現代英語評註-9

[a lulu of a question] [the whole shebang] [jollies] [tweenagers and kidults] [killer jobs] [skivvies] [dogs] [knocking them dead] [hoi polloi] [more meaning reversals] [Sunday best] [tootling/tooling along] [robber barons] [uber] [strait and narrow?]

Back to Commentary on Current English


a lulu of a question

lulu 是什麼意思呢? 這個字並不多見,而且並非每一本字典都有收錄。即使有收錄,有些字典僅寫說它是女子名 "Louise" 的暱稱。

筆者所查閱的資料對於吾人瞭解這個字的起源並沒有提供太大的幫助,不過「Partridge 俚語字典」(Partridge's Dictionary of Slang) 對這個字則列出了數個其他意思。該字典說,lulu 最早是加拿大展覽會的俚語 (約 1925 年),意為一個可賺進大把鈔票的「華美展覽場地」;由此延伸出另一個意思:「美若天仙的美女」(約 1944 年);到了 1960 年代,lulu 又出現一個新的意思:「好人」、「贏家、優勝者」。這位「美女」可能與筆者未曾與聞的美國卡通人物 Little Lulu 有關;至於她是否與 lulu  現今的意思有關,我也不得而知。

現今的意思似乎都與上面所講的意思沒有任何關連。「新牛津英語辭典」(New Oxford Dictionary of English) 僅說它的意思是:「特殊或異常人事物中非常凸顯的例子」。例如:"As far as nightmares went, this one was a lulu." (就夢魘而言,這是個奇特的夢魘)。

在英文資料庫中,我們找到了 5 個引句;第一個引句來自美國一個電台 call-in 或 phone-in 節目,它的意思似乎是指 「無足輕重的人」:

  • The biggest problem in this city is the stinking bureaucratic politics that's being placed at the local level--at the City Hall. With the mayor at the top, the district attorney and all the little lulus down at the bottom.

除了這個非常不自然的虛構意思外,其它的意思都帶有強烈負面的意含。根據這項證據,lulu 指的似乎不僅是特殊或異常人事物中非常凸顯的例子,而且是指不好的人事物中非常凸顯的例子。以下就是一些例句:

  • Tubal said, `Whoa! I've got a walloping lulu of an idea.' (英國書籍)
  • Based on a true story, Music of the Heart is a direct descendant of They Shall Have Music, the 1939 lulu featuring the legendary violinist Jascha Heifetz. They Shall Have Music is a film for which the phrase `has dated badly' was coined. (倫敦泰晤士報)
  • There are 26 tracks and not one dud, despite the occasional lulu of a lyric: She came into my life on the wings of a lavender eagle/When I saw her I said, `You're a seagull', and she said, `You're right'. (英國雜誌對一張專輯的評論)
  • Near noon, she closed her books to head for the test. The first question "Expand on the gap between her front teeth" was a lulu. (美國書籍)

看看最後一個引句,看倌應該瞭解標題 "a lulu of a question" 的意思了吧!?


the whole shebang

這次我們來看一個「很有意思」的字 shebang。這個字在一般字典都有兩個意思:1. 小屋 (但這個意思現今已不再使用) 2. 情況,事情,事物。不過,它大多用在 the whole shebang 這個片語中,意謂「整件事;全部事情」,即英文的 everything, the lot, the whole shooting match (見下面的解釋跟例句)。在英文資料庫中,我們找到 100 個與 shebang 有關的引句,它們無一有「小屋」的意思。在這些引句中,有 18 個是指一本雜誌的名稱。在其餘的 82 個引句中,有 74 個都是以 "the whole shebang" 的型態出現,其他則是這個片語的「變體」,如 "the entire shebang"。"the whole shebang" 本身的可變性相當大,如下列的引句所示:

  • The annual state fair [is the] largest and noisiest in the whole country. Every cultural and ethnic element which makes up the forty-seven states parades on governor's day. The whole shebang goes on for a fortnight. ( 一名英國人說的話)
  • She was the only person in the whole tacky shebang you could have confidently taken home to your mother. (英國報紙)
  • Ironically, Jones, the owner of the cheerleaders and the Cowboys, of this whole grand star-spangled Texas shebang, is in fact an oilman from Arkansas. (英國雜誌)

新牛津英語辭典 (New Oxford Dictionary) 並未提出 "shebang" 的語源,而「Partridge 俚語字典」(Partridge's Dictionary of Slang) 大膽地說它與法文 "cabane" 有關 -- 這符合原始的「小屋」意思 -- 但對這個片語則著墨不多。

至於 "shooting match",字面上的意思是「射擊比賽」。在英文資料庫中,它有 46 個引句,其中有 33 個以 "the whole shooting match" 的型態出現;這個片語是 "the whole thing" (整件事) 的另一說法:

  • All the people involved got fired eventually. The whole shooting match was replaced and in no time at all the company was sold off to somebody else. (一名英國人說的話)
  • Many proposals will be mooted: a divisional championship, academies, better club cricket, reinstating schools cricket and the formation of a single body to run the whole shooting match. (英國報紙)

跟 "the whole shebang" 一樣,這個片語也有不同的變化:

  • These are Naples's best and most expensive hotels and they are generally selling only packages. For instance, access to the Vesuvio's lovely roof garden is for guests taking the whole four-day shooting-match. (英國報紙)

再者,"the whole caboodle" (或 "the whole kit and caboodle") 也是另一意思相同的片語。


jollies

還記得我們先前討論的 jaunt or junket 嗎? jolly 這個字是個很有彈性的字,除了有 jaunt 和 junket 的意思外,它還有正面或中性的意含,且也可用來表示某人應得的免費旅行和旅遊,或免費的招待或娛樂。下面為上述意思的若干引句:

