  • She's got no mates round here ... It's not me that's got the attitude problem. It must be her. (英國演說)

"with attitude" 這個片語已行之有年。根據 1995 年版的 Cobuild English Dictionary,如果你指某人是 "a person with attitude",那就表示他具有引人注目、風格獨特的行為 -- 一種具有說服力或積極的行為,或優於一般的行為;這個片語主要用在新聞英語中。

在英文資料庫中,"with attitude" 有 256 個引句。與許多新字或舊字新義一樣,這個片語似乎是來自美國的青少年文化。英文資料庫中出現時間最早的引句是在 1985 年,資料引述來源是美國的繞舌樂團 "Niggers with Attitude"。該樂團惡名昭彰的行徑對於這個片語在英語系國家的流行應該「功不可沒」。這個片語深受向來尋求容易記住的片語或標題的新聞記者的喜愛:

  • Nick Bollettieri is a tennis coach with attitude and the will to win. (英國報紙)
  • supremely funky, eccentric, witty and infectious dance pop with attitude (英國雜誌)
  • Cop action comedy with detectives Martin Lawrence and Will Smith providing lawmen-with-attitude style. (英國報紙)

然而,儘管引句的出處大部分是新聞報導,但現今的應用已遠遠超出新聞報導的範疇:

  • Not since Children of a Lesser God has there been such a moving ... depiction of the world of the Deaf, which they themselves spell with a capital D as a socio-political statement. As his reluctant heroine, Melanie, puts it: `I'm Deaf with attitude'. (英國書評)

你也可以說 someone or something has a bit or a lot of attitude

  • Dark sultry eyes hiding behind a heavy fringe and a whole lot of attitude can only mean one thing - the rock chick is back. (英國報紙)
  • It's time to take off your wafer-thin, elegantly crafted timepiece and strap on something with a bit of attitude-something big, bold and bursting with technology. (美國雜誌)

從引句中可以明顯地發現,擁有這種 "attitude" 是一件好事;這是一種讓自己變成廣為人知以及確保自己不會與現代社會的喧囂、庸俗合流的方法。

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deserving causes

大多數文法書提到 deserve 這個字時都會指出,像 "This book deserves reading." 和 "The matter deserves mentioning." 這類句子並非很好的標準英語,它們不再被使用以及它們聽起來不自然等等。英文字典也未列出 deserve 加動名詞的結構;然而,經由對英文資料庫的搜尋,我們發現有 49 個引句卻是採用這種結構,而這些引句似乎都讓我們欣然接受。這些引句大多來自英國資料,顯示此種句子結構在美式英語中用得不多。英文字典中未列出此種句型,可能是因為它與被列出的用法比起來不常用太多了。字典中臚列的句型包括 deserve 後面接名詞、不定詞、比較級,以及以過去分詞型態出現 (當形容詞用):

  • The EC governments do deserve some blame for the delays. (英國雜誌)
  • His children's books are classics that deserve to be much better known. (英國雜誌)
  • James said the Anzacs who fought and died at Gallipoli had deserved better. (澳洲報紙)
  • He has a deserved reputation for aggression and risk-taking. (澳洲報紙)

然而,英國有一本文法書 (也許還有其他相關書籍) 提到這種句型;它指出,在這種用法中,deserveneedwant 很相似,這兩個動詞的後面經常接動名詞:

  • I asked if there were any more problems that needed sorting out. (英國書籍)
  • Miles is in good health and doesn't cry unless he wants feeding or changing. (英國雜誌)
  • Surely our feet deserve pampering all year round. (英國報紙)

deserve 「應得」的事情是好事,而「應受」的事情則是壞事,這可從下面的引句中得知:

  • If people are prepared to go along to football matches damage property and damage people they deserve going to jail not community service. (英國演說)
  • Your best dinner service deserves looking after - not gathering dust in a cupboard where it can be easily scratched or damaged! (英國型錄)

文法書說這種句型聽起來不自然。這是因為它們所舉的例句本身就不自然;這不只是因為它們都非常簡短,而且也缺乏輔助的上下文。我們在引句中發現若干非常短的句子,但它們都有上下文做為輔助說明:

  • If the Shepherd child was dead and he found the killer he would be glad to attend his execution. Some people deserved hanging. (英國小說)
  • Canakkale deserves exploring. There's a good museum and the ship Nusrat that laid mines in this narrowest part of the Dardanelles to prevent Allied shipping reaching Istanbul. (英國報紙)
  • The girl's mother said last night: `These animals deserve locking up. She thought she was going to be killed.' (英國報紙)

the point at issue

最近經常在報章雜誌或英美人士的對話中聽聞 issue 這個字,例如:"I hear you had an issue recently."。說來奇怪或令人訝異,因為答話的人都是說他們身體上有那些病痛,可是從句子中卻看不出或聽不出任何與病痛有關的訊息。

"issue" 是個相當常見的名詞,在英文資料庫中出現逾 93,000 次。最常見的意思是「討論或爭論的問題或主題」:

  • Is it right for the Church to express a view on political issues? (英國電台)
  • The real issue was never addressed. (美國書籍)
  • The problems of immigration were not the question at issue. (英國電台)

