又中又英——“across the pond”

  Last week, while watching the news on an American TV channel, the news presenter (anchor, news reader) used a phrase most Hong Kong people won’t understand. The news anchor had just finished telling viewers about an American news item. His next news item was about the engagement of Britain’s Prince Harry and US TV star Meghan Markle. He started the news item by saying “across the pond” and then told viewers about the engagement. I am very familiar with this phrase but when I asked my Hong Kong friends if they knew the meaning of “across the pond”, they all said they did not know what it meant. This is not surprising because only people in Britain and the US use the phrase “across the pond”.

  A pond is a small area of water, which does not move or flow. It is usually man-made. Some large parks have man-made ponds. But the pond in the phrase “across the pond” means the Atlantic Ocean, which separates the coasts of the US and Britain. When the TV news presenter said “across the pond” he meant across the Atlantic Ocean in Britain. The Atlantic Ocean is the world’s second largest ocean. It is definitely not a pond!The phrase originated in Britain many years ago. It is an understatement used in a humorous (funny) way. An understatement is a statement that describes something in a way that makes it seem smaller or less important than it really is. Describing the Atlantic Ocean as a pond is an understatement.

  It is unclear why the phrase was first used. One explanation is that people in Britain consider America as their close neighbour even though the two countries are separated by a large ocean. English is the common language in both countries and they have a special relationship. When people in Britain go to the US for a holiday, they sometimes say: “I’m going across the pond for my holiday.” Some Americans also use the phrase when they travel to Britain. But far less people use the phrase nowadays.

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  上星期我正在看一個美國電視台的新聞報道,新聞報道員(presenter, anchor, news reader)用了一個大部份香港人應該都不懂的片語。新聞主播(anchor)剛向觀眾報道完一則美國新聞,而下一則新聞則是英國的哈里王子與美國電視女星梅根.馬克爾的訂婚消息。他開始的時候說了一句“across the pond”,然後才報道訂婚的新聞。我對這句短語很熟悉,但當我問一些香港朋友是否明白“across the pond”的意思時,他們都說不曉得。這也不足為奇,畢竟只有英國和美國的人才會用到“across the pond”這句短語。

  A pond就是不會流動的池塘,通常都是人工建成的。有些大的公園也有人工的池塘(ponds)。然而,在短語“across the pond”裏的pond是指分隔英倫跟美國的大西洋。當電視新聞報道員(presenter)說“across the pond”,他是指大西洋彼岸的英國。大西洋是全球第二大海洋,它當然不是一個池塘(pond)!這句短語源於多年前的英國,是幽默(humorous)手法下的一句輕描淡寫(understatement)。An understatement 是形容某事時描述得較為保守,輕描淡寫而令其變得不那麼重要。將大西洋形容為池塘(pond)就是一句understatement了。

  這句短語因何而起,無人知曉。一個解釋是,英國人認為即使二國分隔著一個大西洋,美國仍是他們的親密鄰舍,而英文又是兩個國家的共同語言,二國有着特殊的關係。英國人要去美國度假時,他們有時會說:“I’m going across the pond for my holiday.”有些美國人要去英國旅行時,也會用上這句短語。不過,現在已愈來愈少人用到這句話了。

中譯:七刻

Michael Chugani 褚簡寧


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