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以訛傳訛
撰文者: Wayne 發表日期: November 2, 2010 – 3:58 am

今天版主要講什麼呢?嗯,就不賣關子了,就是要解釋一個奇怪的英文說法:May you live in interesting times

網友猜得出這句話的意思嗎?想必是有點困難。版主在多年前的中進英口譯課程首次聽到這種英文說法,美國教授當時跟我們解釋這句話源自於中國。全班同學一聽,滿頭霧水,隨即彼此交頭接耳,極欲想猜出這句英文到底出自於哪句古文。不過,話說回來,華人一看到這句英文,八成都猜不出其中所隱含的意義,當然不會想到這句話「竟然」源自於中文。

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依照慣例,我們先來看 Wikipedia 如何解釋這句話:

May you live in interesting times, often referred to as the Chinese curse, is reputed to be the English translation of an ancient Chinese proverb and curse, although it may have originated among the English themselves (or Americans). It is reported that it was the first of three curses of increasing severity, the other two being:

* May you come to the attention of those in authority (sometimes rendered May the government be aware of you). This is sometimes quoted as May you come to the attention of powerful people.
* May you find what you are looking for.

Origin
No known user of the English phrase has supplied the purported Chinese language original, and the Chinese language origin of the phrase, if it exists, has not been found, making its authenticity, at least in its present form, very doubtful. One theory is that it may be related to the Chinese proverb, “It’s better to be a dog in a peaceful time than be a man in a chaotic period
(寧為太平犬,不做亂世人)

(Source) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/May_you_live_in_interesting_times

translation

代誌大條了! 這句話竟然是個「中國詛咒」 (A Chinese curse),版主身為華人,對這件事情根本一無所知,真是無地自容。怎麼會有這種荒唐事!而且,這句話到底出自哪裡呢?版主在台灣甚少聽人說「寧為太平犬,不做亂世人」,即便聽了也體會不出其中隱藏何種詛咒。因此,與其說 May you live in interesting times’ 是源自中國的詛咒,不如說它是老美以訛傳訛的結果。

這句話常見於美國的政商界,引用者大都會先說這是一句中國的詛咒,然後再闡述論點。以下是幾個從 Google 搜尋到的幾個例子:

An ancient Chinese curse says, “May you live in interesting times.” Like it or not, we have been thoroughly cursed with interesting times. We can make the best of it with some modest preparation, or we can sit back, do nothing , and wait to see what gets dealt to us, and how much it hurts.

You will recall the ancient Chinese curse “May you live in interesting times.” Sadly, these are “interesting times” and we all know why. Just one week after the terrible event of 11 September, the Reserve Bank made an unscheduled and largely unexpected interest rate cust, from 5.75 per cent to 5.25 per cent.

Mr. President, there is an old Chinese curse that says, “May you live in interesting times.” A Senate equivalent of that saying could very well be: May you lead the Senate in interesting times. If so, the Senate leadership of Senator TOM DASCHLE would certainly qualify.  He led the Senate with a very quiet integrity during some of the most difficult times in American history.

You’ve probably heard the old Chinese curse “May you live in interesting times.”

If you think about it, there’s no denying that we’re now living in interesting times.
Well, This is it! It doesn’t get more interesting than this.
I am scared.
Of the brutalities of war. Of the unstoppable climate change.
And of the unbeatable NDM-1 bacteria.

translation

暫時撇開這句話的出處,版主先來解釋這句話的意思。英文 interesting 的本意是「有趣的 / 有吸引力的」,”interesting times” 就是 “exciting times” (刺激的時代),這種時代就是動盪的時代,雖然刺激卻充滿艱辛,活在那種顛沛流離的時代必定飽受諸多苦楚,因此老美會說 “May you live in interesting times” (希望你身處動盪的時代) 是一種詛咒。版主在網路找到下面的解釋:

There is an ancient saying, “May you live in interesting times.” It is acutually an ancient curse. It may sound great to live in interesting times. But interesting times are times of change and even turmoil. They are times of struggle. They are exciting. But, at the same time, they are difficult. People of my generation have certainly lived through interesting times and they continue today.

華人應該不會使用如此「高雅」的詛咒,要詛咒也是詛咒他人「絕子絕孫」或「不得好死」。這種高尚的詛咒無論怎麼說都無法到位,萬難宣洩心中積蓄已久的憤恨。說穿了,‘May you live in interesting times’ 就是西方以訛傳訛的說法,披上中國詛咒的外衣之後帶點特殊的異國智慧,難怪深獲老美政商界的愛用。

耗費唇舌解釋了一大圈,只想說這種說法是如假包換的地道美語,網友看完這篇之後別再費神尋找其到底源自何處了。

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