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名人教英文:有骨氣,backbone

【明報專訊】先看這條題目:

We have to steel ourselves and stand firm. We must show some _______.

A. background

B. backyard

C. backchat

D. backbone

我們要堅強起來及「企硬」。我們要展示一點 _____。Steel 是鋼鐵,用做動詞, 是使之堅硬、強硬。

四個選擇當中,background 背景、backyard 後院,明顯都不恰當。而 backchat,亦即 backtalk 駁嘴,指 usually rude remarks made when answering someone in authority,通常無禮而用之反駁有威望或權勢者的話。例:

.The headmaster has announced a crackdown on classroom backchat. 新校長宣布會嚴懲課頂撞老師(的學生)。

也即是說,正確的答案是 D,backbone: show some backbone,展示一點骨氣。

Backbone 等於 spine,脊椎,這句英文習語也就有挺直腰板之意,to demonstrate to others that you are not a coward, but a brave person 向人表示並非懦弱,反之是個勇敢的人。

.Activists expect the legislative opposition to show some backbone in dealing with the government. 致力社會事務者期望立法會反對派與政府交手之際,要展示骨氣。

純粹講姿態,有骨氣也就是 chin up 抬高下巴,chest out 挺起胸膛。

中英文一樣,腰骨是性格堅強的象徵,代表不受利用、不會退縮的意志,以及高舉一己原則的信念,backbone is a symbol of strength in character, an unwillingness to be used or taken for granted, and a firm commitment to uphold one's principles。

說人有骨氣,he has a backbone;沒骨氣,she has no backbone 。

要留意的是,我們通常講 show some backbone,少講 show some spine;但批評人 have no backbone,就同樣可說 have no spine 或 spineless、沒有脊椎的。

.The spineless leader was too weak to admit that he was the one who made the fatal mistake. 這懦夫領袖軟弱得不敢承認是他作出了那個致命的錯誤。

.That was a spineless reporter who failed to tell what really happened during the interview. 那個無骨氣的記者,不敢說出在訪問中真正發生了什麼事。

Spineless 的動物,係 invertebrates 無脊椎動物,頭號代表,係 worms 蟲蟲。於是,將人比喻做 worm,就是更大的羞辱。

Calling someone a worm is an insult meaning that they are the "lowest of the low",把一個人叫做一條蟲是一種侮辱,意指其人是「低等中的最低等」。

在以下這個語境中,把 worm 用做動詞,大家會心領神會:

.He's the sleazy, scheming type. See how he worms his way up the power ladder. 他是那種髒而充滿機心的人。看他如何像一條蟲般爬上權力階梯。

■文︰毛孟靜

電郵︰claudiabowring@gmail.com

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