本文開頭所提到的用法顯然與這意思有關,且似乎是一種越來越盛行的談論病痛、毛病,但未直接說出口的方式。據猜測,這可能來自醫療的用語,是一種正面,不會讓有 "issue" 的人感到尷尬的方式,甚至帶有安慰、關心的意涵。

英文資料庫中亦有若干這種用法的實例,但它們講的都是心理、精神方面的毛病,而非本文開頭所談的身體病痛:

  • If you have an issue with a colleague, then you can usually be professional enough to regard it as just one of those things. (英國書籍)
  • In Toronto, heartland of political correctness, if you have an issue, you hold a convention. At least that is what Tom Oaster from Kansas City thought would be the answer to the debate over gender equality, writes Claire Trevena in Toronto. (英國報紙)
  • The purpose of the healing circle is to create a safe environment for aggrieved persons to meet and be heard by those with whom they have an issue. (美國書籍)
  • Angela had some issues with her dad, Graham ... Patty, Angela's mum, had some issues with her own dad. (英國報紙)

至少有個例句明確地顯示了 issueproblem 之間的差別:

  • In India we are going to have some issues, rather than problems, in terms of diversity of languages, the non-literacy of a large segment of the population, and the powerlessness of a large sector of people who do not have access to conventional media like newspapers, televisions and cinema. (美國電台)

What's the problem?

上次我們提到 "issue" 和 "problem" 的「問題」,不過漏掉了一個與之有關而目前相當常用的片語:to take issue with。這個片語似乎跟 "issue" 的 "problem" 意思有關,它通常用在公開的演講以及在其他公開形式的談話中,如報紙的讀者投書,這可能是因為它比 "disagree with" (提出異議;持反對意見)更客觀,而且比較沒有那麼尖銳和對立:

  • I must take issue with the sentiments expressed by N Gillott (Letters, 6 August). Comprehensive schools have clearly been a great success story. (英國一家報紙的讀者投書)
  • The report took issue with the Labor Government's decision to fast-track the introduction of poker machines into Queensland, warning that they would contribute to organised crime and inevitably lead to an increase in fraud and theft". (澳洲報紙)
  • In the new book he takes issue with critics who attacked Faulkner for not speaking more clearly against racism. Morris says Faulkner did attempt to be a moderating influence during the racial hysteria of the 1950s. (美國電台)
  • "But John they're [fireworks] certainly louder than when I was a little girl." "Oh I dunno I might take issue with you on that. I... can remember very loud fireworks when I was a boy." (英國電台的 phone-in -- 美國叫 "call-in")

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using the computer

在台灣,使用電腦的人口越來越多,而一般都將「使用電腦」這個動作叫做「打電腦」或「玩電腦」,如果我們直接將中文翻成英文,可能會產生很大的「笑果」,那麼我們該如何正確地表達這個動作的意思呢? 舉例來說,我在週末花了好幾個鐘頭瀏覽網頁、玩電腦遊戲並用 e-mail 寄了幾張清涼的照片給我那些重色輕友的同事,那麼你要如何用一個單字或片語來總稱這些動作呢?

"I was USING the computer"?
"... PLAYING the computer"?
"... DOING the computer"?
"... FOOLING AROUND on the computer"?
"... WORKING on the computer"?

這些片語似乎無一能夠充分描述上述的整體動作。當然,有人可能會認為應該使用 "compute" 這個動詞,但它的意思是「計算」( to calculate),而最近經常出現在報章雜誌上的 "computing",它的含意太嚴肅,在此對我們沒有幫助:

  • I've done a bit of sales, a bit of support, a bit of computing. (英國印刷品)

在英文資料庫中,與 "the computer" 連用的動詞最常見的是 "use":

  • If he tries to kick you off when you are using the computer, refuse to go. (英國八卦報)
  • By letting them [small children] sit on your lap while you are using the computer, you have the opportunity to set the scene and demonstrate a careful and respectful use of the computer. (英國印刷品)

"work" 是指使用電腦從事正規、嚴肅的工作,如用電腦來設計程式、製作網頁、撰寫論文或報告等:

  • Whilst we have eight students working on the computer I'm actually downstairs with the other class. (英國演說)
  • How stupid to think that you would ask a kid to prove that they could work on a computer on a bubble end answer sheet. (美國演說)

"play" 一定是指玩電腦遊戲,而非寫電子郵件或瀏覽網頁。然而,我們在英文資料庫中並未見到 "playing the computer" 的引句,反而都是使用 "playing on":

  • Where's MX this morning? He usually does the shopping.
    Eh? Playing on the computer.
    Oh right.
    He didn't want to come this morning. (澳洲一家商店老闆與一名顧客的對話)
  • She spends her free time with close friends `watching Dr Dolittle or scary films -- I like quite gory things -- talking about clothes, horses, school, boys or playing on the computer. (英國八卦報)

我們也未見到 "doing the computer" 的芳蹤,這個片語所暗示的唯一意思是「維修電腦」,所以與我們所要表達的意思風馬牛不相及。除了 "use" 外,最能表達前述之意思的動詞是 "fooling around",但它在資料庫中僅出現一次:

