向英语学习者讲话 | What “Literary English” Means “文学英语”指什么

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What “Literary English” Means
“文学英语”指什么

Books on rhetoric and composition tell us that English may be roughly classified as (1) literary English and (2) colloquial English1, and that literary English should, and colloquial English should not, be used in writing.
修辞学书和作文书告诉我们,英语可以略分成(1)文学英语和(2)口语英语。文学英语应该用于写作中,而口语英语不应该。

Yes, we—I mean you—should learn to write literary English. But what, after all, does “literary English” mean? What is literary English? I am afraid that many Chinese learners of English may think that literary English is a distinctly elegant sort of English. They think that it is absolutely different from English used in speaking, in addressing2 a class of students, or in writing to a business house3 to order goods.4 They think that in literary English a face is not a face but a visage5 and a man never goes but always repairs6, and that it consists mainly, if not entirely7, of figurative expressions8.
是的,我们——我指你——应该学习写文学英语。但是“文学英语”究竟指什么?什么是文学英语?恐怕有许多中国的英语学习者认为文学英语显然是一种文雅的英语。他们认为它绝对不同于用于谈话、向一个班级的学生演说或向商店写订货事务信中的英语。他们认为在文学英语中脸不是“face”而是“visage”,一个人永远不是“goes”而总是“repairs”,虽然不是全部,却大部分是藻语。

The idea is wrong, however—and this wrong idea prevents one from writing natural and pure English. Literary English, if you please9, does not mean English confined in its use to literature10. It is not a distinctly elegant sort of English. It is just the ordinary English that well-educated Englishmen and Americans use in writing—not necessarily for literary purposes, but often for practical purposes. In literary English, a face is almost always a face and very rarely a visage, and a man almost always goes and very rarely repairs.
可是这个想法是错误的——这个想法阻碍了人写出自然且纯粹的英语。文学英语,实际上并非指限用于文学中的英语。它不是一种明显文雅的英语。它只是受过良好教育的英国人和美国人在写作中用的普通英语——这里的写作,不一定为了文学目的而写作,往往是为了实用目的而写作。在文学英语中脸几乎总是“face”,很难得是“visage”,一个人几乎总是“goes”,很难得是“repairs”。

While11 “colloquial English” means English used in conversation, it does not follow12 that English used in conversation is necessarily too colloquial to be used in writing. The majority of the words and idioms used by well-educated English and American people in conversation are certainly literary English.
虽然“口语英语”指会话中用的英语,并不因而可以说会话中的英语必然都太口语化而不可用于写作。受过良好教育的英国人和美国人用于会话中的大部分词和习语必然是文学英语。

NOTES

  1. colloquial English 口语
  2. addressing … 向……演说
  3. business house 商店
  4. order goods 定货
  5. visage 面容
  6. repairs 去
  7. mainly, if not entirely 虽然非完全如此,却大部分如此
  8. figurative expressions 藻语
  9. if you please 竟然如此
  10. confined in its use to literature 仅用于文学上
  11. While 虽然
  12. it does not follow … 并不因而有……的结论

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