USING IDIOMS 活用成語

Mon, Mar 05, 2018 - Page 9

Chinese practice

禍不單行

(huo4 bu4 dan1 xing2)

misfortune does not come singly

西漢儒學家劉向(西元前七七~六年)所著的雜史小說集《說苑》中,有個饒富警世意味的故事,是有關戰國時期的韓昭侯。韓昭侯在位第二十五年時,國內發生大乾旱,人民缺糧,但韓昭侯卻在此時下令建造一座高大的城門。楚國大夫屈宜咎聽說後,便鐵口直斷,說韓昭侯在有生之年不會踏出這城門。屈宜咎說:「往年秦拔宜陽,明年大旱民饑,不以此時恤民之急也,而顧反益奢」(韓國去年才被秦軍占領了一個邊境要城,今年又遭逢乾旱與饑荒,在這樣的情況下,韓昭侯竟然只想到虛榮奢華之事,浪費資源、不體恤其子民)。然後他結論道:「福不重至,禍必重來者也」(福祐之事不會接連而來,但禍害卻會接踵而至)。最後果然不出屈宜咎所料,「高門成,昭侯卒,竟不出此門」(城門落成後,韓昭侯便去世了,他最後真的沒有再踏出過那城門)。

這故事便是成語「禍不單行」的由來,意指不幸的事不會只來一個,當麻煩事一來,就會都一起出現。

在英文中,這個意義可以用「it never rains, but it pours」來表示,有時會簡化成「it never rains」,或是換成另一種說法「when it rains it pours」。「to pour」意為下大雨,因此讓「it never rains, but it pours」乍看之下顯得違反常理。但實際上,「but」字在此處屬較老式,起碼是很正式的用法,意指「沒有……這種情況」,用來表示無法避免的事。換句話說,「it never rains but it pours」的意思是,「一旦下起雨來,就不會只有下一點點,而總會是傾盆大雨」。

此諺語的出處不詳,但早在十八世紀便已在使用,例如約翰‧阿布斯諾特(西元一六六七~一七三五年)於一七二六年出版的書,書名即為《It cannot rain but it pours: or, London strow’d with rarities》。

(台北時報林俐凱譯)

在經歷森林大火後,加州又受到暴雨侵襲,引發了嚴重的土石流,真是禍不單行。

(Hot on the heels of the forest fires, California was hit by torrential rain, causing a serious landslide. It never rains but it pours.)

小羊奮力從鱷魚口中掙脫,無奈禍不單行,又遇到了一群獅子,最後淪為獅子的大餐。

(The goat managed to escape the crocodile’s jaws, but went straight from the frying pan into the fire, coming across a pride of lions and becoming their dinner.)

英文練習

it never rains but it pours

The shuo yuan (Garden of Stories) collection of historical anecdotes written by the Western Han Dynasty Confucian scholar Liu Xiang (77–6 BC) includes a cautionary tale involving Marquis Zhao of the State of Han during the Warring States Period. In the 25th year of his reign, at a time the state was going through a major drought and the people did not have enough to eat, he ordered construction of a large city gate. Hearing this, Qu Yijiu, a senior official of the State of Chu, predicted that Zhao himself would never go through that gate during his lifetime. He said, “It was only last year that the Qin army occupied an important border town in Han’s territory. This year there has been drought and famine. At a time like this, the marquis thinks only of vanity, and wastes resources, sparing little thought for his people.” He concludes 福不重至,禍必重來者也 (good fortune rarely comes in twos, bad fortune comes in succession). It turned out that Qu was right. As the text says so succinctly, “The gate was completed, the marquis died. He never did go through that gate.”

From this story we have the idiom 禍不單行: Misfortune does not come in ones; or, when troubles come, they come together.

In English, this sentiment can be expressed with the phrase “it never rains, but it pours,” sometimes shortened to “it never rains” or given the alternate phrasing “when it rains it pours.” As “to pour” means to rain heavily, “it never rains, but it pours” sounds at first counterintuitive. In fact, the “but” here is used in an archaic, or at least quite formal, way to suggest an inevitable occurrence, and means “without it being the case that...” In other words, “it never rains but it pours” means “whenever it rains, it never rains a little bit: It always pours.”

The origin of the proverb is unknown, but it was used as early as the early 18th century, for example in the title of the 1726 book It cannot rain but it pours: or, London strow’d with rarities by John Arbuthnot (1667-1735).

(Paul Cooper, Taipei Times)

I’ve had a terrible day at work and my car broke down on the way home. It never rains, does it?

(我度過了難熬的一天,下了班,回家的路上車又拋錨了,真是禍不單行,不是嗎?)

Honestly, it never rains, but it pours. First I miss my train, then I lose my phone.

(真的是禍不單行。我先是錯過了火車,然後又掉了手機。)