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新浪首页 > 新浪教育 > 《英语学习》 > 战争的副产品“委婉语”漫天飞

http://www.sina.com.cn 2004/02/27 10:23  《英语学习》

  Language also is a victim of war. It suffers collateral damage. Both casualty (any chance occurrence) and collateral damage<注4> are modern euphemisms. War is a rearranger of language as well as of cities and bodies. That rearrange is a euphemism. It is unsurprising that an event as wild with shock and awe<注5> should create euphemisms. We try to create a linguistic bath spa, \where\ evil is dispelled<注6> by a dip in the waters of euphemism. Jargon<注7> clouds the truth and sedates<注8> the imagination. Its value is notorious in totalitarian<注9> countries, \where\ the dictator tries to make murder and aggression respectable by calling them liquidation<注10> and liberation?

  On the one hand, in the sandstorm of war, the poor bloody infantry<注11>(and pilots) need unmistakable orders to direct them precisely on to their correct targets. This is now done more accurately by computers and other high-tech kit<注12> than by subalterns<注13> directing their men's attention to bushy-top trees and churches with spires (not many in the desert), or galloping dispatch riders<注14> sending the Light Brigade to ride down the Valley of Death. On the other hand, governments need euphemism and sinew-stiffening<注15> spin to persuade their people to put up with the waste of war.

  The first shot of this war was fired at a target of opportunity<注16> believed by the CIA to be President Saddam Hussein and his sons in a bunker. This new jargon stands an old euphemism on its head. A target of opportunity originally meant random bombing. It was the common instruction to bomber crews in the Second World War who might fail to reach their assigned targets, but had to jettison<注17> their loads in order to get home and land with safety. For example, Len Deighton, Goodbye Mickey Mouse: they bombed targets of opportunity.. shutting your eyes, toggling<注18> the bombload, gaining height, and getting the hell out. You dropped your bombs at the first opportunity, irrespective of \where\ they landed. The phrase's new meaning is directly to target a tantalising<注19> opportunity that has arisen unexpectedly. Go get Saddam and his sons skulking<注20> in the southern suburbs of Baghdad. decapitate<注21> the regime.

  Nicknames for deadly weapons and WMDs (weapons of mass destruction) make them sound less terrible. Cruise, Scud, Tiny Tim, Honest John, Bloodhound, Hound-dog, Davy Crockett, Exocet (French for flying-fish)<注22>. In the modern wars of words, explicit names can be used to terrify: bunker-buster<注23>, microwave bomb, Tomahawk cruise missile<注24>. Or to make sinister acronyms: Moab (massive ordnance air blast bomb)<注25>. moab is my washpot: over Edom<注26> will I cast out my Scud. There is a taboo on naming nuclear weapons rather than high explosives. Nancy Mitford: the French say they will soon have a Bomb. The euphemisms for nuclear weapons are the ultimate deterrent<注27> or, as the French put it, l'agent de dissuasion。?

  Londoners euphemised the German flying bombs by ridiculing them as Doodlebugs<注28>. Panorama, on BBC television, revived the old euphemism by nicknaming the cruise missile as the Doomsday Doodlebug<注29>. Such a weapon, it was stated, has ten times the power of devastation as that of the atom bomb dropped on Hiroshima. It can travel thousands of miles with remarkable accuracy. And it can be mass-produced. An American contributor, asked what effect such a weapon would have if dropped on London, won the rhubarb garland<注30> for euphemism: it would ruin someone's day.?

  traction is the euphemism for canvassing for votes<注31> at the UN, among the U6 (undecided six) or the P5 (permanent five) members of the Security Council. An agent can be a taboo subject. Chemical warfare agent is a noxious<注32> poison. Surgical strikes<注33> can be far from precise. To take out a city is to blast it to destruction. To retreat is to retire to prepared positions.?

  Euphemism is as old as war. Homer's dying heroes bite the dust<注34>. The leader of the Britons against the task force of invading Romans said: they create a desert and call it peace.<注35>Euphemism, from the Greek, means speaking politely? Examples are the Euxine, friendly to voyagers (ie, dangerous), and the Eumenides<注36>, the kindly ones a name which might please those grim spirits<注37>, imagined as winged-like bats and with snaky hair, and even pacify them. We create euphemisms to substitute a descriptive adjective for the name of something too alarming to be mentioned. Our ancestors were so frightened that they refused to utter the real name of the bear, and called him the brown one ?German Bar and English bear.

