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USING IDIOMS
活用成語

The Hireling Shepherd, William Holman Hunt, 1851.
《牧羊僱工》。威廉‧霍耳曼‧亨特作。一八五一年。

Photo: Wikimedia Commons
照片:維基共享資源

Chinese practice

掩人耳目

cover others’ ears and eyes

(yan3 ren2 er3 mu4)

西元一一二七年,女真軍隊入侵宋朝京城,擄走了北宋最後一位皇帝欽宗及其父,也就是一年前退位的徽宗。

宋徽宗在位時,是廣受好評的藝術家、慷慨的藝術贊助者、影響力很大的書法家,以及非常無能的統治者。他對逸樂和藝術的追求,讓他無法專注於治國。宋朝在他手中,軍隊不修、國力衰落,敵方卻已在北方邊境集結重兵。西元一一三五年,宋徽宗在被女真俘虜八年後,屈辱地客死異鄉。

《大宋宣和遺事》中的〈亨集〉,描述了徽宗治國的無能:有臣子秉報北方有被入侵的危險,徽宗對此感到憂慮,兩位大臣卻建議徽宗在城牆崩塌前及時行樂。他們帶徽宗微服出遊,徽宗偽裝成商人,經常造訪城裡的妓院,拜倒在名妓李師師的石榴裙下。無可避免地,皇帝秘訪妓院的消息開始流傳。此故事中有這句話:「事跡顯然,雖欲掩人之耳目,不可得也」(這種行事舉動很明顯,想要遮蔽他人的耳目以保守秘密,實在不可能)。

這句話便演變出成語「掩人耳目」,意思是愚弄他人。

英文諺語「to pull the wool over people’s eyes」(拉羊毛蓋上人的眼睛)意指試圖欺騙別人,此語出處不詳。

常見的推測認為,這句話是暗指十六及十七世紀所戴的羊毛製假髮;然而,此語似乎是源自十九世紀早期的美國,那時已經不流行戴羊毛假髮了。

提到這句話的第一件出版品,是一八三五年十一月美國蓋茨堡的報紙《人民新聞》:「We are glad to find among the leading Van-ites, at least one man, whose conscience will not permit him to ‘go the whole hog’ in pulling the wool over the people’s eyes.」(我們很高興在帶頭的Van-ites這些人中,發現至少有一個人有良心,讓他不會「徹底地」去拉羊毛蓋住人們的眼睛。)

句中的「Van-ites」可能是指民主黨的馬丁‧范布倫的支持者,范布倫後來在一八三七年至一八四一年擔任美國總統。「go the whole hog」指的是范布倫前一任的總統安德魯‧傑克森一八二八年競選時的用語,傑克森是一八二八年至一八三七年的美國總統。

范布倫跟傑克森一樣,也是共濟會成員,當時有個人名叫威廉‧摩根,曾威脅要揭發共濟會的秘密,摩根死於一八二六年,一般認為是被共濟會成員所謀殺,當時引起社會憤慨,強烈抨擊共濟會的精英主義。摩根的失蹤便導致了反共濟會黨的形成。

在一八三六年七月八日的《伯靈頓自由新聞》中,刊登了范布倫所屬的州議會所發布的告示,說議會是「共濟會菁英、位居要職的該州貴族集會之處」。該則告示也提到約翰‧佩第朋可能會被提名為副州長:「的確,佩第朋是偏離了正軌、進到反共濟會陣營,但他是為了要把十幾隻羊帶來民主黨陣營(順道說一句,我們覺得被提名的佩第朋在捉「羊」歸營方面,大概要比「拉羊毛」遮住反共濟會人士的眼睛還更成功)」。

部落格「Word Histories」的作者巴斯卡‧特雷給認為,這最後一句所提到「sheep」(羊)和「pulling wool」(拉羊毛),可能就是諺語「to pull the wool over people’s eyes」的出處。他引用登在一八三八年三月十日《波啟浦夕市新聞》,署名為約翰‧史派瑟的人的投書,內容說到羊的眼睛四周向內生長的毛,會影響羊的視力,有時會致盲,或迫使羊一直閉著眼睛。史派瑟認為,這種毛病主要出現在「頭部有最多毛」的綿羊品種身上。

(台北時報林俐凱譯)

為了要掩人耳目,走私犯假裝進口廢棄輪胎,卻把毒品藏在輪胎裡夾帶入境。

(To fool customs, the smugglers pretended they were importing used tires, and secreted narcotics in them to get the drugs over the border.)

英文練習

pull the wool over one’s eyes

In 1127, the Jurchen army invaded the capital of the Song Dynasty, carrying off with them Emperor Qinzong, the last emperor of the Northern Song Dynasty, and his father, Huizong, who had abdicated only a year before.

During his reign, Emperor Huizong had been an acclaimed artist, generous patron of the arts, influential calligrapher and hopelessly ineffectual ruler. His hedonistic and artistic pursuits had distracted him from the affairs of state: Under his stewardship, the military had been neglected and the dynasty had declined while the enemy was amassing its forces at the northern border. Huizong would die a broken and humiliated exile in 1135 as a “guest” of the Jurchen, eight years after his capture.

The hengji section of the dasong xuanhe yishi (Old Incidents in the Xuanhe period of the Great Song Dynasty) relates a story illustrating Huizong’s ineffectual leadership. According to the story, Huizong was troubled by official memoranda regarding the impending invasion from the north, and two officials advised him to enjoy life’s pleasures before the walls came crashing down. They arranged for him to be secreted out of the palace, disguised as a businessman, and frequent a city brothel, where he became enamored of the charms of the renowned prostitute Li Shishi. Inevitably, rumors of the emperor’s secretive brothel visits spread. The story includes the line 事跡顯然,雖欲掩人之耳目,不可得也 (It was impossible that the facts would not come to light, even if they had wanted to keep it secret (literally, to cover others’ ears and eyes)).

This line gives us the Chinese idiom 掩人耳目, meaning to fool people.

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