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USING IDIOMS 活用成語

Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson, illustration for The Adventure of Silver Blaze, published in Strand Magazine, Dec. 1892.
〈福爾摩斯與華生〉,《銀斑駒》短篇小說插圖,《河濱雜誌》一八九二年十二月號。

Photo: Wikimedia Commons
照片:維基共享資源

Chinese Practice

旁敲側擊

(pang2 qiao1 ce4 ji2)

take an indirect approach

上週的「活用成語」單元,我們介紹了成語「拐彎抹角」,及其相應的英文說法「beat around the bush」。某些辭典和網路資料會說,「beat around the bush」也等同於另一個中文成語「旁敲側擊」(意為「採取間接方式」)。「拐彎抹角」和「旁敲側擊」這兩個成語的確都表示避免直接切入主題,但兩者的動機並不相同。

清‧蒲松齡的《聊齋誌異》,是作於十七世紀末、十八世紀初的短篇小說集。成語「旁敲側擊」的起源是但明倫(西元一七八二~一八五三年)對《聊齋誌異》中的故事〈新鄭訟〉的評註。

這故事說,一位商人在外經商多年,累積了許多財富,由於思鄉情切,便雇了一輛車,帶著錢財返鄉。途中到了新鄭這地方,車伕暫停下來去吃飯,留下這商人獨自等候。有個人經過,看到這些錢財沒人看守,便搶了這些錢財、拔腿就跑,商人便一路追趕。竊賊跑回自己的家,商人追在後頭,但不敢進去屋裡,就在外面等著,並繼續張望。竊賊把錢藏起來,走出屋子,矢口否認偷了任何東西,還將商人扭送衙門。新鄭縣令聽了這商人的指控,說這事無憑無據,於是便要這兩人先各自回去。然而,縣令已經認出了這竊賊,並想到他拖欠稅賦未繳。縣令便派一名衙役到竊賊家追討──結果他現在奇蹟般地能夠繳清所欠稅款──說這是他賣了些東西所換來的錢。縣令覺得可疑,便去訊問竊賊的鄰居。鄰居否認知道任何內情,但縣令說他是竊賊的同夥時,他便懼怕不已。鄰居洩漏了秘密,縣令便破了這案子。

但明倫在對《聊齋誌異》的點評中,總結了這故事的含義:「有些事無法馬上弄明白,但總會透露出一些端倪,口舌之爭常是沒有結論,只能運用一些方法,旁敲側擊,間接地探取實情,這樣真相就能夠明白了。」

換句話說,「拐彎抹角」和「to beat around the bush」的意思,是表示說話刻意委婉或模糊其詞,以避免直接觸碰到敏感或令人不快的主題;而「旁敲側擊」則是一種由外向內的策略──意指以間接的方式,去達到說話者想閃避的問題的核心。

(台北時報林俐凱譯)

與其單刀直入問他要不要參選,不如旁敲側擊問他對前陣子內閣改組的看法,比較能夠試探出他的態度。

(Rather than cutting straight to the chase and asking whether he plans to stand for election, it’s better to ask about the coming cabinet reshuffle, and from there deduce what his plans are.)

小明的生日快到了,他很在乎老婆的心意,又不想明講,就旁敲側擊問她說下週末有什麼計畫。

(Hsiao-ming’s birthday was coming up, and he wanted to know what his wife was planning, but didn’t want to ask her outright. He asked, in a roundabout way, whether she had any plans for the next weekend.)

英文練習

beat about/ around the bush

Last week’s Using Idioms was on 拐彎抹角 and a corresponding English saying, “to beat around the bush.” In some dictionaries and online sources you will find another Chinese idiom, 旁敲側擊, meaning “to take an indirect approach,” as an alternative to “beat around the bush,” and indeed they both mean to avoid broaching a subject directly, albeit not for the same reasons.

Pu Songling’s liaozhai zhiyi (Strange Tales from a Chinese Studio) is a collection of tales written in the late 17th and early 18th century. The origin of the idiom 旁敲側擊 is a commentary by one Dan Minglun (1782-1853) on one of the stories, The Xinzheng Case.

According to the story, a businessman, after many years away earning his fortune, starts yearning for home and hires a carriage to take him back to the place of his birth, taking with him his accumulated riches. On the way, the driver stops at a town named Xinzheng for a meal, leaving the businessman alone. A passerby, seeing the money essentially unguarded, robs the businessman and runs off, his victim hot on his heels. The thief arrives at his house, followed by the businessman, but the latter dares not enter and instead waits outside and keeps watch. The thief conceals the money and emerges from the building, denies having stolen anything, and marches the businessman to a local government official. The official hears the businessman’s complaint but tells him he needs to see proof, and advises both men to go their ways. The official, however, has recognized the thief, and recalls how he was behind in paying his taxes. He sends a local bailiff to visit the thief, who is now miraculously able to pay what he owes, saying he had sold some of his belongings to get the money. The official, suspicious, goes to the thief’s neighbor and questions him. He denies knowing anything, but becomes scared when the official accuses him of being in cahoots with the suspect. The neighbor spills the beans and the official cracks the case.

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