In doing a piece of translation the other day1, I experimented with2 several words before I got the word that expresses the shade of meaning intended3. The word was “admonish”, and the words I had experimented with were “advise”, “counsel”, “warn”, “exhort”, “reprove”, “rebuke”, and “reprimand”. “Admonish”, roughly speaking4, means “exhort” or “reprove”, but it carries the implication of kindness or gentleness coupled with5 seriousness, and also of warning and counsel.
Sometimes I fail to get the exact word in spite of much thinking and weighing6. In such cases I have to content myself with7 using the word that I regard as being nearest to the meaning I want to express. This is a common experience with writers of English, and is one8 they ought to feel sorry for.
The study of synonyms is no doubt9 very helpful in the careful choice of words, which is essential to precision, one of the qualities of good writing. But there are two mistakes against which I think learners ought to be warned. One is that10 of trusting to the so-called Han equivalents as given in English-Han dictionaries. The other is that11 of studying the explanations in articles on synonyms but neglecting the illustrative examples12.
Correct English, however, is largely a matter of the use of common words, the correct use of which depends not so much upon their “meanings” as upon13 what is known as14 usage. For instance, a writer of correct English may not be able to tell you in detail how “for” and “to” differ from each other, but he never fails to use the right one instead of the other. He uses the word15 as a matter of habit rather than16 as a result of17 the careful choice of words. The study of synonyms is of no help in this matter. One can improve only by the careful reading of idiomatic English—which no amount of word study can supplant18.
- the other day 不久前的几天
- experimented with 把……试验
- the shade of meaning intended 要表达的那个细微的意义
- roughly speaking 大体说来
- coupled with 和……合并
- in spite of much thinking and weighing 虽然想了许多和斟酌了许多
- content myself with 使自己把……当作满意
- one=an experience
- no doubt 无疑
- that=the mistake
- that=the mistake
- illustrative examples 例证
- depends not so much upon … as upon … 靠着……的少而……的多
- is known as 被叫做
- the word 准确的那个词
- rather than 而不是
- as a result of 作为……的结果
- no amount of word study can supplant 不论怎样多的词的研究也不能代替