  • Procrastinating - anything to keep from writing the Term Paper From Hell for that stupid ... seminar. I put it away for a minute and start fooling around on the computer, just wandering... (英國印刷品)

不過,這意思非常負面;作者承認他不工作而把時間浪費在「玩電腦」上。

此外,另一個動詞 "messing about/around" 也頗為常見,但與 fooling around 一樣,這有強烈的虛擲光陰的含意:

  • Parents tend greatly to overestimate the power of computers to help their children, with most allowing unlimited and unsupervised access even though children tend to use the computer mainly for messing around, with little creative or academic outcome. (英國印刷品)
  • Thanks to Another Level, who are the only band to have visited our office and messed around with my computer. (英國八卦報)

走筆至此,我們發現英文尚缺乏一個可以描述越來越普遍和盛行的使用電腦來做休閒活動的動詞。


more on using the computer

上週的「現代英語評註」在最後一段提到目前英文尚缺乏一個可以描述使用電腦來做休閒活動的動詞。有人來信提到我們可以完全避開某一特定的動詞,只要說 "I was ON the computer." 就可以了,例如:"I was on the computer this weekend." 或 "I spent this weekend on the computer."

這讓我們決定再繼續進行「網路大搜尋」,結果只找到一個引句,可見這項說法或用法的證據仍有待補強。這是一名婦女對一家報紙的投書,內容敘述她發現她的丈夫跟另一名婦女有網路婚外情:

  • He promised he'd finish with her but I was so hurt, I sent an abusive e-mail to her telling her to leave off. I tried to rebuild our marriage but I was tormented with suspicion whenever my husband was on the computer. (英國八卦報)

另一封來函提到可以使用 "logging in some computer time"。不過,我們認為 "logging in" (登入) 這個片語的 「技術」意味太濃厚,並不適合來描述我們提到的活動。

另有一人提到,我們之所以缺乏一個可以適當描述使用電腦這個動作的動詞,可能是電腦是一種通用的工具,可以為我們做許許多多的事情;因此,對我們重要的是,電腦能為我們做的這些事情,而不是使用電腦這個動作;譬如說,如果我說 "I spent my weekend using the computer.",別人大多不知道我用電腦做了什麼事情,就跟我說 "I spent the weekend using a spade."   一樣,因為我可能使用圓鍬來種花,也可能使用它來挖水溝。但如果我說 "I USED the computer to SHOP for clothes on the Net, to WRITE some e-mails to friends, to PLAY some games and to PROCESS some digital photographs.",我想大家一定都知道我用電腦做了什麼事情。

或許 use 這個動詞真的是最佳的字,所以我們完全不需要一個泛稱的字;最後,如果使用電腦都不做任何用途,那麼最好的用字或用詞或許是 "messing about" 或 "messing around"。


Do you computer?

標題中的 computer 顯而易見的是當動詞用,意謂「使用電腦」(using the computer)。在英語中,由動詞來創造名詞屢見不鮮,但由名詞來創造動詞則較不常見:雖然我們現在經常用到 "to mail people","to email people",但目前似乎還沒有足夠的證據可以證明 "computer" 或 "internet" 的動詞用法。我們之所以肯定地這麼說,是因為經過網路的搜尋後,儘管我們找到了幾個例句,但它們大多比較接近名詞或形容詞,而非真正的動詞。這些引句除一句外其餘都是來自英國口語資料:

  • They had a lot of subjects going here like information technology and C D T and everything. Oh right. And were those your special interests? Yeah computering was but not woodwork and all that stuff. (英國會話)
  • And what do they do? Erm one of them's working in the computering firm. (英國會話)

在下句中,這名說話者顯然對使用名詞來創造動詞有高度的興趣和愛好,他或她甚至將 "alarm clock" 當動詞用:

  • Shirley told you about another woman in her street who had fallen in love with her microwave cooker erm and had actually given this microwave a name. It was called Eddie. And it was a computered microwave that actually had a cassette deck built in it so it would tell recipes to you you know and it would alarm clock you (英國會話)

下面這一句是來自英國一家有名的八卦報,作者是把 computer 當動詞用了:

  • Twits of the Week today are firstly Mr Jean Ricoux manager of the hotel where I am (at last) computering this column. It is the previously excellent Shelbourne in Dublin. Mr Ricoux promised in writing to provide a computer in my room when I arrived. But it wasn't there. (英國八卦報)

internet 的動詞用法則有比較具體的證據。以下的例句全部來自英國各大報:

  • No frequent telephoning to my family as networking and Internetting equals a hefty telephone bill.
  • CHANG comes to the cafe at Newtown Circus after finishing work as a security man at a health club. He is around the same age as Nicholas, the Internetting law student.
  • Their bedroom then resembles something from a Ridley Scott film, where they sit, night after night, internetting with friends in Solihull their parents would strongly disapprove of.
  • In an internetted community, it is hard to fool people all the time.
  • Video imagery illuminates Europe's largest brick building, while giant screens flash up digital art, Internetted from around the world.

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