  Punch Njab<注38> is the latest jargon of the war of words. It behoves us<注39> to listen carefully to the cluster bombs<注40> of language that explode around us. Behove is a very rare beast. Some say that it is extinct.

  1. collateral:附带的,伴随的。

  2. cluster:串,束,簇。

  3. euphemism:委婉说法。

  4.collateral damage:附带的损伤,此处为“平民伤亡”的委婉说法。

  5. "shock and awe":“震慑”,美军对巴格达进行的最大规模轰炸的军事行动的名称。

  6. dispel:驱散。

  7. jargon: (同一职业集团或社会集团所使用因而在一般外人听来晦涩难懂的)行话,黑话。

  8. sedate:使……镇静。

  9. totalitarian:极权主义的。

  10. liquidation:清洗。

  11. infantry:步兵(部队)。

  12. kit: [军](士兵武器以外的)装备。

  13. subaltern: <英>陆军中尉。

  14. galloping dispatch riders:快马飞驰的通讯员。

  15. sinew-stiffening:鼓舞士气的,加强力量的。

  16."a target of opportunity":美英联军在此次对伊拉克的作战中所谓的针对伊拉克高层的打击目标。

  17. jettison: (故意不按指定目标)扔下(炸弹)等。

  18. toggle:用拨动式开关从飞机上投(炸弹)。

  19. tantalising:逗引的,惹弄的。

  20. skulk:躲藏,隐伏。

  21. decapitate:将……斩首。

  22. Scud:飞毛腿导弹;tiny Tim:“小不点”导弹;Honest John:一种地对地战术火箭;bloodhound:“大猎犬”导弹;hound-dog:“猎狗”导弹;Davy Crockett:一种导弹名;exocet:飞鱼导弹。

  23. bunker-buster:一种专门打击地堡的巨型炸弹。

  24. Tomahawk cruise missile:战斧式巡航导弹。

  25. moab:首字母缩写词,指重型空爆炸弹;ordnance:火炮。Moab又与《圣经-创世记》中Lot之子摩押的名字相同。

  26. Edom:以东,《圣经》中雅各之兄;同时又是位于死海之南的一个古代王国的名称。政治家惯用一些牵强附会的典故来掩盖战争的残酷或非正义性。

  27. deterrent:威慑。

  28. Doodlebug:嗡嗡弹,指德国在第二次世界大战中使用的“V”型飞弹。

  29. the Doomsday Doodlebug:末日嗡嗡弹。

  30. rhubarb garland:由大黄制作的花环(指价值不高的荣誉)。

  31. canvass for votes:拉选票。

  32. noxious:有害的。

  33. surgical strikes:[军]外科手术式打击(指迅速而准确的袭击,尤指空袭)。

  34. bite the dust:“(战斗中)受伤倒下或死亡”的委婉说法。

  35. Briton:布立吞人,(古代不列颠岛南部的凯尔特居民);task force:[军]特遣部队,特混舰队。公元84年,入侵不列颠的罗马人与当地的凯尔特人之间爆发了Mons Graupius战役,当时的凯尔特人领袖Calgacus在战前说了这番话。这部分史实在古罗马历史学家塔西佗所著《历史》中有所记载。

  36. Eumenides:[希神]欧墨尼得斯,即复仇三女神。

  37. grim spirits:阴森的鬼神。

  38. Punch 'n' jab:用拳猛击,这里指用重武器猛烈打击。

  39. It behoves us:我们有必要(应当)。

  40.cluster bomb:榴霰弹,子母弹。



  “9.11”后美国军方用得最多的词是“Anti-terrorism”和“pre-emptive strikes”。Pre-emptive strike(先发制人的攻击)给人的印象是,必须先攻击敌方以便制止其进攻,因此在道义上是无可厚非的,于是澳大利亚也随声附和,引来东南亚国家的一片抗议。最近,美国已经决定建立所谓的“Pre-emptive strikes Brigade”,扬言要在恐怖主义分子发动袭击前就把他们消灭。但人们注意到,“恐怖主义”已逐渐与“民族解放”混为一谈,“pre-emptive strikes”的目标已转向了“消除异己”。看来,美国军界的“euphemism”充满着“猫腻”。

  3月20日美国向伊拉克开战那天,美国五角大楼(Pentagon)发言人说“We attacked a target of opportunity”。我注意到,当时CNN的主持人迷惑不解,马上连线请教其驻美国国防部的记者,几番询问后,才搞清“a target of opportunity”原来是“a target of the Iraqi leadership”的意思,即中国的古话,“擒贼先擒王”。在此次美伊冲突中,类似话语可谓漫天飞。当然,它们主要出自咄咄逼人的进攻一方——美方。现举例说明:

  美国总统布什在开战前承认未找到萨达姆的“smoking gun”,指掌握确凿的证据,即找到伊拉克窝藏大规模杀伤性武器的确切地点;“smoke them out”,“把敌人从洞里熏出来”,其实是要把敌人炸死在地堡里;“ship of mercy”,指停泊在海湾周边海域、用作战地医院的船只;“traction”,“拉选票”,20世纪初开始的美国“金元外交”又一次开足马力,但此次在联合国却碰了一鼻子灰,没“买”到以联合国的名义向伊拉克开战的“许可证”;“moment of truth”,“动真格的时刻”,即向伊拉克动武的时候到了;“phasing out the roadmap of middle-east peace process”,“制订中东地区和平路线图”,美国人在攻打伊拉克之前为了安抚阿拉伯世界,就抛出了和平的诱饵(但美国人对中东的和平许诺似乎从未兑现过),此类伎俩恰如President Wilson动员美国人民参加一战时宣称的“fighting a war to end all wars”,同时也应验了一位法国外交家所言,谁把“和平”两字喊得震天响,谁就很可能在准备战争;“Iraqi Freedom”,这是本次美英联军对伊行动的代号(上次为Desert Storm);一次明目张胆赤裸裸的入侵(aggression)居然像得到了伊拉克人的邀请,硬把“occupation”偷换成“liberation”,看来布什的演讲撰稿人这几个月会频频加薪;“friendly fire”,指自己人或友军之间的误伤(来自伊拉克的火力叫“hostile fire”),两次海湾战争中,美国的主要盟友英国可谓倒霉透顶,飞机、装甲车屡屡被美军击中,先后总共“壮志未酬身先死”了的有好几十名;“pocket of resistance”,“零星抵抗”,在战争报道中很有意思,中国官方新闻报道说有激烈战斗的地方,美军发言人一般称为“零星抵抗”,不知是我们喜用“overstatement”,还是美国人也学会英国绅士惯用的“understatement”了;“collateral damage”,“附带的损伤”,即“civilian casualties”,其实,在战争中平民的伤亡并不只是“附带的损伤”,常常是入侵方予以故意攻击意在造成敌国民众“shock and awe”的心理战,当然这往往“死无对证”,最终只有战胜一方才有资格设军事法庭判战败方为“war criminals”或“criminals of anti-humanity”,“胜者为王,败者为寇”亘古未变;“action of decapitation”,“斩首行动”,指大规模轰炸伊拉克的政府机构,以推翻其政府、扶持自己的傀儡——其实这才是美国此次军事进攻的首要目的。


  其实,以上的表达法是各种语言里很常用的辞格。有一本关于写作的书说它是“the substitution of a mild or vague expression for a harsh or unpleasant one”。英国作家John Galsworthy有一句很精辟的话,“In private I should merely call him a liar. In the Press you should use the words:‘Reckless disregard for truth’and in Parliament ?that you regret he‘should have been so misinformed?...”其实,不管是“不顾事实真相”还是“消息错误到令人深感遗憾”,都逃不脱这个人在撒谎的事实!十七世纪法国沙龙那些贵夫人的“优雅语言”也是这样拐弯抹角、不敢正视现实的。如她们认为直说“眼睛”、“拿扇子来”、“裤子”太粗俗,非要改口称它们为“心灵的镜子”、“把我的和风拿来”、“服装的较低部分”。莫里哀在《可笑的女才子》这出戏里对此有辛辣的讽刺。

  同样那本关于写作的书还根据讲话人的身份将euphemism予以分类,并给出了价值判断:“It is obvious that those euphemisms used by the ordinary people are meant to soften harsh reality, but those used by politicians may aim at deceiving the public”。如对照本次战争,显然此言极是!一个拥有世界上绝大多数WMD(大规模杀伤性武器)的国家,因为一个他看不顺眼的人家里备有几把卷了刃的菜刀,就一意孤行非要打一场“shock and awe”的战争,还要让其国人以及世人“有人的出人,有钱的出钱”,高奏凯歌为其壮行,他除了厚着脸皮用大量的“euphemism”来“clouds the truth and sedates the imagination”外,确实少有其他的招数了。至于本次战争是丰富了英语语言还是糟蹋了她,社会语言学家自然会有自己的判断。

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