又中又英——“mistaken”or“mistakened”?

  As I have said before, the English language, like other languages, is constantly evolving (changing, developing). The Oxford Dictionary added over 1,000 new words to its dictionary earlier this year, including the word “hangry”, which means getting angry or bad-tempered because of hunger. The way Hong Kong people speak Cantonese is also evolving. Hong Kong people are constantly creating new slang words which they use during daily conversations or on social media. I used the word “mistaken” in a recent column. A reader emailed to say I had made an error because the correct word should be “mistakened”.

  Actually, I did not make an error. There is no such word as “mistakened”. The correct word is “mistaken”, which means being wrong in understanding something. But many people nowadays use “mistakened” instead of “mistaken” on social media because they wrongly believe they should add “ed” to make it more like a past tense word. Nothing can be done about this error because the English language is always evolving. But it is unlikely the Oxford Dictionary will include it as a new word because it is not really a new word. It is an old word incorrectly spelled by social media users.

  Another reader emailed to say I made a mistake when I said “grammar mistake” in a previous column. The reader pointed out that I should have said “grammatical mistake” or “a mistake in grammar”. It is true that “grammatical mistake” is more widely used than “grammar mistake”. But as I have said numerous times before, English is an evolving language. There is nothing wrong with saying “grammar mistake”. A quick search of the internet will show both are acceptable. The reader who emailed me is not a native English speaker. Many Hong Kong people treat grammar as a science instead of part of a language. Native English speakers will see nothing wrong with either “grammar mistake” or “grammatical mistake”. If you say “he’s no hero”, people who treat grammar as a science will say it should be “he’s not a hero”. But native English speakers always say “he’s no hero” instead of “he’s not a hero”.

  正如我之前說過,英語像其他語言一樣,都是在不斷的演化中(evolving)。《牛津字典》今年稍早的時候加了超過一千個新字進字典中,包括新字「hangry」,意思就是因為饑餓而發怒或發脾氣。香港人說廣東話的方式也在演變中(evolving)。香港人持續不斷地創造新的俚語,在日常會話或社交媒體上使用。我在最近一篇專欄中用到「mistaken」一字,一位讀者傳電郵來說我寫錯了,因為正確的字應是「mistakened」。

  事實上,我並沒有寫錯字,因為根本就沒有「mistakened」這個字,正確的字是「mistaken」,意即弄錯了或誤解了某事。然而,現在許多人在社交媒體上用「mistakened」而非「mistaken」,因為他們錯誤以為他們應該要加上「ed」,去令它更像個過去式的字。對於這種錯誤我們也拿它沒法,因為英語總是在演變中(evolving)。不過,《牛津字典》就不太可能會收錄它為新字了,因為它不能算是個新字,只是社交媒體使用者串錯一個舊字罷了。

  另一個讀者電郵我說,在之前一篇專欄中,我說「grammar mistake」(文法錯誤)時也寫錯了,那位讀者指出我應該寫做「grammatical mistake」或「a mistake in grammar」。確實,「grammatical mistake」比「grammar mistake」更被廣泛使用,然而正如我說過多遍,英語是個演化中(evolving)的語言。說「grammar mistake」也不是錯的,上網快速搜尋,亦會顯示兩者皆可。電郵我的讀者並非以英語為母語的人。許多香港人將文法視為科學,而非語言的一部份。無論「grammar mistake」抑或「grammatical mistake」,以母語為英語的人也不會視之為錯。若你說「he's no hero」(「他不是英雄」),那些將文法視為科學的人便會說,那句句子應是「he's not a hero」;可是,以英語為母語者,常常會說「he's no hero」而非「he's not a hero」。

mickchug@gmail.com

中譯:七刻

Michael Chugani 褚簡寧

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