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USING IDIOMS 活用成語

Boys Throwing Pebbles into the River by Karoly Ferenczy.
《朝河裡丟石頭的男孩》,卡洛里‧費倫齊作。

Photo: Wikimedia Commons
照片:維基共享資源

Chinese Practice

近在咫尺

(jin4 zai4 zhi2 chi3)

a stone’s throw away

布爾夫人的病情非常不樂觀,群醫束手無策,雖然也有些庸醫聲稱他們有辦法把她完全治好,但她的病況持續惡化,身上潰爛的瘡發出令人作嘔的氣味,幾乎沒有人敢靠近她,如約翰‧亞畢諾(一六六七~一七三五)在一七一二年的《約翰‧布爾的歷史》中所說:

「In spite of all applications the patient grew worse every day; she stunk so, nobody durst come within a stone’s throw of her, except those quacks who attended her close, and apprehended no danger」(儘管給病人用了這麼多藥,病況仍是日漸惡化;她全身發臭,一箭距離之內,沒人敢靠近,除了那些不知危險而湊近看診的庸醫。)

亞畢諾使用「a stone’s throw」(丟一顆石頭的距離)這術語作為測距的度量,雖然沒人知道它到底指的是多長的距離──因為石頭可以被丟多遠,答案因人而異──但這差異相對較小。畢竟,如果有人發臭,你會想保持一個合理的距離,但不至於要搬出城去來確保嗅覺自由不被侵犯。

英文現今仍以此方式來使用「a stone’s throw」一語。用某物可丟出去的距離來當做距離度量由來已久,雖然丟擲的是甚麼東西,以及該片語的確切用詞,都隨著時間的推移而演變。

諷刺作家及詩人強納森‧史威夫特(一六六七~一七四五)(他也是亞畢諾的朋友)在一七○四年首次出版的《書籍大戰》(The Battle of the Books)中寫道:「The two Cavaliers had now approach’d within a Throw of a Lance」(兩個騎士已經靠近,離我們有長矛一丟的距離)。另外,在一五八二年,尼古拉斯‧利希菲爾德寫道:「The enimyes were come within the throwe of a Dart」(敵人已經來了,在飛鏢投擲距離之內)。

這樣的說法,在《聖經》的英譯中也可見到,例如〈路加福音〉中所記載,基督被加略人猶大出賣前的場景:

耶穌出來,照常往橄欖山去,門徒也跟隨他。

到了那地方,就對他們說:「你們要禱告,免得入了迷惑。」

於是離開他們約有扔一塊石頭那麼遠,跪下禱告,

說:「父啊!你若願意,就把這杯撤去;然而,不要成就我的意思,只要成就你的意思。」

在更早先的版本,一五二六年威克理夫版的聖經中,「a stone’s throw」被翻譯為「about a stone’s cast」,以「cast」(投擲)一字來替代「throw」。「cast」一字現仍通用,但主要是用在像「拋出釣魚線」、「丟骰子」、「投以目光」等這樣的用法,而非丟石頭。

成語「近在咫尺」也有相似的含義,主要是用於書面,而非口語。「咫」是古代的度量衡,一咫的長度約為二十公分。「一尺」大約等於三分之一公尺。其實「咫尺」一詞,只是表示距離很短,可以忽略不計。此成語出自北宋詩人及政治家蘇軾(西元一○三七~一一○一年)的〈杭州謝上表〉,他用「凜然威光,近在咫尺」來形容距離很有威嚴的皇帝很近。再晚近些,清末吳趼人在他一九○九年的小說《二十年目睹之怪現狀》第九十八回中便用了這說法:「他的公館近在咫尺,也不換衣服,就這麼走回去了」。

(台北時報林俐凱譯)

那家店近在咫尺,就在馬路對面,可是這裡沒有斑馬線,要走好遠才有天橋可以過馬路。

(The store is only a stone’s thrown away, on the other side of the road, but there’s no crosswalk here, and we have to go quite a distance to get to the footbridge.)

英文練習

a stone’s throw

Mrs. Bull was in a bad way. The doctors had all but given up on curing her condition, although some — quacks to a man — said they had the perfect cure for her. And yet her condition continued to decline, and a disgusting smell emanated from her festering sore, such that hardly anyone dared to go near her. As John Arbuthnot (1667 – 1735) wrote in The History of John Bull in 1712:

“In spite of all applications the patient grew worse every day; she stunk so, nobody durst come within a stone’s throw of her, except those quacks who attended her close, and apprehended no danger.”

Arbuthnot used the term “a stone’s throw” as a measure of distance which, while indeterminate — as different people would be able to throw a stone further than others — was nevertheless relatively small. After all, if somebody stinks, you would want to maintain a reasonable distance from them, but you would hardly need to move to another town to ensure your olfactory rights were sufficiently protected.

We still use “a stone’s throw” in this way. The idea of measuring distance by how far one could throw a given object has been long established, although the object itself, as well as the precise format of the phrase, has evolved over time.

In his The Battle of the Books, first published in 1704, the satirist and poet Jonathan Swift (1667 – 1745) — a friend of Arbuthnot’s — wrote “The two Cavaliers had now approach’d within a Throw of a Lance,” and in 1582 Nicholas Lichefield wrote “The enimyes were come, within the throwe of a Dart.”

There are also mentions of the phrase in translations of the Bible, for example in the scene immediately preceding Judas Iscariot’s betrayal of Christ in the Gospel of St. Luke:

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