  • For many years, the players of the French junior club, St-Pierre-des-Corps, have enjoyed a leisurely pre-season training camp at Pornichet-La Baule, the Atlantic resort reckoned to have the best beach in Europe. However, when the tanker, Erika, sank last month, the players realised that their annual jolly was in jeopardy. (英國報紙)
  • ...the World Series, qualification for which was by winning events around the world but which, like the NEC World Invitational, has been mutated into a jolly for Ryder and President's Cup players. (英國報紙)
  • Business entertaining is a massively murky area. Not even the Inland Revenue knows how much is spent nationally on these tax-deductible jollies - tens of billions of pounds a year at least. (英國雜誌)
  • So began one of the most famous jollies in recent Fleet Street history, a rolling gastronomic tour through Normandy and Brittany. (英國報紙)

用這個字構成的一個成語 "get one's jollies" from something,意為「從某件事情得到樂趣、快感或刺激」,這裡的「事情」大多指違法或不好的事情。意思與此相似的一個成語是 "to get one's kicks"。這個成語的引句大多來自美國的資料來源,但它也出現在英式英語中:

  • She gets her jollies from seeing how abject and disgusting he is when he is drunk. (美國書籍)
  • There was Clinton standing up for Monica's honour by denying the dirty and Starr got his jollies by forcing out the details. (英國八卦報)
  • That's the only jollies you're going to get between now and New Year isn't it. (英國人的會話)

jolly 也構成數個片語動詞。第一個 "to jolly someone along",意為「以有趣或愉快的方式鼓勵某人做某事」:

  • You complement each other. You're warm and fun-loving; he's sensitive and moody. You jolly him along; he fusses over you. (英國雜誌)
  • They are jollied along by a man at an electric Yamaha playing from a book of American sheet music. (經濟學人)

"to jolly someone into or out of" something 意為「勸服」、「哄 ( 騙)」:

  • They usually made Plumley the secretary or chairman because he was never partisan and they knew he would jolly them into sense. (英國報紙)
  • Q Whenever I take my child over to our neighbour's house to play, he acts all shy and won't leave my side. He's not a bit shy normally when he's with me and I think it's just an act. I've tried jollying him out of it but this seems to make him worse. What can I do?
    A Trying to jolly your child out of shyness is not the best tactic as it will just make him feel even more frustrated. (英國雜誌)

另一個片語動詞 "to jolly someone or something up",意為「使某人高興,快樂」,而 "to jolly up a place" 的意思是「使某處看起來更美觀、更明亮、更吸引人」:

  • I purchased six fuchshias to jolly up my desolate garden. (英國報紙)
  • To jolly things up I've included a few things you may not know about the tomato, or tomatl as the Aztecs called it. (英國報紙)

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tweenagers and kidults

tweenager 這個字我們已在「英文字珠璣集」中討論過,不過似乎還「意猶未盡」。因此,我們決定將它拿來跟一個相關的字 kidult 一起再來討論一次。正如在「英文字珠璣集」中所言,"tweenager" 因 BBC 電視台最近的一支紀錄片 "Little Women - A Day in the Life of a Tweenager" 而聲名大噪。該紀錄片強調了一種它所謂的 7 至 11 歲女孩的新現象,亦即她們追求時髦,想盡辦法擁有最新的名牌用品和個人行頭。一項調查指出,這種現象可能侷限於大都會區中父母有錢、從小嬌生慣養的小孩。但無可否認地,現今的小孩注重物質享受、消費支出的年齡比過去任何時候都要來得早。英語無可避免地也創造出新字來指稱這些可怕的 21 世紀「非小孩」,它們就是我們先前已介紹過的 tweens, tweenies, 或 tweenagers

tweeny 這個字舊有的意思 (但現今已廢棄不用) 是「廚師和女傭的助手;丫環」。下面的兩個引句中,第一句的 tweeny 是它原始的意思,而第二句則是比較廣義地指「女傭」(skivvy):

  • The first person I worked for was Mr MX's mother and she was ninety when I went there and she had a trained nurse ... and a housekeeper and I was the little tweeny thing you know. (英國書籍)
  • Call a house meeting and say frankly that either all residents are to take their turn with proper housekeeping, or otherwise you see no option but for everybody to club together and hire a cleaner, and emphasise that you are not willing to be the communal tweeny any longer. (英國報紙)

下面為 "tweeny" 或 "tween" 的新意思的一些引句:

  • The emergence of tweens has already been noted with alarm in the United States, where some commentators have talked about the death of childhood as 10-year-old girls are shopping for cosmetics, miniskirts and designer sunglasses. Kay Hymowitz, author of a book on tweens to be published next year, says: "It's a disturbing trend." (美國報紙)
  • Although the changes are affecting children of all ages, some of the most marked differences are being seen among those aged 10, 11 and 12, the pre-adolescent age group referred to as `tweens'. They represent a generation of girls and boys who are less concerned with toys and teddy bears than the fashion and style aspirations of older siblings or role models. (英國報紙)

這個字有時被用來指年紀較大的小孩,即 teenagers,13 至 19 歲,甚至 20 出頭的青少年:

  • Studio chiefs have rediscovered a forgotten resource, young people between the ages of 13 and 21, and they have found them exploitable, both as a cheap raw material and as a valuable market. Whether you call them the Millennium Generation, Tweenies or Generation Y, teenage supplies are being mined by the entertainment industry. (澳洲報紙)

對 BBC 紀錄片的製作人而言,tweenagers 就 tweenies:

