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名人教英文:Cut and dried

【明報專訊】先看這條問題:

This is such an obvious case. It's cut-and-________, black-and-white. 這是一個明顯的個案。_______ 、黑白分明。

A. chipped 崩破 B. dried 乾

C. chiselled 雕鑿 D. wet 濕

四個選擇,哪一個答案是對的呢?

也許因為有 CUT potatoes into CHIPS 把薯仔切成薯片的聯想,許多人或就揀 A。錯了,答案係 B,cut and DRIED,在原句中,可譯成 「毫無懸念」。

Cut and dried,「切好後晾乾」,係指一個情况已完全確定,absolutely certain 、completely settled(of a situation),一切清晰透徹,沒有枝葉,同義詞有簡單的 clear-cut、open-and-shut 及深一點的 unambiguous 不含糊的,還有unequivocal 明確的,並非模棱兩可的。例:

Don't you get the picture? It is pretty cut-and-dried. 你怎麼看不到大局?一切清晰明確。

We need a cut-and-dried reply by tomorrow. 明天我們就需要一個毫不含糊的答覆。

As far as I am concerned, everything is cut-and-dried and there is no need for further gobbledygook. 對我來說,大局已定,不必再囉嗦。

Cut and dried 基本上是一個肯定的用語,變做反話,就可以說:

Our victory is NOT as cut-and-dried as everyone thinks. 我們的勝利,並非像人人所想的理所當然。

He acknowledges that the matter is NOT cut-and-dried and that there were other complex issues involved. 他承認事情並非黑白分明,有其他複雜議題牽涉其中。

Unfortunately, things cannot be as cut-and-dried as many people would like. 不幸地,事情不能像許多人希望般清晰明確。

不過,碰上這個習語時也要格外小心,因為另一個用法,就返回 dried 原本的「乾癟」意思。

這個詞組最先在1710年出現,話說有人寫信給一牧師,形容教堂裏的一篇佈道為「ready cut and dried」,意思是 it had been prepared in advance, so lacking freshness and spontaneity,早就預備好,缺乏新鮮感及自然感。由是有 cut-and-dried monotony 來形容非常單調。

依此類推:He lives a cut-and-dried life,這不是一句正面的話,遑論讚美,說的是:此人的生活非常單調無聊。

The boss thinks our marketing strategy is too cut-and-dried, and demands we come up with a livelier version. 老闆覺得我們的市場推廣策略太死板了,要求我們想出一個比較活潑的版本。

■文︰毛孟靜

電郵︰claudiabowring@gmail.com

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