英文

名人教英文:Less days? 文學破格!

【明報專訊】曾在網上的英語工作坊分享一幅圖,題目是 Rules for a healthy living,健康生活守則。內容是:

Less soda, more water

少汽水,多清水(美國人常以 soda 叫汽水,代替 soft drinks)

Less alcohol, more tea

少酒,多茶

Less sugar, more fruits

少糖,多水果

Less meat, more vegetables

少肉,多蔬菜

Less driving, more walking

少駕車,多步行

Less worry, more sleep

少憂慮,多睡眠

Less anger, more laughter

少憤怒,多歡笑

Less words, more action

少說話,多行動

看,中英文一樣,上面的話作為短句,不必加入動詞,不用說少「喝」酒、少「吃」肉等等,因為看的人都會懂得。

此外,以 less xx, more xx 行文,就有順口易記的效果。但問題來了,有網友問:

"Less words" is ungrammatical. It should be "fewer words", shouldn't it?

Less words 文法不對,應該是 fewer words,對嗎?

答案是:可以說對,也可以說不對。事實上,小學老師已經教過:less 與 fewer 都解作較少,less 用於不可數的名詞,像 less rain 少了點雨、less oil 少點油;而 fewer 就用在可數的東西,如 fewer books 少一些書、fewer people 少一些人。

根據這套文法,說 less words 肯定是錯的吧,但原來不一定呢。語文中有 literary licence、poetic licence 這回事,是以文學以至詩詞創作之名,用字遣詞不受傳統規範束縛。

Literary licence(文學的破格):a device which allows a writer not to obey some rules of grammar, punctuation or spelling to achieve a rhetorical effect. 一個寫作手法,容許作者不用聽命於一些文法、標點符號或串字規限,來達到修辭效果。

而 poetic licence(詩的破格)也有類同解釋: liberty taken by a poet, prose writer, or other artist in deviating from rule, conventional form, logic, or fact, in order to produce a desired effect. 詩人、散文作者或其他藝術家所享的特許自由,可脫離格律慣例、邏輯以至事實,來達到理想中的效果。

於是,我如下回覆網友:

Literary licence. Remember Amazing Grace — "We've no LESS days to sing God's praise..." 看,說的是 LESS days,不是 fewer days。

Amazing Grace 最後一段全段是這樣的:

When we've been there ten thousand years,

Bright shining as the sun,

We've no less days to sing God's praise,

Than when we first begun.

留意最後一句的 when we first begun,應該是 began 罷,但為了跟對上的 sun 押韻,換作 begun 就是了。

語文是約定俗成的,所以下次見或聽到以下這句話,就不要說人家錯了:Use less plastic bags! 少用膠袋!

■文︰毛孟靜

電郵︰claudiabowring@gmail.com

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