Little Women: a Day in the Life of the Tweenager Documentary about `tweenagers' - a new generation of preteen girls with the style and sensibilities of teenagers and the validation of being a recognised consumer group. The film follows three sets of best friends aged seven to eleven, from diverging backgrounds, through an average tweenager's day (BBC online)

然而,這個字讓人有些混淆,因為有人將 tweenager 認為比 teenager 年紀大;這在英文資料庫中只有一個引句:

  • Sportswear has come of age because the people who wear it have. And they are the `tweenagers' - 18 to 30-year-olds who are caught between the desire to wear breezy teen weeds forever and their need to take on adult, decision-maker clothes. (英國報紙)

根據這個引句的意思,tweenager 實際上就是 kidult。Kidult 是指希望自己是小孩或少年,因此行為表現像小孩或少年的大人。下句對 kidult 意思的解釋是最明確不過了:

  • Mandy is working on a collection of classics for both grownups and children titled Kidults. "Stephen Sondheim once said, 'Every great song is for the kid in the adult,'" Patinkin quoted. "The word 'kidult' was used by [the film critic] Vincent Canby to describe the audience for Diehard years ago." (來自網路)

kidult 還有另一個意思;這是「新牛津英語辭典」(New Oxford Dictionary of English) 所收錄的意思,但它不是指人,而是指他們所消費的產品:

a television programme, film, video or game intended to appeal to both children and adults. (同時吸引小孩和大人的電視節目、影片、電玩或遊戲)

英文資料庫中的兩個引句似乎都是指第二個意思,尤其第二句更是無庸置疑:

  • We're seeing the emergency of a `kidult' culture. Adults are increasingly consumers of kids' stuff, while kids are interested in grown-up fashions and objects at a younger and younger age. (美國新聞報導)
  • The film is likely to capitalise on the success of `kidults' -- films that appeal to adults and children. (英國報紙)

killer jobs

我想大家都知道 killer 這個字的意思,而它與數種動物所構成的複合字所形成的「殺人動物」,頗令人印象深刻,如 killer whale (殺人鯨), killer shark (殺人鯊), killer bee (殺人蜂) 等。在網路英文資料庫中,killer 在大多數引句中的用法都是屬於這一類別或非常相似的類別,如做「致命的」意思的 killer bugs, killer cells, killer viruses, killer diseases,「殺手級人物」的 killer nannies, killer drivers, killer nurses。比較引人入勝的是幾個抽象的複合字:killer instinct, killer blow, killer punch...。

killer instinct 是指運動員或政治人物致勝的決心和毅力,而 killer blow 和 killer punch 則是「致命的打擊」。我們找到了許多 killer blow 和 killer punch 的引句,但它們都來自英國或澳洲的新聞報導,在美國資料中完全付之闕如:

  • Think back to the uproar created by the arts lobby when a £ 5 million cut in the Arts Council grant was announced. 'A killer-blow to cultural life,' said one commentator. (英國報紙)
  • But the (Conservative) party, still reeling from Tony Blair's killer punch, looks a bit wild-eyed and disorientated. (英國報紙)

"killer touch" 通常用在有關運動的寫作中,意思跟 killer instinct 相近:抓住機會致勝的能力和決心:

  • Torquay forced ten corners but lacked a killer touch up front. (英國報紙)

此外,與 killer 搭配所形成的複合字還有在網路翻譯家「英文新字新詞」中早已收錄的 "killer application" 或縮寫為 "killer app" (同類型和功能相同的電腦軟體中最佳的軟體):

  • Every technology needs a killer app, or killer application, which makes it a hit with consumers. For the personal computer, it took the development of the spreadsheet (by an academic who never patented his software) to convince businesses to fill every desk with a computer. For the Internet, the killer app was electronic mail, or e-mail. (澳洲報紙)
  • Microsoft took the wraps off beta 3 of its Exchange 2000 software at its Exchange Conference in Atlanta this week. Billed as the 'killer' application for Windows 2000, Exchange 2000 Server, formerly codenamed Platinum, features built-in instant messaging, video, data, and audio conference capabilities. (英國雜誌)

意思在某些方面與 killer application 相似的一個複合字是 "category killer";後者是指專業的公司企業,它們以低廉的價格來銷售包羅廣泛的產品,以致於同業無法與其競爭:

  • ...category killers selling such products as music goods, office products, computers and furniture. (英國雜誌)

現在讓我們言歸主題 "killer job",這個詞在英文資料庫中只有一個引句,它是指「不好做的工作」,「艱難的工作」-- 不是那種會做得順利的工作:

  • ...the killer job, the one that made even Chris Patten look like an idiot: chairman of the Conservative Party. (英國新聞)

skivvies

在 "tweenagers and kidults" 的文章中,我們曾提到 skivvy 這個字。在英式英語中,skivvy (名詞) 是指地位卑微、受到剝削的家庭女傭,而 to skivvy (動詞) 則是指做報酬極低的辛苦幫傭工作:

  • Don't treat her like a skivvy by asking her to do all your washing, ironing and housework. (英國報紙)
  • She put up with six years of skivvying for her first real love, rocker Jeff Beck. (英國報紙)
  • The woman serving us is heavily pregnant and clearly heavily overworked. As she skivvies around for us, I get a sudden pang of guilt. (英國雜誌)

然而,在美國,skivvies 指的是完全不同的東西 -- 尤其是,美國水兵用這個字來指「內衣」。在英文資料庫中,我們可以找到這個「內衣」意思的證據:

  • A few nights ago you were down to your skivvies in her bedroom. (美國書籍)
  • Sleepwalkers ... may head for the hotel lobby in their skivvies. (美國報紙)

雖然這個字顯然也有「T恤」的意思,但我們卻找不到相關的引句。在澳洲和紐西蘭,這個字是指一種不同的衣物。根據 Collins English Dictionary 的解釋,"skivvy" 是一種男女都可以穿的長袖高圓領毛線杉 (polo-neck sweater):

