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学习英语: 加拿大人的俚语简史

 A brief history of Canuck slang

 
当我只有8、9岁的时候,“sick”(“恶心”)一词只有在真的让我觉得想吐的时候我才会这么说。
When I was eight or nine years old, something you called “sick” made you feel literally sick: that is, it made you want to throw up.
 
不过,当我15岁大的时候,似乎只是为了拿同龄人寻开心,我在形容特别棒的事物时也说“sick”(“太牛了”)——我认为“sick”这个词的这个意思在当今加拿大的年轻人中仍被沿用。
But for no particular reason except to confuse grown-ups, by the time I was 15 calling something “sick” meant it was excellent – and I think that meaning persists between Canadian youth even today.
 
而这种词义上的改变其实由来已久。所有人,不论是按年龄、文化或者职业来分,他们最终都创造出了他们自己版本的内部语言。
This sort of change is nothing new. Every human group, whether divided by age, culture, or profession, will eventually create its own version of a native language.
 
不过,我也对此感到内疚。作为一个电影爱好者,像“art house”(“艺术电影”指的是外国制片或为少数观众而拍的电影)和“box office”(“电影票房”指的是电影在影院上映所获的的收入)这样的词对我来说都是第二天性了。我不记得这些词令我的家人及我那些不怎么看电影的朋友困惑过多少次了。
I’m guilty of it too. As a movie lover, terms like “art house” (referring to foreign productions or movies made for niche audiences) and “box office” (the amount of money films earn in theatres) are second nature to me. I forget how often they confuse my family and non-movie-going friends.
 
学习一种新的语言本身已经很难了,再加上局域性的语言就更不用说了。但是,并不是所有的加拿大俚语词汇都是新的,而这些俚语之所以被创造出来也不是为了让局外人困惑——也许这对我们的读者来说算是个安慰。
Learning a new language is difficult enough before regional slang gets in the way. But if it’s any consolation to our readers, not every Canadian slang term is new, or meant to confuse outsiders.
 
例如,用“cool”(“酷”)这个词来形容某件事非常好,这在Merriam-Webster字典中仍被视作一个俚语,但它从1930年代就已经是俚语了——那时,爵士乐音乐家们首先开始用“cool”来形容某些东西很时髦。
For instance, using the word “cool” to refer to something very good is still considered slang by the Merriam-Webster dictionary, but it’s been slang since the 1930s, when jazz musicians first said that something fashionable was “cool.”
 
许多俚语都来自体育运动。例如,“home stretch”(“冲刺阶段”)这个短语指的是棒球比赛中的最后一局,也在当你快要完成一项任务时用这个短语。“On the ball”(“有把握”)来自足球运动员要进球时,也指所有情况都在某人的掌控之内。
A lot of slang comes from sports. For instance, the phrase “home stretch” refers to the last inning of a baseball game, and is also used when you’re about to finish a task. “On the ball” comes from a football player about to score, and also refers to someone whose circumstances are under their control.
 
许多短语都来自缩写,例如“FYI”(“for your information”的缩写)、某人需要某事“ASAP”(“as soon as possible”的缩写,常被念作“a-sap”)地做好。而当某人在“AWOL”(“absent without leave”的缩写,常被念作“ey-woll”),一般指此人在没有进行任何解释,也没有得到允许的情况下就放弃了他/她该干的事。
Many terms are abbreviations. FYI (for your information), someone demanding something ASAP (often pronounced “a-sap”) wants it *as soon as possible*. When someone is AWOL (often pronounced “ey-woll”) – absent without leave – they usually have abandoned their duty without explanation or permission.
 
