向英语学习者讲话 | The Word 准确的那个词

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The Word
准确的那个词

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.
不久前某天我作一篇翻译,尝试了好几个词才得到了那个能表达我所要的细微意义的词。那个词是“admonish”,我尝试过的词是“advise”、“counsel”、“warn”、“exhort”、“reprove”、“rebuke”和“reprimand”。大体说来“admonish”的意义是“exhort”或“reprove”,但是它带有亲切、和善跟严肃相结合的含义,也带有警告和规劝的含义。

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.
有时我想了又想,斟酌了又斟酌,还想不出那个准确的词。在这种情况下,我只得用我认为最近于所要表达意义的那个词。这是用英语写作的人们的一个普遍的经验,也是他们应该引以为憾的一个经验。

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.
同义词的研究无疑对于仔细选词很有帮助;仔细选词对于良好写作特质之一的精确是必要的。但是有两个错误我想是学习者应该警惕的。一个错误是依赖英汉词典中所给的所谓汉语对应语。另一个错误是研究同义词条中的解释而忽略那些例证。

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.
可是正确的英语大部分使用常见词,常见词的正确使用,依靠它们的“意义”少,而依靠所说的惯用法多。举例来说,一个写正确英语的人也许不能详细地告诉你“for”和“to”有什么区别,但是他永远都会用那个对词而非另一个。他用那个准确的词是出于习惯而非仔细选词的结果。在这件事中,研究同义词是没有帮助的。一个人只能靠着阅读合于习语的英语而进步——这件事是不论多少词的研究也不能替代的。

NOTES

  1. the other day 不久前的几天
  2. experimented with 把……试验
  3. the shade of meaning intended 要表达的那个细微的意义
  4. roughly speaking 大体说来
  5. coupled with 和……合并
  6. in spite of much thinking and weighing 虽然想了许多和斟酌了许多
  7. content myself with 使自己把……当作满意
  8. one=an experience
  9. no doubt 无疑
  10. that=the mistake
  11. that=the mistake
  12. illustrative examples 例证
  13. depends not so much upon … as upon … 靠着……的少而……的多
  14. is known as 被叫做
  15. the word 准确的那个词
  16. rather than 而不是
  17. as a result of 作为……的结果
  18. no amount of word study can supplant 不论怎样多的词的研究也不能代替

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