  • She wears Keri Craig dusty pink wool blazer ($760), skivvy ($180) and camel new suede trousers ($210) with Elizabeth R beret ($115).(澳洲報紙)

這與水兵的「內衣」截然不同。

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dogs

有人問到 "putting on the dog" 的起源,剛好利用這個機會來談談「人類最忠實的朋友」:the dog

在網路英文資料庫中,我們找到這個俚語的一個引句:

  • Better still would be to spend our tax dollars on something we residents can enjoy all the time and not worry so much about putting on the dog when we have visitors. (美國報紙)

American Heritage Dictionary 對這句成語的解釋是「擺闊;擺威風;充門面」,所以它和意思與其最接近的另一句成語 "to put on airs" (擺架子;盛氣凌人) 並不完全相同。至於它的起源,Partridge's Dictionary of Slang 僅說它起源於 20 世紀初。

其它與 "dog" 有關的非字面意思的語詞,也以負面的意思居多。一個被說成 dog 的人,他所受到的評價都不好,除非他是 lucky dog (幸運兒) 或 top dog (掌權者,奪魁者,優勝者):

  • After all, he played like a dog while captaining England, didn't he? (英國報紙)
  • Just a few years before Einstein came up with the special theory, Minkowski had described him as a 'lazy dog' who 'never bothered about mathematics at all'. (英國雜誌)

當把女人說成 dog 時,那是罵人的話,侮辱程度幾乎等同於叫她「婊子」 "bitch":

  • How can you go out with her? she's a real dog. (美國書籍)

"dog" 也有「令人失望的事情」、「沒用的東西」的意思:

  • Mickey Blue Eyes is the second American movie the couple have made together. The first, thriller Extreme Measures, was an absolute dog. (英國報紙)
  • The party was a real dog. (英國書籍) (那場舞會實在叫人掃興 -- 請與上面的 "She's a real dog" 做一比較。)

"dog" 當動詞用時,意為問題和困難像狗一樣緊隨著你,糾纏不去:

  • His political career has been dogged by controversy. (英國報紙)

「狗的早餐」 (dog's breakfast) 或「狗的晚餐」 (dog's dinner) 是指事情雜亂無章、一團糟:

  • The whole place was a bit of a dog's dinner, really. (英國雜誌)

當我們說某人 "dressed up like a dog's dinner" (打扮得花枝招展),這並非一句恭維的話;這句話真正要表達的意思是「打扮得花枝招展,妖裡妖氣的」。狗也是冷血無情的動物,因為 "dog eat dog" (殘酷無情的競爭;你死我活的搏鬥);牠們也是危險的動物,因為 "let sleeping dogs lie" (睡狗勿惹 -- 不要惹事生非 );牠門也不是很聰明,因為 "you can't teach an old dog new tricks" (老狗學不會新把戲)。如果某個地方或某個人 "be going to the dogs",那麼那個地方或那個人肯定「每況愈下」、「向下沈淪」、「行將滅亡」,難以再好轉:

  • I suddenly snapped, shrieking: 'Call that service? This bloody country's going to the dogs!' (澳洲報紙)

人類最忠實的朋友在語言上竟然獲得如此的壞評,真是令人有點匪夷所思;但肯定的是,這些負面的語詞不可能是愛貓人士創造的。


knocking them dead

你知道在英語中,叫人家「跌斷腿」(break a leg) 是一句祝人 (尤其是戲劇表演者)好運的祝賀語嗎? 這種「反話」係肇因於千奇百怪的迷信,他們認為祝人好運會帶來相反的結果,也就是說會帶來厄運或不幸。這種迷信似乎是源自劇院。傳統上,劇院是迷信的溫床,例如劇院禁止吹口哨及直呼「馬克白」這個名字 -- 所以莎士比亞四大悲劇之一的「馬克白」(Macbeth) 不得不改稱為「蘇格蘭劇」(the Scottish play)。

  • 'Break a leg' is the well-known cry of encouragement in theatrical circles from backstage staff to performers. (英國報紙)
  • Mick [Jagger] and Jerry Hall sent her flowers - on opening night to The Threepenny Opera in Dublin, with a card that said, 'Break a leg'. (英國雜誌)

英語必非唯一以這種反話來祝人家好運的語言。例如,在義大利文中,對於即將參加考試的人,義大利人通常會說 "n bocca al lupo" (意為「入狼口」)來予以祝福。其他語言也有類似的用語。

跌斷腿並非戲劇表演人所能遭遇到的最壞的事情。戲劇或劇場充滿死亡的暗喻。如果觀眾對表演者的表演沒有反應或產生共鳴,表演者可能「死得很慘」-- 舞台生涯可能告終。但如果他們的表演非常好,緊扣觀眾的心弦,引發觀眾的迴響,而獲致如雷的掌聲和如潮的佳評,在英語中,我們可以說:"The performer kills or slays the audience, or knocks them dead."

