Mon, Sep 03, 2018 - Page 9 News List

USING IDIOMS 活用成語

Pigs, 1913, Franz Marc.
《豬》。一九一三年。法蘭茲‧馬克作。

Photo: Wikimedia Commons
照片:維基共享資源

Chinese practice

治絲益棼

(zhi4 si1 yi4 fen2)

straighten silk, but tangle it up

成語「治絲益棼」,亦作「治絲而棼」,其出處與八月二十日「活用成語」介紹的「玩火自焚」相同,源於《春秋左傳》的同一段。《春秋》記載,魯隱公四年(公元前七一九年),衛國公子州吁計畫攻打鄭國。《左傳》註解說,魯國大夫眾仲認為州吁的計畫會徹底失敗──眾仲說道:「臣聞以德和民,不聞以亂,以亂,猶治絲而棼之也」(我只聽過統治者以仁慈和美德贏得人心,但從未聽說可以用混亂和失序來贏得人心的。若是利用混亂和失序,就像是要理順絲線卻不先去找頭緒,結果就越理越亂。)

事實證明,眾仲是對的:後來州吁果然陷入了困境,在一年之內就被其人民殺了。

在現代漢語中,「治絲益棼」是用來說某人把事情弄得一團糟,若繼續下去,只會讓情況更糟。

在英文裡,若要說某人把事情搞得亂七八糟,可以用一句有趣的短語來說──「to make a pig’s ear of something」(把某事弄成豬耳朵,意為把事情搞砸)。很湊巧,這句話的起源也跟絲線有關。

「make a pig’s ear of」這句話第一次出現,是在一九五○年版的美國大眾家庭雜誌《讀者文摘》──其中有一句話:「If you make a pig’s ear of the first one, you can try the other one.」(如果你把第一個弄成了豬耳朵,你可以試試下一個)。這句話的靈感卻是來自一五七九年的一本書──《The Ephemerides of Phialo, Divided into Three Books》(菲蘿的日記,共三冊),為英國教士史蒂芬‧戈森所著,他用一句很有創意的短語「Seekinge too make a silke purse of a Sowes eare」(試圖用豬耳朵來做絲綢錢包),來指嘗試去做一些注定會失敗的事。「sow」字的意思是成年的母豬。

另一個可表達把事情弄糟的說法,是一個簡單的動詞「botch」,及其衍生形容詞,例如「to botch up」某事,或做一件「botched job」。這兩者都意指把事情做得很糟糕,結果不盡如人意。

「botch」一詞來自十四世紀晚期的字「bocchen」,原指「修復」,但後來,到了一五二○年代,就意指「拙劣地修理」或「被笨拙的手法所糟蹋」。

所以我們可以說,差不多三千年前,在現今中國一個名叫州吁的人,密謀鞏固他對衛國非法獲得的統治權,但卻「thoroughly botched it up」(徹底搞砸了),且「made a real pig’s ear of the whole affair」(徹底毀掉了整件事)。

(台北時報林俐凱譯)

兩國的恩怨糾葛由來已久,此時貿然採用強硬手段,非但無助於解決問題,反而可能治絲益棼。

(To now employ such hardline measures, given the longstanding enmity and tensions between these two countries, will not only fail to resolve the situation, it will actually make matters worse.)

輔導室應該協助同學冷靜處理感情難題,以免治絲益棼,又生風波。

(The Counselors’ Office should help students deal with their emotional issues, so that they can keep things under control and the situation does not deteriorate further.)

英文練習

make a pig’s ear out of something;

to botch something up

The idiom 治絲益棼, also written 治絲而棼, derives from the same passage of the chun qiu zuo zhuan (Commentary of Zuo of the Spring and Autumn Annals) that Using Idioms looked at on Aug. 20, discussing 玩火自焚 (if you play with fire, you’ll get your fingers burned). The chun qiu entry for the fourth year of Duke Yin (719BC) of Lu tells of how Zhou Xu of Wei plans to attack Zheng, and the attendant zuo zhuan commentary relates how the duke’s senior official Zhong Zhong suspects that Zhou Xu’s plan can only end in disaster. The relevant section has Zhong Zhong say 臣聞以德和民,不聞以亂,以亂,猶治絲而棼之也 (I have heard of winning over the people through virtue, but never through chaos and disorder; to attempt this through chaos and disorder is like trying to straighten out silk threads but only getting them more tangled).

As it turned out, he was right: Zhou Xu got himself in a tangle, and was put to death by his own people within the year.

In modern Chinese, 治絲益棼 is used to say that somebody is making a mess of things, and will only make matters worse by continuing what they are doing.

In English, when we want to say somebody is making a mess of things, we have the curious phrase “to make a pig’s ear of something.” As it happens, the origins of this phrase also have something to do with silk.

The phrase “make a pig’s ear of” something apparently first appears in a 1950 edition of the American general-interest family magazine Reader’s Digest, in the sentence “If you make a pig’s ear of the first one, you can try the other one.” The inspiration for this stretches back much further, however, to a 1579 book, The Ephemerides of Phialo, Divided into Three Books, by the English clergyman Stephen Gosson, where he uses the inventive phrase “Seekinge too make a silke purse of a Sowes eare” (seeking to make a silk purse from a pig’s ear) to mean attempting to do something that is doomed to failure. A sow is an adult, female pig.

This story has been viewed 4098 times.

Comments will be moderated. Remarks containing abusive and obscene language, personal attacks of any kind or promotion will be removed and the user banned.

TOP top