向英语学习者讲话 | A Warning Regarding the Use of Words 关于用词的一个警告

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A Warning Regarding the Use of Words
关于用词的一个警告

Once in an essay written by a man who had studied in England for several years I saw the word “destruct”, which was evidently used in the sense of “destroy”. At another time, I saw the same word, evidently used in the same sense, in an illustrated magazine1 published in Shanghai. At still another time I saw the word “destroyal” used in the sense of “destruction” by a man apparently well educated in English.
有一次,我从一个曾经在英国学习多年的人写的一篇文章中见到“destruct”这个词,它明显地被用作“destroy”来解释了。另外一次,我在一本上海出版的有图画的杂志中见到同一个词,它显然用了相同的意义。还有一次,我见到“destroyal”这个词被一位显然受过良好英语教育的人用作“destruction”来解释。

In fact, however, the verb is “destroy” and the noun is “destruction”, and there do not exist the words “destruct” and “destroyal.”
可是事实上动词是“destroy”,名词是“destruction”,并不存在“destruct”和“destroyal”这两个词。

I do not think that the users of these non-existing words did not know the correct words. They were careless enough, though2. They just seized upon a combination of letters that looked like the word they wanted. It is true that these non-existing words may be understood by all who see them. But, of course, they cannot therefore justify themselves3.
我认为用那些不存在的词的人们应该认识那些正确的词。但他们很粗心,只抓住了看来像他们所要的词的一组字母。的确这些并不存在的词也许会被所有见到它们的人所理解。但是它们当然不能因此而有存在的理由。

Often in the English written by Chinese I find words that do not really exist. They use such words either because they do not know the correct words or merely because they are careless—or even because they believe they have a good knowledge of English word-building4. At any rate5, this is a very bad fault peculiar to those who are not at home in English6.
在中国的英语学习者写的英语中,我时常见到并不真正存在的词。他们用这种词,或许因为他们不认得那些正确的词,或许因为他们只是粗心——更有甚者因为相信他们自己有着构词法的良好知识。无论如何,这是并未精通英语的人们所特有的一个很不好的毛病。

I would therefore advise you to use no word that you are not sure you have seen used by standard authors, and to consult your dictionary in cases of doubt.
所以,我建议你别用任何你不确定看到标准作家们使用过的词,有疑问便查词典。

One word more7 of warning. It is possible that you sometimes use a word that is recorded in your dictionary, but which is not in common use, and which you use not because you are sure of its existence but simply because you think it is the word you want. For instance, because you know the noun “aggression” and the adjective “aggressive”, you may use the verb “aggress”—which, however, is a very uncommon word.
另有一言相告。可能你有时用的一个词的确记载在词典中,但它并不通用,你用它并非因为你确定它是存在的,而只因为你以为它是你所要的那个词。举例来说,因为你知道名词“aggression”和形容词“aggressive”,你可能就用了动词“aggress”——可这是一个很不普遍的词。

NOTES

  1. illustrated magazine 有图画的杂志
  2. though 但(副词)
  3. cannot therefore justify themselves 不能因此而有存在的理由
  4. word-building 词的构造
  5. at any rate 无论如何
  6. at home in English 精通英语的
  7. One word more 尚有一言(上文所举“destruct”,现在偶尔见到;但用法有限,不可随意取代“destroy”)

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