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A Little English : The ants and the eleph-ant 1

【明報專訊】The tiny yellow ants (黃絲蟻) were making life difficult for the big elephant. "Stop annoying me!" trumpeted Jumbo, "Stop or I'll stomp on (使勁地踩) you! Why are you running all over my toes and crawling into my ears? It's so itchy I can hardly bear it and I'm supposed to be a model of patience."

The ants replied, "Since you've taken over our territory, the citizens of our ant colony have lived in fear of being trampled by your huge feet, even if it's just by accident. So either you treat us with some love and respect or we'll swarm all over you and give you no peace!"

The big beast was quite astonished to hear such demands from a crowd of insects and could easily have ignored them, but it remembered the old saying, "a swarm of ants can overwhelm an elephant" (蟻多摟死象). Wisely, it decided to negotiate and asked, "What do you propose, neighbours? After all, it is actually MY yard."

The ants' answer was very clear, "We want to have the freedom to go about our business (如常生活) as before, without worrying about being trampled."

The elephant gave a snort (哼聲), "Going about your business as before? That's fine with me but if my memory serves me correctly, the previous occupant was a lion. I'll bet the lion's paws were pretty powerful."

"Yes, those paws were big and strong but they were also soft and furry so they were not that dangerous. A tight squeeze at times but nothing like being crushed outright! When we heard you were replacing the old lion, we were happy at first. After all, the lion and we had little in common. We lived separate lives. We thought you were an ant like us — an aleph ant, an alpha ant."

The elephant had never imagined that the ants had this point of view. Now it began to understand their disappointment when confronted by a giant pachyderm (厚皮動物) instead of a big insect, so it chose to be forbearing and to play nice. Besides, even an elephant's thick skin is no protection from the constant onslaughts of countless tiny jaws. Peace at all costs!

"Now, you little creatures, let's be reasonable. I have big feet — that's a fact and you'll all just have to get used to it and learn to stay out of my way. For my part, I assure you I have no intention of deliberately harming you, so long as you do not annoy me any more. So, shall we call a truce?"

■Some useful vocabulary

Aleph: the Phoenician word for 'alpha' or 'A', the first letter of the alphabet

Peace at all costs: to achieve peace, no matter what it costs in terms of sacrifice and suffering

To call a truce: to stop fighting; may be temporary or permanent

■Text: A Lamb

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