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学点英文谚语 了解西方文化

2006-05-27 23:08

    Man proposes, God disposes.

    这个说法最早见于14世纪,起初以 “If man proposes evil, God disposes of it.” 的形式出现, 意思是上帝会阻止想要为恶的人。这里的God, 既可以指上帝, 又可以指天意。 就像我们常说的“尽人事, 听天命”、“谋事在人,成事在天”一样, 尽力而为之后, 还要顺从自然的规律。 毕竟,人类是自然的一部分, 凡事皆不可强求, 与自然的和谐是人类的生存之本。

    e.g. A: Bob, how about tomorrow‘s driving test?Sure to pass,huh?

    B: I don‘t know. I’ve done enough, I‘d say. Anyway, man proposes, God disposes. I am praying for good luck.

    It is a sin to steal a pin.

    该句的字面意思是: 即使是偷一根针也是一种罪过。还记得那句古训吗?“勿以恶小而为之, 勿以善小而不为。”冀望之切,溢于言表。不要因为犯的是小错就可以听之任之。

    e.g. Honesty is the best policy. Never covet what is not yours, for it is a sin to steal a pin.

    If you play with fire, you get burnt.

    正如西方谚语所说:Fire is a good servant but a bad master.

    火在人们的掌控之下时是人类股掌之上的可爱精灵:篝火给人温暖,烟花处处讨人欢心。可是一旦它的力量过大,就凌驾于人类之上,再不受人的掌握。权力亦是如此,当它逐渐膨胀不可收拾时,就成为一个暴戾的君王,统治人们的言行。所谓“玩火者必自焚”,铤而走险的盲目举动会招致无穷祸患。

    e.g. The abuse of power has sent many people into jail, which shows that playing with fire could get you burnt.

    Revenge is a dish that could be eaten cold.

    很形象的一句谚语。所有的菜肴都必须趁热吃,唯独revenge是个例外。“君子报仇,十年未晚。”

    e.g. He has done serious wrong to his friends. You just wait and see. They will not let him go scot-free. Revenge is a dish that could be eaten cold.

    There is no smoke without fire.

    无风不起浪,有水才行船。任何事情的发生都是有前兆的,“流言”的兴起有时也不完全是无中生有。虽然说是“坐得船头稳,不怕浪来颠”(相似的西谚是“Do right and fear no man.”),但风起于青萍之末,一只蝴蝶扇动翅膀就可能引起大洋彼岸的一场大风暴。做人、谋事,谨慎为佳。

    e.g. "No smoke without fire," said the detective.

    "Smoke signals can be misread," countered Sloan.

    Every dog has its day.

    这里的day,是指opportunities, 即成功的机会;而dog 则泛指那些地位低下、似乎没有出息的人。“士别三日,当刮目相看”,落魄的人若发奋图强,总会有出头之日。

    (又作All dogs have their days.)

    e.g. You must not look down upon him. Though poor and gloomy. he could turn out to be outstanding one day. As the saying goes, every dog has its day.

    If you lie down with dogs, you will get up with fleas.

    这是一句很经典的谚语,也就是我们中文里说的“近朱者赤,近墨者黑”。 在这条英文谚语中体现出来的只是“近墨者黑”的一面。虽然中文里还有成语“出污泥而不染”一说,但环境对于人的影响仍然不可小觑。

    e.g. -Harry! How come you‘re back so late? Where’ve you been?

    -Just to a friend‘s.

    -To a friend‘s? Just for a glass of liquor, huh? You’re going to be drowned in liquor, I‘d say! If you lie down with dogs, you’ll get up to find yourself with millions of fleas!

    It is easy to find a stick to beat a dog.

    人非圣贤,孰能无过。人们总会犯一些错误,也许做者无心但观者有意。有些小人,自己抱残守缺,不干实事,却挖空心思,找别人的缺点和麻烦。欲加之罪,何患无辞?

    e.g. -Did you know that Jeff‘s been fired?

    -No. What for?

    -Jeff sometimes had ideas different from our boss‘s.

    -Yeah, but Jeff hasn‘t done anything wrong, has he?

    -Well, boss is boss. It is always easy to find a stick to beat a dog.

    You can‘t teach old dogs new tricks.

    这句谚语说的是:人老了思想容易僵化,对新生事物很难接受。

    e.g. Don‘t forget Wang is already 80. At his age, you can’t expect him to learn the tap dance. You can‘t teach old dogs new tricks, you know.

    从以上的几则谚语我们可以观察到中西文化的一个有趣的区别。西方人经常用狗来比喻人,如,lucky dog(幸运儿),因为他们并不歧视狗。而在汉语中,有不少涉及狗的谚语和成语都是贬义的,如“狗改不了吃屎”、“挂羊头卖狗肉”、“狗仗人势”、“狗嘴里吐不出象牙”等。当然,英文中dog一词有时也带有贬义,但往往含义与中文不尽相同,我们使用时切忌望文生义。如,It is a dog‘s life Chris is leading. 某位教授认为“a dog’s life”的意思是“悲惨的生活”,因而在一篇论及中英文化差别的文章中将其译成“过着牛马不如的生活”。其实“a dog‘s life”指的是“争吵不休,过着不安宁的日子”。这类成语很多,如go to the dogs(每况愈下),dog-eat-dog(狗咬狗的,损人利己的),dog in the manger(占着茅坑不拉屎的人)。还有一些没有任何褒贬涵义的用法,如dog days(大热天),doggy bag(餐馆里的打包袋),据说,早先人们碍于面子,不愿明说要把剩菜带回家吃,佯称要带给狗吃,所以叫doggy bag.

    上面四条西方谚语都可以在汉语中找到相似的表达,但下面两条却全然不同了。

    Lightning never strikes the same place twice.

    “闪电从不打同一个地方”,与我们说的“福无双至,祸不单行”恰恰相反,这也是差异的一个有趣的体现。

    e.g. -How were your exams? All over?

    -I really don‘t know. I did rather poorly last time. I hope I’ll do better this time.

    -Come on, don‘t worry about it. You are sure to pass. As the saying goes, lightening never strikes the same place twice.

    One swallow does not make a summer.

    swallow 是燕子。西谚说,一只燕子飞来不能代表夏天的来临。而中国成语却说, 一叶知秋。两种说法各有其智慧。“One swallow does not make a summer”强调的是要区别一般性与特殊性的辩证哲理; 而“一叶知秋”体现的则是从细微的端倪窥见总体趋势的睿智。

    e.g.-Hey, look! The scores are already 2:1!Liverpool is sure to win, I bet!

    -I don‘t think so. One swallow does not make a summer. Miracles always happen the last minute.

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