Mon, Oct 23, 2017 - Page 9 News List

USING IDIOMS
活用成語

Ukiyo-e of Wu Zixu’s escape, by Tsukioka Yoshitoshi.
浮世繪《伍子胥的逃亡》,月岡芳年作。

Photo: Wikimedia Commons
照片:維基共享資源

Chinese Practice

水洩(泄)不通

(shui3 xie4 bu4 tong1)

not one drop can trickle through

「變文」這種文學體裁盛行於唐代,於宋代式微,可說是中國文學中白話敘事的先聲,據信為佛教僧侶所發展出,以便傳講佛經,使大眾易懂。敦煌莫高窟的手抄本在二十世紀初被發現後,變文這個文學體裁才為後人所知。變文的主題通常為佛教教義,也有中國歷史人物和故事,且常增添華麗生動的潤飾,使人物與情節更具戲劇效果。

《敦煌變文集新書.卷五.伍子胥變文》,是敦煌所藏經卷的一部分,講述春秋時期伍子胥逃離楚王所設陷阱的故事。

楚王因懷疑伍奢計畫叛變而囚禁他,並逼他把兩個兒子也叫來。伍奢的兩個兒子都懷疑這是個陷阱:一個去了,結果跟他父親一起被處死了。另一個兒子,也就是伍子胥,則決定逃跑。楚王下令懸賞捉拿伍子胥,並說任何庇護伍子胥或幫助他逃跑的人都會被處死,且連誅全族。這道詔令下達全國,邊哨也戒備嚴密,而被形容為「水楔不通」,意為非常嚴密,連水都無法通過。

「楔」字與「洩」和「泄」同音,一般認為這個故事可能是成語「水洩不通」(或「水泄不通」)的由來,其字面意義為「連一滴水都通不過」,意指無法穿透。

在英文中,若是一個房間或空間很擁擠,例如在酒吧或地鐵,擠到幾乎不可能穿過人群,我們可以形容這個地方「packed」,甚至是「jam-packed」。我們也可以說人群「packed like sardines」(像沙丁魚一樣擠滿),就像是密實裝在罐頭裡的魚一樣。

(台北時報編譯林俐凱譯)

歌迷們徹夜排隊,把會場擠得水洩不通,為的就是要一睹偶像丰采。

(The singer’s fans queued through the night, packing the place out, just so they could get a glimpse of their idol.)

趁著連假想出門逛逛,沒想到大街上已經是水泄不通、寸步難行。

(We thought we’d make use of the long weekend to stroll around, but the streets were packed, and we couldn’t go a step in any direction.)

英文練習

packed like sardines; jam-packed

The literary form bianwen (“transformation texts”), popular during the Tang Dynasty but in serious decline by the Song, were perhaps some of the earliest examples of vernacular narratives in Chinese literature, and were believed to have been developed by Buddhist monks wanting to spread their teachings in a literature understandable by the masses. The existence of bianwen as a literary form in its own right was unknown until examples were discovered among manuscripts in the Mogao Caves at Dunhuang in China’s Gansu Province in the early 20th century. Generally themed on Buddhist teachings, the bianwen texts also used figures and stories from Chinese history, often adding flourishes and embellishing characters and events for dramatic effect.

The Wu Zixu bianwen, discovered as part of the Dunhuang cache, relates the story of the official Wu Zixu avoiding a trap set by the king of Chu state in the Spring and Autumn period.

The king had imprisoned Wu She on suspicion of plotting rebellion, and forced him to call his two sons to his side in his hour of need. Both suspected a trap: One went, and was executed with his father; the second, Wu Zixu, decided to flee. The king issued an order offering a reward for Wu’s capture, adding that anyone sheltering Wu or helping him escape would be executed, and their entire family put to death. The order was distributed throughout the state and security at the border passes was so impenetrable it was described as 水楔不通, meaning “so tight even water cannot pass.”

The character 楔 (xie4) is homophonic with 洩 and 泄, and it is thought this story may be the origin of the idiom 水洩不通 (or 水泄不通), literally “not one drop can trickle through,“ and meaning impenetrable.

In English, when a room or space is so crowded it is almost impossible to get through the throng of people, such as in a bar or on a subway, we can say the place is packed, or even jam-packed. We can also say the people are “packed like sardines,” as with canned fish tightly packed into a tin.

(Paul Cooper, Taipei Times)

It’s difficult to breathe in here. It’s jam-packed.

(這裡超擠,讓人呼吸困難。)

Let’s not go to Taipei City Hall Plaza for the New Year countdown. We’ll be packed like sardines, and won’t be able to move.

(我們還是不要去台北市政府廣場跨年好了,因為我們會擠得寸步難行。)

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