Mon, Mar 06, 2017 - Page 9 News List

USING IDIOMS 活用成語

Illustration of a petard being used. By unknown, possibly Italian - Library of Congress, public domain.
攻城炸藥箱示意圖。作者不詳,推測為義大利人。美國國會圖書館,公眾領域。

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
照片:維基共享資源

Chinese Practice

作法自斃(zuo4 fa3 zi4 bi4)

to fall foul of your own doing

More than a century before China was unified by the state of Qin, the chief adviser to the Duke of Xiao in Qin, Shang Yang, introduced legal and military reforms that transformed the state into a militarily strong meritocracy. It was his reforms that were to enable Qin to defeat the other feudal states and unify China in 221 BC. They also, apparently, contributed to his own death.

Shang Yang was born in 390 BCE in the state of Wei. He died in 338 BCE. After moving to Qin he ascended through the ranks, but some of his reforms put him on the wrong side of certain powerful members of the Qin aristocracy, whose powers he had weakened through his emphasis on meritocracy.

When Duke Xiao died, Shang Yang fled, but was captured after an innkeeper refused to allow him to stay, in compliance with a law Shang Yang himself had introduced, as he could not produce his identification papers. It is therefore said that he created the conditions which led to his own death.

The idiom 作法自斃 refers to falling foul of something of your own making.

In English we have the curious phrase “Hoist with one’s own petard.”

“Hoist” means to be lifted in the air; we still use it for raising — hoisting — flags.

A petard was a device in the shape of a small box, either conical or square, containing gunpowder, which would have been placed against a wall or door during a battle. It was essentially a bomb, with the blast directed in one direction, to breach a wall or blow open a door. Shakespeare gives Hamlet the line, “For tis the sport to have the enginer Hoist with his owne petar.” At the time, engineers were makers of military engines.

In the context of Hamlet, the “petard” is a letter instructing the king of England to assassinate Hamlet. Hamlet rewrites it to ask the king to kill the two men who delivered the letter: they were therefore hoist on their own petard. (Paul Cooper, Taipei Times)

英文練習

hoist with your own petard

在秦國統一中國之前的一百多年,秦孝公的謀士商鞅開始進行變法,透過法律與軍事上之改變,將秦國改造為一軍事強國。商鞅的變法使秦國變得強大,足以擊敗其他國家,並在西元前二二一年統一整個中國,但顯然也讓商鞅賠上了自己的性命。商鞅在西元前三九○年出生於魏國,卒於西元前三三八年。在投奔秦國後,商鞅躋身上流,但他的某些改革措施卻也激怒了一些秦國權貴,因為商鞅的變法所強調的菁英領導制度削弱了這些貴族的權利。

秦孝公死後,商鞅逃亡避禍,途中欲住宿旅店,但因商鞅未帶身分證明文件,旅店老闆為了要遵守商鞅所制定的法律而拒絕商鞅入住,結果害商鞅被捉了,也就是說,商鞅是被自己所制定的法律害死的。

成語「作法自斃」意指被自己的所作所為所牽制。在英語中,也有一個有趣的片語Hoist with one’s own petard。Hoist的意思是升起,我們現在說升旗,也常用這個字。Petard是裝炸藥的圓錐形或方形小盒子,在戰爭中用來放在牆或門邊。這種裝置基本上就是一種炸彈,它朝一個方向炸開,以爆破城牆或炸開城門。英國文豪莎士比亞筆下之角色哈姆雷特便有一句台詞說道:「For tis the sport to have the enginer Hoist with his owne petar。」在當時,軍用器械是由工兵製造的。

在哈姆雷特當時所說的那個「petard」指的是一封信,內容是指示英國國王將哈姆雷特暗殺。哈姆雷特改寫了此信,改成要英王殺了那兩個傳信的信差:因此這兩個信差就是 hoist on their own petard。

(台北時報編譯林俐凱譯)

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