  • Their unique performance style encompasses music, sketch and inspired improvisation that will knock you dead and make you shriek with fear and laughter. (英國宣傳小冊子)
  • "Tell him to come with us,' offered Michael, meaning the chorus's own nine city summer tour. 'God, wouldn't that knock 'em dead in Nebraska?' (美國小說)

"knock 'em dead" 也用在新聞英語中來指漂亮、英俊 (和穿著性感豔麗) 的人對其他人的影響:

  • Knock 'em dead in this stretchy pull-on one-piece. (英國雜誌)
  • Life would be pretty boring if fashion was only about a black trouser suit or, for that matter, a knock-'em-dead dress. (英國雜誌)

另一個與死亡有關的用語是 "drop-dead";這個詞大多跟 "gorgeous" 連用,但有時也跟其他與「漂亮、英俊和具有吸引力」有關的形容詞和名詞連用。在這種用法中,drop-dead 只是在加強該形容詞或名詞的語氣:

  • Maybe your dream man is a drop-dead gorgeous movie star like Brad Pitt or Will Smith? (英國報紙)
  • On the evening of the launch we repair to the chic China Grill restaurant for a cocktail reception, for which the girls swap glamorous outfits for drop-dead glamorous outfits. (英國報紙)
  • ...an ex-actress with drop-dead looks and a voice of bewitching insouciance. (英國雜誌)

根據網路英文資料庫,"drop-dead" 幾乎不用在美式英語中;不過,美式英語有一個不同的用語 "drop-dead date",意為 (解決爭端、達成協議的) 「最終截止期限」(deadline -- 另一個與死亡有關的用字)。在英文資料庫中,我們找到了四個引句,其中之一是:

  • Meanwhile, the city's firefighters and police unions have vowed to go to court and block the deal. If that happens, the city could face a new so-called drop dead date, the day city workers won't get paid. (美國電台)

hoi polloi

這個字在大多數的字典裡面都是當「老百姓、一般民眾」(帶有貶抑的意味) 解釋。但在實際的應用上或在口語中,hoi polloi 有時卻用來指意思相反的「有錢有勢的人;上流人物」:

  • Prices at the one hotel, The Cotton House, start at £ 300 a night. WHAT DO YOU GET? The chance to rub shoulders with Mustique's hoi polloi. Sunday means champagne picnics on Macaroni Beach, and on Wednesday night it's rum punches at Basil's Bar. (英國報紙)
  • Hanging out with hoi polloi? Corfu's northeast corner is even nicknamed "Kensington on Sea" on account of its AB1 patronage. (英國報紙)
  • High fashion, hats and top-class racing meet head on in one of the smart set's events of the season. Dodge between the new reds (yellows) and the new blacks (browns) and mingle with hoi polloi in the Royal enclosure. (英國新聞報導)
  • [The Season] used to be simple: you got your aristos at Ascot, old coves at Cowes, bloody good chaps at Badminton, and your `what hos" at Henley.These days, however, you are more like to get `you whats?" at all three. It seems, my dear, that the Season's hoi polloi has been invaded by last season's ghastly riff-raff. (英國報紙)

刊出最後一個引句的報紙翌日立即刊出更正啟事;這顯示,hoi polloi 當做「有錢有勢的人;上流人物」的意思尚未被廣泛接受,甚至還有一段很大的距離。Collins 字典也提到只有訓練有素的人才能分辨這個字在句子中的真正意思。

當然,該引句中的 riff-raff 同樣也是個貶抑字,意為「流氓,暴民,賤民,下等人」:

  • We do our best to have no truck with the riff-raff of the antiques trade. By riff-raff I mean dealers who knowingly sell fakes, dealers who take part in auction rings... (英國雜誌)
  • One woman, who didn't want to be named, fumed: 'There seems to be an awful lot of riff-raff coming into the village.' (英國報紙)

根據「最新牛津英語辭典」(New Oxford Dictionary of English),"hoi polloi" 的這種用法可能肇因於將它與發音相似、但意思完全不同的 "hoity-toity" 混淆所致,後者的意思是「傲慢、自大」(riff-raff 和 hoity-toity 的其他說明可參見「英文資料庫教育學術大醬缸」的押韻複合字):

  • The boys were not as pristine as those at Miss Peel's but still very combed and brushed and judging by their hoity-toity accents came from 'naice' homes. (美國書籍)
  • I don't know why you're getting so hoity-toity,' said the MP. (英國報紙)

牛津英語辭典也討論了 "hoi polloi" 前面是否要加定冠詞 "the" 的問題。懂希臘文的人反對這樣做,因為 "hoi" 在希臘文中意為 "the",所以如果說 "the hoi polloi" 就等於說 "the the many"。牛津英語辭典指出,根據外來語變成英文標準用語的神秘過程,"hoi polloi" 已變成英文字,因此,就其真正的意義而言 (如 "the masses", "the people", "the mob"),它需要定冠詞,沒有定冠詞反而顯得奇怪。但在網路英文資料庫的 "hoi polloi" 引句中,僅半數多一點使用了定冠詞:

  • He didn't even get invited into the special royal tent, he was forced to wander round with the hoi polloi. (英國報紙)
  • He does not like business people, despite the fact that he is a multi-millionaire celebrity who hardly mixes with hoi polloi. (英國報紙)

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more meaning reversals

這次我們再來看看幾個意思已經相反或有很大改變的字。

首先要看的是現在我們幾乎天天掛在嘴邊的「酷」:cool。這個字現今的意思是「很棒」、「棒極了」:

  • Despite looking like my granddad he informs me that he is able to fly into outer space at will. Cool! (英國報紙)
  • We said, "That's cool, we all want to do that, so it's fine." (美國報紙)

然而,"cool reception" 是個相當強固的搭配語,只有「冷淡的反應」的意思,並無「很棒的婚宴」的意思:

  • When Virginians appealed to Massachusetts for military supplies, they received a cool reception. (美國學術寫作)

接下來要看的這兩個字,它們的負面意思已經發生一百八十度的轉變:

bad (美語,更常見的是寫成 baad) -- 現在也意為「很好,很棒」。在網路英文資料庫中,我們找到幾個引句:

  • Wanna night out with some baad boys? Go and see Buckcherry. (英國報紙)
  • The baddest bass music from Miami, featuring Dr. Boom & The Dominator. (美國新聞報導)

