2012-11-19 22:44



  Let's face it—English is a crazy language. There is no egg in eggplant1 nor ham in hamburger; neither apple nor pine in pineapple.2 English muffins3 weren't invented in England or French fries4 in France.

  weetmeats5 are candies while sweetbreads,6 which aren't sweet, are meat.

  We take English for granted.7 But if we explore its paradox8, we find that quicksand9 can work slowly, boxing rings10 are square and a guinea pig11 is neither from Guinea nor is it a pig.

  And why is it that writers write but fingers don't fing, grocers don't groce12 and hammers don't ham?13 If the plural of tooth is teeth, why isn't the plural of booth14 beeth? One goose, 2 geese. So one moose,15 2 meese? One index, 2 indices? Doesn't it seem crazy that you can make amends16 but not one amend, that you comb through annals17 of history but not a single annal? If you have a bunch of odds and ends18 and get rid of all but one of them, what do you call it?

  If teachers taught, why didn't preacher praught?19 If a vegetarian eats vegetables, what does a humanitarian eat?20 If you wrote a letter, perhaps you bote your tongue?21

  Sometimes I think all the English speakers should be committed to an asylum for the verbal insanity.22 In what language do people recite at a play and play at a recital?23 Ship24 by truck and send cargo by ship? Have noses that run and feet that smell?25 Park on driveways and drive on parkways?26

  How can a slim chance and a fat chance27 be the same, while a wise man and wise guy28 are opposites? How can overlook and oversee29 be opposites, while quite a lot and quite a few30 are alike? How can the weather be hot as hell31 one day and cold as hell another?

  Have you noticed that we talk about certain things only when they are absent?32 Have you ever seen a horseful carriage or a strapful gown? Met a sung hero or experienced requited love?

  You have to marvel at33 the unique lunacy34 of a language in which your house can burn up as it burns down,35 in which you fill in a form by filling it out and in which an alarm clock goes off by going on.36

  English was invented by people, not computers, and it reflects the creativity of the human race (which, of course, isn't a race37 at all). That is why, when the stars are out, they are visible, but when the lights are out,38 they are invisible. And why, when I wind up my watch, I start it, but when I wind up39 this essay, I end it?

  1. eggplant: 茄子。

  2. pine:松树; pineapple:菠萝。

  3. English muffins:英式松饼。

  4. French fries:炸土豆条。

  5. sweetmeats:果脯,蜜饯。

  6. sweetbreads:杂碎。

  7. 我们总爱想当然地去理解英文。

  8. paradox:有明显的矛盾特点的事物。

  9. quicksand: 流沙。

  10. boxing ring:拳击台,摔跤台。

  11. guinea pig:豚鼠,或供实验有用的实验品。

  12. fing 和groce 是作者按write和writer之间的规律。杜撰的两个词。

  13. ham:过火地表演,夸张做作地表演。

  14. booth:货摊,摊位,(复)booths。

  15. moose:麋, 驼鹿, (复)moose。

  16. amends:[复]赔罪,赔偿。

  17. annals:[复]编年史。

  18. odds and ends:零星东西,琐碎事。

  19. preach(讲道,布道)的过去式是preached,并非praught。

  20. 若照此类推,humanitarian(人道主义者)应该以human(人类)为食了。

  21. bote one's tongue:因write 的过去式为wrote,照此类推bite的过去式应是bote(而实际上其过去式是bit)。bite one's tongue:保持缄默。

  22. 有时我想所有讲英语的人都得因为语言错乱症被关进精神病院。commit sb to: 把某人关进(精神病院或监狱);asylum/2#sai;l2m/: 精神病院。insanity:精神错乱,精神病。

  23. recite at a play and play at a recital:前一个play是名词,指戏剧, 后一个play是动词,指演奏。recital:独奏会,独唱会。英语中的许多词既为名词又为动词,如:play, record, present等。

  24. ship by truck:这里的ship用作动词,指运送。

  25. 常见的搭配应该是feet that run , noses that smell, 但两个动词互换后,意思就不同了,这里的 run 指流鼻涕,smell指脚臭难闻。


  27. a slim chance = a fat chance:都指机会渺茫,而slim (苗条的)则刚好与fat(肥胖的)意思相反。

  28. a wise man: 哲人,聪明人; a wise guy:自作聪明的人,自命不凡的人。

  29. overlook:忽视;oversee: 监视。

  30. quite a few:相当多。

  31. as hell:很,非常。按字面理解是,既像hell(地狱)一样热,又像地狱一样冷。到底hell是热还是冷?

  32. 你是否注意到英语中所指有些事往往不出现在字面上。作者举例说: “马拉的马车”“有吊带的吊带睡衣”“被称颂的英雄"“没白付出的爱”都属于画蛇添足的说法。

  33. marvel at :对……感到惊讶。

  34. unique lunacy:绝无仅有的荒谬。

  35. burn up:烧掉,焚毁; burn down:全部焚毁。

  36. fill in与fill out都是“填写”的意思;go off:发出闹铃,这里指闹钟因为不停走动(go on)到点闹铃才会响。

  37. race 指竞赛。

  38. stars are out指星星出现,而lights are out指灯熄灭。

  39. wind up a watch:给钟表上紧发条;wind up an essay: 结束一篇文章。


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