又中又英——no nip in the air

   It is already late October but there is still no nip in the air. I like it when there is a nip in the air, but it is arriving much later than normal in recent years. The word “nip” has several meanings and can be used in several different expressions. If a dog quickly bites you hard in the leg, you can say the dog nipped you in the leg. In British English, the word “nip” also means to go somewhere quickly for a short time. For example, you can say you nipped to the supermarket to buy bread. In American English, the word “nip” can mean to steal something. You can say you saw a customer nip a spoon from a restaurant. The word “nip” is also an insulting word to describe Japanese people.

If there is a nip in the air, it means the air outside is quite cold. When I was growing up in Hong Kong I often felt a nip in the air by late September during the morning and evening. But climate change has affected weather patterns in recent years, including global warming. That’s why there is no nip in the air even though it’s late October. Weather experts have warned Hong Kong will gradually have no more autumn (fall in American English). This is a tragedy because autumn is the best time of year in Hong Kong. I love to roam the country parks in autumn but it’s too hot to do that nowadays. To roam means to walk or travel with no particular destination or direction.

 Another expression that uses the word “nip” is “nip in the bud”. This means to destroy something at an early stage, or before it can grow bigger. For example, the government tried to nip in the bud violent protests but failed. The protests have grown more violent. Hong Kong is still Asia’s top city but cities such as Singapore and Shenzhen are nipping at our heels. The expression “nipping at one’s heels” means catching up with your competitor or to be almost as good as your competitor.

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  已經是十月下旬了,天氣卻沒有一絲寒意(no nip in the air)。我喜歡寒風刺骨(a nip in the air),但近年這種天氣都比往常要來得晚。Nip有幾個意思,也可以用在幾個不同的習語中。若一隻狗飛快地在你腳上狠狠咬了一口,你可以說那狗 nipped you in the leg。在英式英語裏,nip 一字可以解作匆匆去某處一趟,譬如你可以說,你匆匆(nipped)去一轉超市買麵包。在美式英語中,nip一字也可解作偷東西。你可以說,你見到一個顧客在餐廳偷了(nip)一隻匙羹。Nip也是對日本人的一個蔑稱。

  If there is a nip in the air,即是說外面寒氣逼人。我在香港長大,從前在九月底的早上和傍晚,已不時感到陣陣寒意(a nip in the air)。然而,近年的氣候變化,包括全球暖化,影響到天氣形態。因此即使到了十月底,仍然沒有一絲寒意(no nip in the air)。天氣專家警告,香港會逐漸沒有秋季。這是一個悲劇,因為秋天是香港最好的時份。我喜愛在秋天的時候漫步(roam),但現時實在太熱了。To roam意即漫無目的地閒逛、遊蕩或是流浪。

  另一個用到nip這個字的習語是“nip in the bud”,它的意思是消滅於萌芽之時。譬如,政府對付暴力示威,就曾嘗試消滅於萌芽時(nip in the bud)但卻失敗,示威變得更加暴力。香港仍然位列亞洲城市的首位,然而像新加坡和深圳等城市,正在緊隨我們之後(nipping at our heels)。習語 nipping at one’s heels原意是咬着對方的腳跟不放,延伸意思即是趕上你的競爭對手,又或跟你的競爭對手近乎旗鼓相當。

mickchug@gmail.com

中譯:七刻

褚簡寧


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