與近年來許多非正式用語一樣,"bad" 的這個意思似乎是導源於美國年輕黑人的俚語並大多經由音樂界傳播開來。下面這個字的情況可能也是如此。

wicked -- 這個字現今在日常用語中亦意謂「棒極了,太好了」:

  • South Park: Bigger, Longer, Uncut (15): Canada invades US, Saddam is Satan's lover. Wicked! (英國報紙)
  • Nice talkin' to you, Sue. Yeah. Wicked! (英國雜誌)
  • Anyway, we've got tons of totally wicked beats comin' up but first Street Fashion Update time with Babes Schlonk. (英國雜誌)

最後再來看 clinical 這個字,它有兩個差異非常大的意思:對新聞記者而言,它是指球員冷靜沈著、乾淨俐落的效率;對醫療人士而言,它是指醫療體系不可或缺的一環。

在網路英文資料庫中,意為「醫療的,診所的」clinical 的引句顯然要來得多很多。僅有的兩個非「醫療的,診所的」的引句是跟 "finish" 和 "finishing" 連用 -- 意思都是指乾淨俐落的攻球得分:

  • He showed why he has become a firm favourite at Millwall, scoring with a clinical finish two minutes after the break. (英國報紙)
  • Allard was at the far post to hand Cardiff a lesson in clinical finishing with a precision header from Richard Holmes' cross. (英國報紙)

Sunday best

在網路上,我們經常見到許多與 Sunday 連用的片語 (如 Sunday name, Sunday driver),但這些片語在坊間的英文字典 -- 包括「新牛津英語辭典」-- 中卻都沒有收錄。經過搜尋以及例句的研究和驗證,我們終於確立了 Sunday 在這類片語中的真正意思:「正式的」、「高雅的」、「高級的」。不過,"Sunday driver" 的意思是「笨拙,可能沒有開車經驗的汽車駕駛人」,意即「駕駛新手」。

"Sunday name" 就是用於正式場合的名字,如 Theodore 是 Ted 或 Teddy 的正式名,William 是 Will 或 Bill 的正式名(前美國總統柯林頓 Bill Clinton 在正式公文書上的簽名一定是 William Clinton),Richard 是 Dick 的正式名。不過,跟我們的情況一樣,在國外,如果父母親連名帶姓地大聲叫他們的小孩,那些小孩一定知道他們麻煩大了:

  • In fact the police would be forgiven for thinking they'd caught Richard Gere instead of Richard (Sunday name) Brown speeding. (英國報紙)
  • I took my six-year-old round to see his new cousin. When I asked what the new arrival was called, my sister said: `William, that will be his Sunday name anyway.' When we got back to the car my son couldn't wait to ask: 'What have we to call him the rest of the week?' (英國報紙)

"Sunday suit" 或 "Sunday best" 是指「正式的服裝」。Sunday best 主要是指週日上教堂所穿著的服裝,但它也用於任何特殊的場合。這個片語在英文資料庫中相當常見,共有 150 個引句,另外還有 27 個 "Sunday clothes/suit/dress" 的引句。以前許多英美小孩都有星期天上教堂穿的所謂 "Sunday best clothes" (包括帽子和手套),但由於上教堂的人數越來越少,這種服裝也越來越少見:

  • They looked as if they were dressed in their Sunday best, the girls in clean white dresses, the boys in dark trousers and plain white shirts. (美國書籍)
  • It was during the Whit Walks, a Lancashire tradition where kids put on their Sunday best and walk through the streets, and adults give them pocket money. (英國報紙)
  • Kids tear in and out of doorways. A little girl skips by in her lace Sunday dress. (美國電台)

這些片語也用做比喻的語詞來形容比平常來得好的事物、表現等等:

  • Bawden's sardonic hilarity is irrepressibly his own, yet everything is presented in its Sunday suit. (英國雜誌)
  • A Sunday-best bowling performance by Simon Brown put Durham on the way to a seven-wicket success against Yorkshire at Headingley. (英國報紙)
  • In no time at all drink dispatched any Sunday best behaviour amongst the throng. (英國報紙)

就跟 Sunday name 和 Sunday best 一樣,"Sunday dinner or lunch" 是指比平時來得豐盛的晚餐或午餐。至於前述的 "Sunday driver",雖然它們在英美、甚至國內屢見不鮮,但從英文資料庫的引句中發現,它不只是指開車速度緩慢、技術「兩光」的駕駛人,它也指在週日為休閒旅遊而非為上班工作而開車的人 (這些人士在國內每逢週休二日也是隨處可見):

  • I watched [the boats] with the other Sunday drivers and decided to get one myself. (英國報紙)
  • Even where roads did exist, Sunday drivers often ran into a field of weeds at the state border, where no link with the neighboring state had yet been planned. (美國書籍)

最後,「網路翻譯家工作室」希望:All the information from this website can give your English ability Sunday supplement.


tootling/tooling along

這兩個片語不但拼字雷同,就連意思也相近,因此特別提出來討論。

 tootle 這個字根據字典的解釋是「不慌不忙地閒逛」、「不慌不忙地開車」、「驅車旅行」。Cobuild English Dictionary 說這主要是個英國用字,但其他字典則沒有這項說法。以下為 "tootle" 的一些引句:

  • We set off through France, stopping wherever we wanted and tootling along until we reached the south of Italy. We were in love and it was like our honeymoon. (英國報紙)
  • There's been much written recently about electric cars. There's also been many predictions that in the very near future we will all be tootling around in battery-powered minicars. (英國雜誌)

現代人生活忙碌,再加上交通擁擠,幾乎無處不塞車,想要開車 "tootle around" 似乎已成一種奢望,因此現今已沒有太多人談論  "going for a tootle" (tootle當名詞用)。

