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翻译公司:如何才能使某些英语表达显得委婉些

来源:翻译公司 时间:2020-10-27 18:14

委婉语在英语中称为euphemism,它源自希腊语euphēmizein 其中eu-含义是well,-phēmē意思是speaking,加起来的意思即“说好话”。委婉语是人们创造出来的一种文雅的语言表达形式,可以减少因为直截了当的措辞而产生的种种不愉快的联想,使沟通更加顺利。

委婉语源自于社会禁忌,当某一行为或事物为社会所禁忌,与之相关联的词汇也成为禁忌。比如在西方亵渎神灵是大罪,基督教徒不准滥用上帝的名字或说对上帝不敬的话,为此人们发明了不少词语来代替God,比如gosh/goodness。这一禁忌也延伸到了诅咒语上,例如人们为了避免用hell/damn而改用heck/darn

英语教学:如何才能使某些英语表达显得委婉些?

 

几乎在所有文化中人们都忌讳直接谈及“死亡”,因此大量与死亡相关的委婉语就应运而生。比如在汉语中可以说:孑然长逝、驾鹤西去、与世长辞、了结尘缘、长眠、仙逝等,在英语中则有pass away/breathe your last/go to heaven/rest in peace/go west 等说法。林肯在著名的《葛底斯堡演讲》(The Gettysburg Address)中有这样的句子:

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

这里他用a final resting place来代替graveyard,用gave their lives来代替died,读起来更加有感情,更能体现他对这些将士的尊敬。

除了死亡之外,年老和疾病也是人们忌讳的话题。人们会委婉地称老年人为 senior citizens/the elderly/elderly people,如果某人罹患癌症可以委婉地说:He or She is terminally ill. 而不说:He or She has cancer.

英语教学:如何才能使某些英语表达显得委婉些?

 

委婉语的另外一个重要功能是体现礼貌和尊敬。比如英语中有不少关于容貌和身材的委婉语。形容一个人“胖”不说fat,而是说plump;形容一个人“瘦”也不说thin,而是说slim/slender;如果要形容一个人长得丑,人们也会尽量避免使用ugly,而是用plain/homely,比如:Mrs Cookson was a rather plain woman. 或者干脆说:Mrs Cookson was not particularly good-looking.

对于一些比较底层的职业,人们有时候也会仿造一些高级职业的说法来称呼它们,以此来提升这些职业的“档次”。比如将hairdresser 称为beautician,将plumber称为heating engineer,将mechanic称为automobile engineer。小布什在父亲葬礼上的悼词中有这样一句话:

He was a tolerant man. After all, he was kind and neighborly to the women with whom he, mom and I shared a bathroom in our small duplex – even after he learned their profession – ladies of the night.

葬礼是一个庄严的场合,悼词中出现prostitutes不合适,所以小布什用ladies of the night这一委婉语来代替。

英语教学:如何才能使某些英语表达显得委婉些?

 

除此之外,委婉语还可以起到掩饰作用。在外交场合以及新闻报道中,人们会使用一些看似积极的委婉语来掩盖问题的存在。比如西方一些新闻媒体和政客将经济危机称为depression,而不是economic crisis,以此来让问题显得不那么严重。又比如将poor areas称为disadvantaged/underprivileged areas,将slum(贫民窟)改为更好听的说法special areas/substandard housing;军队入侵别的国家不说invasion,而是说preemptive action,以增加行动的合法性。

英语教学:如何才能使某些英语表达显得委婉些?

 

丹布朗的书籍Origin中有这样的片段:

“I have no idea how this man persuaded Ms. Vidal to abandon her security and run off with him, but Mr. Langdon is clearly a liability. Your mission is to find Ms. Vidal and bring her back, by force if necessary.” “And if Langdon interferes?” There was a heavy silence. “Do your best to limit collateral damage,” the caller replied, “but this crisis is severe enough that Professor Langdon would be an acceptable casualty.”

西班牙皇室护卫接到上级命令要将王子的未婚妻Vidal带回皇宫。当护卫问到如果兰登教授干预应该如何处理时,上级的回答是:Do your best to limit collateral damage. 这里collateral damage是一个委婉语,用来代替deaths and injuries,这一用法在军事报道中经常出现。Professor Langdon would be an acceptable casualty. 也是委婉语,相当于 You can kill Professor Langdon.

总结:

委婉语能够体现礼貌和尊敬,让交际更加顺利地进行,同时它也能从侧面反映出一个社会普遍接受的行为规范、思维方式以及人文习俗。对于英语中的委婉语我们在平时可以多加关注,熟悉它们的应用场景,这样才能更加准确地理解和使用它们。

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