「虎」學英語——食言不是eat the words

  中美貿易戰出現突變,雖然談判未致破裂,但關稅戰已明顯升級,雙方距離達成協議的日子更加遙遠。美方率先指責中方食言在先,自己變臉在後,總之談判觸礁的責任不在美方,但實情是否如此,只要細看美方所用的詞彙,便可露出端倪。

  根據外電報道,特朗普指責中方破壞協議,故此要先發制人宣佈向總值二千億美元中國貨品提高關稅至百分之二十五—US President Donald Trump was surprised by what he saw as China’s attempt to renege on an emerging trade deal and increased tariffs on US$200 billion from 10 percent to 25 percent.

                   Renege這動詞不常用,但極富嚴肅性,有食言甚至破壞協議的意思。中方談判代表劉鶴當然否認違反協議的指控,因為中美貿易談判仍在討價還價階段,一日未有簽協議,草擬合約文本工作上難免有反覆,所以破壞協議之說肯定不正確,按照已知的情況分析,充其量只能用backtrack一詞形容中方今次的最新談判態度,大概是收回原先立場的意思。

  顯然,renege是一個極強烈的字眼,backtrack則溫和得多—Both words mean going back on one’s word, but the former is considerably stronger, suggesting a serious breakdown of trust on the part of one party. It points to a deal that was already made being broken. Backtracking, on the other hand, sounds less severe- you might backtrack just one or two steps, without jeopardizing the entire agreement.

  無錯,要形容別人食言,英文最好用backtrack或break the promise,不少人犯上錯誤將英文eat one’s words作為食言的意思理解。

  其實,eat one’s words是指承認錯誤,eating your own words means admitting what you said was wrong,舉一例,I said Steve would never succeed in exams, but he got incredibly high marks in IB exam and I had to eat my own words,我曾經講過Steve不可能考試取得成功,但他在IB試中取得極佳成績,我必須承認我看錯人。

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《英文虎報》The Standard總編輯

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