至於我們所熟知的 "tool",當動詞用時 -- tool (around/along/down) -- 亦是在表達相同的意思。根據「新牛津英語辭典」(New Oxford Dictionary of English) 的解釋,它意為「悠閒地乘車、坐車、開車」。早期「朗文當代高級辭典」(Longman's Dictionary of Contemporary English) 說這主要是個美國用字,意為「在街上開車」,但較新版本的「朗文」已修正為上述的意思,再從諸多的引句來看,tool 顯然已不再是「主要是個美國用字」:

  • So here I am tooling around in this great, yellow-colored Porsche and not really enjoying it. (美國書籍)
  • As I tooled along Route 64, a crooner on some nearby country music station was singing a lament for the late, great Buddy Holly. (英國書籍)

雖然 "tootle" 和 "tool" 都是指「悠閒地開著車」,但 tootle 似乎是指以較慢的速度、沒有特定目的地開著車,且是駕駛小型車;我不認為開著大型的黃色保時捷能夠 tootle,就像例句所言一般。

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robber barons

這次我們要來探討一個經常出現在報章雜誌的字 baron。這個字的原始意思可在任何一本字典中找到,是指英國或其他國家皇室中爵位最低的貴族「男爵」。在網路英文資料庫的 4,000 多個引句中,逾半數以大寫來表示各該貴族的爵位,如 Baron von Munchausen。部分以小寫出現的引句也是指「男爵」的意思:

  • Stephen Fox, the second baron, had died young, leaving his only son to inherit the baronetcy at a year old. (英國書籍)
  • Feudal barons covered the floors of their medieval castles with loose rushes and straw. (英國出版品)

不過,令我們感興趣的是,這個字也有「富商巨賈」、「(在某一行業或活動領域中具有重大權力或影響力的) 大人物、有權有勢的人」等等的意思。然而,這似乎還無法說明這個字的全豹。下面為英文資料庫中 15 個最常放在 "baron" 前面的名詞 -- 按出現的頻率依序排列:

drug, drugs, robber, media, press, cocaine, union, oil, beer, tobacco, cattle, newspaper, porn, land, crime

由此看來,英文喜歡稱呼涉足三個主要活動領域之一的人 (一定是男性) 為 "baron";這三個領域是:犯罪 (尤其是毒品)、媒體和基本商品的生產。最常見的搭配字是 drug 或 drugs (分別有逾 400 個和 略低於 100 個的引句),再加上 cocaine,使其引句達到 500 個以上。如果我們也將 porn、crime 和 vice 等字包含在內,那麼 baron 與犯罪或社會不接受之行為等字眼搭配形成的用語,顯然比其他搭配詞要常見得多很多。其次是少數與媒體有關的用語,至於與商品有關的搭配詞則敬陪末座。另外還有兩個搭配詞可以被稱為是「政治的」,那就是 union baron 和 party baron。現在讓我們來看看上述的一些典型引句:

  • He worked for a Newry drug baron named Paddy Farrell until Farrell was killed by his girlfriend in 1997. (英國報紙)
  • Colombia's cocaine barons see themselves as members of the elite who deserve the acceptance they seek. (美國報紙)
  • The tobacco barons in Britain still have to recruit three hundred new smokers daily to maintain their sales levels. (英國雜誌)

至於這些用語的起源,根據參考資料的說法,大致有兩個來源,它們均與 baron 的「貴族」意思有關。在少數的情況中,這些搭配詞中的 baron 實際上真的是貴族成員,尤其是 "press baron"。20 世紀英國報界最著名的人物之一就是「快報」(Express) 的老闆 Lord Beaverbrook 爵士;這可能是 "press baron" 首次被應用到他身上,後來它變成一個比較普遍的名詞,舉凡媒體大亨 (media magnate) 都可被稱為 "press baron":

  • He was born, 57 years ago, into a privileged and wealthy family, sitting pretty at the centre of political life. His father, Sir Bill, was a Conservative MP. His great uncle was the media baron, Lord Beaverbrook. (英國報紙)
  • Prime Minister David Lloyd George was accused of 'shaking hands with Anglo phobism' after meeting American press baron Randolph Hearst, labelled the king of the yellow Press. (英國報紙)

第二個來源很可能與 "robber baron" 這個搭配詞有關;這個片語的意思是:利用政府的影響力以非法或不道德的手段來開發天然資源,並以低工資來剝削勞工而賺進大筆財富的商人。這個用法顯然是始於 19 世紀的美國,係用來形容洛克斐勒 (JD Rockefeller)、摩根 (JP Morgan) 和卡內基 (Andrew Carnegie) 等「特別成功的」實業家。他們與中世紀初期歐洲貴族橫行霸道、欺壓百姓、剝削人民以使他們及其親友致富的行徑有些雷同:

  • During the Middle Ages, a robber baron was a feudal lord who preyed on and stole from people passing through his domain. (美國書籍)

至於在政治方面行使不當、或不相稱之權力的政治人物或政黨人士,我們稱之為 "party baron":

  • The outcome of the three-day congress and the tense campaign which preceded it will be seen as a victory for the PSD's party barons and a defeat for those who sought reform. (英國報紙)

上述的搭配詞有些可以追溯到一百多年前,但我們似乎找不到任何好的理由來說明為何 baron 這個字會跟 cocaine 搭配,而不跟海洛因 heroin (2 個引句)、快克古柯鹼 crack (1 個引句) 或鴉片 opium (無引句) 搭配。我們也查不出為何是 beer barons 而不是 wine barons,是 cattle、 oil 或  coffee barons,而不是 sheep、 gas 或 tea barons ?