许多特定的短语是从其它语言中来的。例如,“mumbo-jumbo”指的是莫名其妙的话,来自西非语。“Prima donna”指的是歌剧中的首席女高音,或一位过分戏剧化的女性,来自意大利语。这两个短语都是俚语文化偏见的实例——首席男高音就没有一个跟“prima donna”同等的词作称谓;而一个用来形容胡说的话的经典北美短语是受到非洲的启发这一点,也并不是巧合。
Certain terms come from other languages. For instance, “mumbo-jumbo,” which refers to language that makes no sense, comes from a West African language. “Prima donna,” which can refer to an opera’s female lead or an overdramatic woman, comes from Italian. Both phrases are examples of slang’s cultural bias – there is no male equivalent of prima donna, and it’s no accident that a classic North American word for nonsense was inspired by Africa.
 
如果一个人使用俚语,那么通常这个人也了解这个俚语的文化背景。在中国,从传统意义上来讲,白色象征着死亡。但在欧洲,白色代表纯洁。因此,讲英语的人会用“white lie”(“善意的谎言”)来避免伤害别人的感受。
Slang often assumes you know something about its culture. In China, white traditionally symbolizes death. But in Europe, it’s associated with purity. Hence an English speaker telling a “white lie” to avoid hurting another person’s feelings.
 
还有很多俚语词汇有历史渊源。“Canuck”(“加拿大人”)最初是1800年代,美国人用来侮辱加拿大人的说法。词源专家(学习词语来源的人)认为,“Canuck”一词本身是“Canada”和“Chinook”(“切努克人”,即美国西北部的原住民)两个词合并而来。
Other slang terms have historical roots. “Canuck” was first used by Americans to insult Canadians in the 1800s. Etymologists (people who study the origins of words) believe the word “Canuck” itself was a cross between the words “Canada” and “Chinook,” natives of the American northwest. 
 
这个词在第一次世界大战时变得流行起来,当时英国军队在战斗中部署了“疯狂的加拿大人”来打那些其他英联邦部队不愿意参加的战役。
It became popular during World War I, when British forces would deploy the “crazy Canucks” in battles no other Commonwealth army would fight.
 
甚至是脏话的发明也比许多读者以为的更早。所谓的“f开头的脏话”自1500年代开始就指的是性交了——有一种学说称,它源自挪威语中的“fukka”或瑞典语中的“focka”,都是“交配”的意思。这个词从1800年代末期开始被认为是淫秽的词,当时第一版《牛津英语辞典》的编辑们拒绝把这个词放入其中。
Even profanity is older than many readers might think. The so-called “f-word” has referred to sexual intercourse since the 1500s – one theory suggests it was derived from the Norwegian word fukka, or Swedish focka, both of which mean “copulate.” It’s been considered obscene since the late 1800s, when the editors of the first Oxford English Dictionary refused to print it.
 
“Prick”一词自16世纪开始就被用作称呼男性生殖器,它来自德语,在德语中是“匕首”的意思。
“Prick,” derived from a German word for dagger, has also been a slang term for male genitals since the 16th century.
 
“C开头的脏话”来自“cunnus”(“外阴”)一词,在拉丁语中指女性生殖器——并且在那时用这个词称呼女性也是粗俗的。
The “c-word” is derived from cunnus, the Latin word for female genitals – and it was a vulgar thing to call a woman back then, too. 
 
(不过,那个词的来源比我们现在所用的非俚语词语“vagina”(“阴道”)的来源更为文雅——后者在拉丁语中的本意为“外壳”。)
(But that’s a more respectful origin than our current non-slang term – “vagina” was the Latin word for “sheath.”)
 
最后,还有许多俚语短语来自神化和民间传说。
Finally, many slang terms come from myths and folktales.
 
比如,自从古希腊人(约公元前9世纪至公元后6世纪)发动特洛伊战争这个神话故事流传开来,人们便常说某人的弱点已经成了他们的“Achilles’ heel”(“阿基利斯的脚跟”)。《伊里亚特》这首古诗写的就是这场战争,其被认为是最早的西方文学作品。
Someone’s weakness has been their “Achilles’ heel” since the mythical Trojan war was fought by the ancient Greeks, who lived between ninth century BC and sixth century AD. The Iliad, an epic poem about the war, is considered the earliest example of western literature.
 
