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English language and culture

    England is the country of Shakespeare, Milton, Byron, Dickens and Beatrix Potter.The first is, by common consent, a hero of the human race, a titan of literature. The second three are worthy names in most literate households. But the work of the fifth is best known because she wrote about animals.
    英國是莎士比亞、彌爾頓、拜倫、狄更斯和比亞阿特麗克斯•波特的故鄉。第一位是人類的英雄、文學巨擘。這是大家公認的。其后三位受到絕大多數有文化修養的家庭的敬重。而第五位的作品卻是因寫動物而出名。

Language
    The English are inordinately proud of their language. The Complete Oxford Dictionary runs to 23 volumes and contains over 500,000 words. Shakespeare had a working vocabulary of 30,000 words (some of which he made up), twice that of a modern, educated English person. Most of the English manage on around 8,000 – the same as the King James Bible.
    Meanwhile, English is to communication what Microsoft is to computing: the world cannot do without it. One billion people use it; 80% of the Internet and 75% of the world’s mail is written in it, and 200 million-odd Chinese at any given moment are learning it. India has more native English speakers than England has.
語言
    英國人對他們的語言感到驕傲至極。牛津大詞典共有23卷,收錄了50余萬個詞。莎士比亞使用的詞匯有3萬個(有些詞為自造),這個詞匯量是現代一個受過教育的英國人的兩倍。大多數英國人掌握的單詞為8000個左右,這正好是英王詹姆斯一世欽定《圣經》英譯本的詞匯量。
    與此同時,英語之于交流正如微軟之于計算機;英語是世上不可或缺的。有10億人使用英語;80%的因特網以及世界上75%的信件都用英語書寫,在任何時候都有兩億多中國人在學習英語。在印度,以英語為母語的人數超過了英國。

Conversational Triggers
    Because conversation does not come easily to the English, they have developed a bewildering battery of metaphors with which everyone is familiar and comfortable. These include euphemisms for the avoidance of verbal confrontation with “tricky” subjects. Thus the English do not die, they “pass over,” “pass on,” “pop off,” “kick” the bucket,” “give up the ghost,” or “snuff it.” When they relieve themselves they “spend a penny,” “Wash their hands,” “answer the call” or, simply, “go.”
    To the English many such phrases are so familiar that they are not usually quoted in full. So “it’s an ill wind…”, “it never rains…”, “every cloud…”and so on tumble one upon the other and only the English know just how little they all really mean.
交談的起動器
    交談對英國人來說不是件容易的事,于是他們就想出一系列含糊、隱喻的說法,對此大家都感到熟悉、舒服。這些說法委婉,使人們得以回避那些微妙的話題。于是英國人就不“die”(死),而是“pass over”, “pass on”, “pop off”, “kick the bucket”,“give up the ghost”或“snuff it”。他們方便是,說“spend a penny”,“wash their hands”,“answer the call”或干脆“go”。
 

許多這類的話語對英國人來說是再熟悉不過的了,所以,說話人也常常不完整地引用。于是,就有像“it’s an ill wind…”、“it never rains…”、“every cloud …”之類的話一句接一句,而只有英國人才明白它們其實真沒多大意思。

Niceness 
    “Nice” is the most overworked word in the English language whose meaning can only be divined by its context.
    The English grow up with “nice”. As children they are warned off antisocial behaviour with the reprimand “nice boys (or girls) don’t do that!” And by the time they totter into their first conversation, they can use the word with deadly effect. They may even imitate their elders by using it sarcastically – a favourites ploy – to put down bad behaviour: “That’s nice! That’s very nice!”, when the tone of voice says it all. Sarcasm is very much part of the English conversational stock-in-trade.

    在英語里,“nice”是個用得過濫的詞,其意思只可通過上下文推測而得。
    英國人跟著“nice”長大。孩提時,大人要提醒他們避免違反社會慣例的舉止行為,常常斥責他們:“好孩子不這樣!”在他們說話還磕磕巴巴的時候,說起“nice”這個詞來語氣卻是堅定無疑的。他們甚至模仿長者,愛用挖苦諷刺的口氣制止不好的行為:“不錯!真不錯!”而其口氣所蘊含的意思卻是顯而易見的。諷刺是英語談話中慣用的手段。

Gesture
    The use of hand gestures in communication is viewed with deep suspicion. English hands are usually kept firmly to English sides in all conversation. But they should be in sight at all times. It is considered very bad manners to talk to anyone with the hands in the pockets, as if preparing an instrument of aggression or silently counting loose change.
    People will usually only use hand gestures when they are absolutely necessary, such as for pointing the way (index finger of the right hand extended) or for making a forceful suggestion (index and middle fingers of the right hand raised in a “V”).
手勢
    交談時用手勢是深受懷疑的。英國人與人談話時總把手緊緊地貼在身體的兩側,但卻總還得讓人看見。不管和誰說話,將手放在口袋里是很不禮貌的行為。那好像是在準備拿出武器來攻擊對方,或者是不聲不響地在那兒數著零錢。
    人們只有在萬不得已的時候才會用手勢,如指路時(伸出右手的食指)或提出強烈的建議時(伸出右手的食指和中指作出“V”字型)。

                                                               Banch 摘自《英語沙龍》
    

 
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