uber

這是個相當新的字首 (prefix)。我們首先來看報章雜誌最近幾個使用此一字首的例子:

  • And even the uber-venues of the Fringe, headed by the Assembly Rooms/Gilded Balloon/Pleasance conglomerate, are now vast money-making machines, mainly comedy jukeboxes with a collection of lucrative familiar names on return visits. (英國「新政治家」雜誌)
  • Internet ubergeeks were beside themselves with anger last week after Apple Computer licensed a controversial patent on one-click shopping from online book-seller Amazon.com. (英國「新科學家」雜誌)
  • Nevertheless, his early ambition and his decision to take screenwriting courses while still at school surely helped him get where he is today edging into the same league as uberproducers David E. Kelley (Ally McBeal) and John Wells (ER). (英國「泰晤士」雜誌)

uber 亦可放在形容詞的前面當字首:

  • Six years and several research chemists later, Firoze nail polish and handcream, formaldehyde-free, is now on sale at the uber-exclusive Henri Bendel on Fifth Avenue. (泰晤士雜誌)

這似乎是英美新聞記者孜孜不倦地在語言上追求新奇或創新的另一個實例。"super" 這個字首已經陳腐老舊,令人感到厭煩和無聊,所以他們創造了 uber 來做為替代字。這項論點可從下面的事實獲得支持或印證:在網路英文資料庫的 104 個引句中,有 103 個是來自新聞業 (順便一提的是,其中僅有一個引句出自美國資料來源)。最常使用 "uber" 的是大報,但小報或八卦報亦有數個使用實例:

  • It is certainly safe to say that you will never before have seen a comedy act like The League Against Tedium. A demented, ranting, megalomaniac uber-entertainer, he derives pleasure from the audience's pain. (獨立報)
  • Shaft has been conferring with sources close to Steps uber-babe CLAIRE RICHARDS about her appearance on CDUK. (太陽報/世界新聞報)

uber 所構成的複合字,有的寫成兩個字,有的在中間加連字號 (hyphen),有的則結合成一個字 -- 後者顯示,它已成為英語的一部份,是道道地地的英文字 (不過與它搭配的字仍然有限):

  • Even speccy ubergeeks like Pulp's Jarvis Cocker are considered cool. (泰晤士報)
  • Wives of American investment bankers swoon at the mere mention of it; Arab princesses cross continents to get to it. Naturally, we're talking the Portland Hospital, maternity ubertemple to designer babies, the smartest arrivals lounge on Planet Earth. (英國雜誌)

從可用 "uber" 當字首的字的種類來看,它們反映了新聞業目前熱衷的風格:出現一次以上的搭配字或連用字為 (依次遞減) babe、teens、producer、hip,和 entertainer。形容詞的出現率幾乎跟名詞一樣:

  • "The boys were great" says the uber charming Mr. Russell. (英國雜誌)
  • People other than Klein think the flashy, uber-glam lifestyle of the supermodels is no longer one to which women aspire. (澳洲報紙)

此種用法可能源自德國哲學家尼采 (Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche)使用的 "ubermensch" 這個字 (注意:Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary是拼成 uebermensch),意為「超人」(superman)。


strait and narrow?

可能有人認為我們拼錯或用錯了字,因為這個片語「正確的寫法」是 straight and narrow。在繼續看下去之前,讓我們先來看與意為「正路;循規蹈矩的做人之道」的 the straight and narrow 相關的寫法,這個片語亦可寫成 " the straight and narrow way/path" (比較不常用),而 on the straight and narrow 的意思是「走正道」。事實上,正確的寫法才是 strait and narrow,只是它已被 straight and narrow 喧賓奪主,而淪落到幾乎滅絕的程度。這可從 strait and narrow 在網路英文資料庫中只有兩個引句,而 straight and narrow 則有多達 254 個引句獲得證明。

尤有甚著,strait 原本的「狹窄的」(narrow) 意思,現在也幾乎廢棄不用。它現存的兩個意思,大都以 straits 的複數型態出現:第一個意思是「海峽;狹窄的水道」,而第二個意思為「困境」-- 如 "in dire/desperate  straits" (陷入嚴重/絕望的困境);而公司企業發生財務困難,我們經常使用 "in (dire) financial straits":

  • The motor industry is in dire straits with the recession anyway and if we were not making world-class cars, the situation would be even worse. (英國報紙)
  • She was in desperate straits, at the end of her tether. She needed someone she could talk to, someone she could trust. (英國報紙)
  • Mr. Madrigal and most of his neighbors remember their own struggles too well to turn their backs completely on those who are now in similar straits. (美國報紙)
  • By the time Hudson and Kirsten opened up yesterday, England were in such straits that South Africa had to be bowled out for under a hundred. (英國報紙)

令人驚訝的是,"in dire straits" 這個現今經常可見的片語 (在網路英文資料庫中有 197 個引句),在「牛津英語字典」中卻付諸卻如,完全不見蹤影。

以下為 "strait and narrow" 的兩個引句,皆來自英國書籍:

  • Some dance on the tightrope all their lives - like Lloyd George - and never fall off; and others ruin their career the first time they step off the strait and narrow.
  • There will even be some who scarcely ever wash and others who throw themselves on to brambles and roll in the snow to suppress carnal desires which are the work of Satan who sends these temptations with the intention of luring souls from the strait and narrow path which leads to heaven.

底下再舉兩個現在拼法的例句:

  • She was supposed to be my probation officer but she was more interested in my body than keeping me on the straight and narrow. (美國報紙)
  • His parents had unwittingly pushed him right off the straight and narrow, and only recently, through choice, did he climb back on after years of rebellion. (英國報紙)

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