又中又英——Racking My Brain

  Many people have asked me if there is an English equivalent of the Chinese expression 攬炒, which protesters used during the anti-extradition bill protests. It is a Cantonese expression. I have never heard Mandarin speakers use it. But several mainland officials stationed in Hong Kong, including the director of the liaison office, used it last week to say Hong Kong people should oppose the use of such an expression. I racked my brain to think of an exact English equivalent of this expression. There is none. It is quintessential of Cantonese slang words. Roughly translated, it means “if we burn, you burn with us”. This quote is from the hit movie The Hunger Games.

  Hong Kong’s young protesters used this quote to warn the government and mainland China that if they used force to destroy the protest movement, protesters would use force to destroy Hong Kong. Protesters eventually replaced “if we burn, you burn with us” with 攬炒. Mainland officials last week condemned Hong Kong’s protest movement for using this threatening expression. The expression “rack my brain” means to think very hard. Some people say “rack my brains”. Some people also use “wrack” instead of “rack”. Both are acceptable. The word “quintessential” means a typical or perfect example of something. The expression 攬炒 is a typical example of a Cantonese slang word.

  After racking my brain, I thought of mutually assured destruction. This expression was used during the Cold War between the US and the former Soviet Union. It means if one side uses nuclear weapons, the other side will use them too and both sides will be destroyed. The expression “If I go down, I am taking you with me” has a similar meaning. The expression “go down” used this way means to die or to be defeated. There are many Cantonese slang expressions that don’t have English equivalents. Hong Kong’s young people have invented many quintessential Cantonese slang expressions. I think the young people here are very imaginative and clever.

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  許多人曾問我,在反修例示威期間示威者常用的中文俗語「攬炒」,是否有一個相對應的英文詞彙。它是一個廣東話俗語,我從未聽過有說普通話的人說過。然而,幾個駐港的內地官員,包括中聯辦主任,上星期就用到它,說香港人應該反對用這樣的俗語。我絞盡腦汁(racked my brain),試着去想想這個俗語的準確英文對應詞,結果是沒有的。它是典型的(quintessential)廣東話俗語。要粗略翻譯的話,它的意思是“if we burn, you burn with us”(「若要燒死我們,你亦要同葬火海」)——這是大熱電影《飢餓遊戲》的一句對白。

  香港的年輕示威者引用這句話去警告政府和中國內地,若他們以武力去破壞示威運動,示威者也會用武力去破壞香港。示威者最終以「攬炒」一詞去取代“if we burn, you burn with us”。內地官員上星期譴責香港的示威運動用上這等威脅性的字眼。習語“rack my brain”意即絞盡腦汁。有些人會說“rack my brains”,有些人則會用“wrack”而非“rack”,兩者都是可接受的。Quintessential意即某物的典型或絕佳例子。習語「攬炒」就是廣東話俚語的一個典型例子。

  我搜腸刮肚(racking my brain)之後,再想到mutually assured destruction。這個習語是於美國與前蘇聯之間的冷戰時期所用的。它的意思是,若一方用上核武,另一方也會用核武,那雙方都會被摧毁。習語“If I go down, I am taking you with me”也有類似的意思。習語“go down”在這裹的意思是死亡或被擊敗。有許多廣東話俚語說法都是沒有英語對應詞的。香港的年輕人也發明了許多典型的(quintessential)廣東話俚語。我認為這個地方的年輕人都是非常有想像力和聰明。mickchug@gmail.com 中譯:七刻

Michael Chugani 褚簡寧


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