Mon, Jul 09, 2018 - Page 9 News List

USING IDIOMS
活用成語

Byzantine miniature depicting the Stoudios Monastery and the Sea of Marmara, c. 1000.
拜占庭式的小畫像,描繪司圖迪奧斯修道院和馬爾馬拉海,約西元一○○○年。

Photo: Wikimedia Commons
照片:維基共享資源

Chinese Practice

海底撈針;大海撈針

(hai2 di3 lao1 zhen1; da4 hai3 lao1 zhen1)

to fish a needle from the sea floor

《法苑珠林》是由唐代僧人道世於西元六八八年所編纂,在第二十三章有一句寫道:「一鍼投海中,求之尚可得。一失人身命,難得過於是。」(一根針丟入海中,還有可能找回來,但若人失去了生命,就很難再救回來了。)在廣闊的海洋中丟了一根針,比喻一個難以實現的目標,這用法很可能影響了元代吳昌齡的戲曲《二郎收豬八戒》──其中有一句寫道:「我如今憂愁自舉誰替恁,俊兒夫似海內尋針,姻緣事在天數」,吳昌齡用「海內尋針」(在海裡找針)來形容待嫁的閨女難覓如意郎君,只好蹉跎青春等待真愛來臨的心情。

後來,明太祖朱元璋之子、身兼軍事將領及劇作家的朱權(西元一三七八~一四四八年),在他的《荊釵記.第三四齣》用了「東海撈針」(在東海打撈一根針)一語:「此生休想同衾枕,要相逢除非是東海撈針。」(在這一生中別期待可以同床共枕,要見面的機會像是在東海裡打撈出一根針。)成語「海底撈針」又作「大海撈針」,字面意思是「從浩瀚的海洋中撈出一根針」,意指很難找到的東西,或者很難完成的任務。

英文諺語也用針來比喻物體之微小、幾乎找不到──「to find a needle in a haystack」(在乾草堆中尋找一根針),它的意思和「海底撈針」基本上是相同的。「to find a needle in a haystack」這說法由來已久,並有數種變化形式。此語第一次見諸印行之書本,是在西元一五三二年聖托馬斯‧莫爾(西元一四七八年~一五三五年)的作品,這句話在當時可能已是普遍的說法。莫爾寫道:「To seke one lyne in all hys workes wer to go looke a nedle in a medow. 」(要在他的作品中尋找一句話,就像是在草地上尋找一根針。)六十年後,羅伯特‧格林在他的《作品集》中寫道:「The poor man... gropeth in the darke to find a needle in a bottle of hay」(窮苦的人...在黑暗中摸索著,要在一堆乾草中去找一根針)。

後來在一九一三年,英國記者和作家羅伯特‧愛德華‧弗朗西永(西元一八四一~一九一九年)寫下:「I discovered what had hitherto been the proverbial needle in the pottle of hay.」(我就像是在一堆乾草中,發現了諺語傳說中的那根針。)這句話裡的「pottle」一字,是「bundle」(一大堆)的意思,然而這樣的用法現已不存。

現今若我們說某事就像在「looking for a needle in a haystack」(大海撈針、海底撈針),基本上就是說這是一項不可能完成的任務。

(台北時報林俐凱譯)

這座山地形崎嶇、範圍太大,要找到失蹤的登山客,無疑是大海撈針。

(This mountain is so huge, and the terrain so challenging, searching for the lost climbers will be like looking for a needle in a haystack.)

若空有大數據而不懂得分析,我們就真的是瞎子摸象、海底撈針。

(Despite all the big data we have, if we do not know how to analyse it we are like the blind describing an elephant, or someone trying to locate a needle on the ocean floor.)

英文練習

to find a needle in a haystack

In Chapter 23 of the Forest of Gems in the Garden of the Dharma compiled in 668AD by the Tang Dynasty Buddhist monk Dao Shi, there are the sentences 一鍼投海中,求之尚可得。一失人身命,難得過於是 (If a needle is thrown into the ocean, it is yet still possible to retrieve it. Retrieving your life, if lost, would be more difficult than even this). Not being able to find a needle in the vast ocean as metaphor for the difficulty of achieving a goal may have influenced Wu Changling’s description of an aging spinster’s wait for a husband. His Yuan Dynasty play Erlang subdues Zhu Bajie has the line 我如今憂愁自舉誰替恁,俊兒夫似海內尋針,姻緣事在天數 (I’m worried about who can be a husband. Finding a good man is like searching for a needle in the ocean; marriage is in the hands of Fate).

Later, the military commander and playwright Zhu Quan, (1378–1448), son of the founder of the Ming Dynasty, would use the phrase 東海撈針. In Chapter 34 of the jing chai ji (Tale of the Thorn Hairpin), he wrote 此生休想同衾枕,要相逢除非是東海撈針 (You should not necessarily assume you will be wed in this life. Finding someone is like fishing a needle from the East Sea). The idiom 海底撈針 (fishing a needle from the ocean floor), also written 大海撈針 (fishing a needle from the vast ocean), refers to something very difficult to find, or a task virtually impossible to complete.

The needle as the representation of a tiny object almost impossible to find is also used in the English proverb “to find a needle in a haystack,” meaning essentially the same as 海底撈針. It is a very old saying with several variants that was probably already in common usage when the first known printed version made its appearance, in 1532, in the works of St. Thomas More (1478–1535). More wrote “To seke out one lyne in all hys workes wer to go looke a nedle in a medow” (to seek out one line in his works is like looking for a needle in a meadow). Sixty years later, in his Works, Robert Greene writes “The poor man ... gropeth in the darke to find a needle in a bottle of hay” (The poor man... gropes in the dark to find a needle in a bundle of hay) and then, in 1913, still using a variant of the — now obsolete — “bottle” to mean “bundle,” the English journalist and author Robert Edward Francillon (1841–1919) wrote “I discovered what had hitherto been the proverbial needle in the pottle of hay.”

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