阿基利斯是希腊英雄,传说他全身刀枪不入,除了脚跟——因为他的母亲把他放在斯堤克斯河(九条冥河之一,被视为地球通往来世之路)的水中浸泡过,但他的脚跟由于被母亲抓着而没有占到河水。当特洛伊英雄帕里斯用箭射中阿基利斯的脚跟后,阿基利斯最终死于脚跟的伤口。
The Greek hero Achilles was said to be invincible except for his heel, which his mother held while dipping his body into the river Styx, which led from Earth to the afterlife. When the Trojan hero Paris shot an arrow at Achilles’ heel, Achilles died from the wound.
 
所有的语言都在进化,并且就算是母语人士有时也会被弄糊涂。我的一个熟人最近就在她的Facebook上抱怨说,她在与一名15岁大的少女交谈时,不得不让她频频解释她所讲的词语——如“poppers”、“having a b”等。
All languages are evolving, and even native speakers can be confused sometimes. One of my acquaintances recently complained on her facebook page that she had to ask a 15-year-old chatting about “poppers” and “having a ‘b’” to explain every other word she said.
 
我的这位熟人今年也不过21岁。
My acquaintance is 21 years old.
 
当然,要想把所有的北美俚语都归纳出来,你恐怕要写上好几本辞典了——不过幸运的是,有些网站已经这样做了。
Of course, you could fill dictionaries with North American slang – and fortunately, several websites have. 
 
当我需要查某个俚语词汇时,我最喜欢用的就是《都市辞典》(www.urbandictionary.com),其将“b”定义为一种大麻制成的香烟,而“poppers”则是硝酸戎酯——一种促使血压升高的毒品,有些人将其当作消遣之用(具体细节不在此赘述)。
When I need to look up a slang word, my favourite source is Urban Dictionary (www.urbandictionary.com), which defined “b” as a marijuana cigarette, and “poppers” as amyl nitrate, a drug that boosts blood pressure and is used recreationally for reasons I will not write.
 
不过,请记得,当一个网站把“Eric”这个名字解释成“全宇宙最棒的人”,“一个对自己好不尊重,跑去跟浣熊约会的彻底的笨蛋,”以及“一个富有男子气概的名字,来自古诺尔斯语中‘Eiríkr’这个名字——ei源于‘ever’,ríkr源于‘ruler’”的时候,你要对这个网站所提供解释的准确性有所保留。
Keep in mind that any information from a website that alternately defines “Eric” as “The most amazing person in the entire universe,” “A complete loser with no respect for himself who dates Raccoons,” and “A masculine name from the Old Norse name Eiríkr, derived from ei ‘ever’ and ríkr ‘ruler’” should be taken with a grain of salt, however.
 
《韦氏辞典》的网上在线辞典(www.merriam-webster.com),《牛津英语辞典》(www.oed.com),网上的《语源辞典》(www.etymonline.com)以及网上“加拿大移民的CanSpeak”板块((http://canadianimmigrant.ca/category/work-and-education/canspeak/)在本文的撰写过程中都是非常有价值的资源。
Merriam-Webster’s Online Dictionary (www.merriam-webster.com), the Oxford English Dictionary (www.oed.com), the Online Etymology Dictionary (www.etymonline.com) and Canadian Immigrant’s CanSpeak section (http://canadianimmigrant.ca/category/work-and-education/canspeak/) were also invaluable resources when writing this column.
 
编注:英翻中:何慕群。Translator (English to Chinese): Michelle He. 如果你对本文有任何评论,请到096.ca的“特别报道”栏目下、此文的论坛里发表评论。如果你有任何社区、社会和生活问题需要大中报回答或调查,请将你的评论或问题细节以电话留言(416-504-0761 转215分机),或传真(416-504-4928),或电邮(cng@chinesenewsgroup.com),或电邮给Eric Emin Wood(eric.emin@chinesenewsgroup.com)。你可以匿名为本报提供调查线索,但调查线索应包括当事人的联系电话或地址、发生问题的时间及地址等信息。
 


 

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