One of US President Donald Trump's favourite slang expressions is "taken to the cleaners". He used this again last week during an interview with the Fox Business channel. He often also uses the slang word "sleazebag". He used this slang word again last week during a press briefing. Both are used mostly by Americans. That's why I seldom hear people in Hong Kong use them. Trump often uses "taken to the cleaners" when he criticizes the China policies of his predecessors, particularly Barack Obama. He likes to say his predecessors allowed China to take the US to the cleaners. The word "clean" can be used in numerous ways. The most common meaning is to describe something as not dirty.
But the word "cleaners" in this American slang expression does not describe people who clean things, such as street cleaners. If you had been "taken to the cleaners" it means someone had taken a lot of money or advantage from you, mostly in a dishonest way. When Trump says the US was "taken to the cleaners" by China, he means China made a lot of money from the US in an unfair way. He blames Obama and his other predecessors for supporting policies that allowed China to sell a lot of goods to the US without buying a lot of goods from the US. That’s why the US has an annual trade deficit with China of about US$500 billion.
That is the reason he says China has taken the US to the cleaners because he believes China has taken a lot of money from the US through unfair trade policies. Last week he also said people at the FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) were sleazebags for accusing Michael Flynn, one of his former advisors, of colluding with the Russians. A "sleazebag" (or sleazeball) is a person who is dishonest or has no moral standards. Many Americans say Trump himself is a sleazebag. Free speech in the US allows that. But people in China would get in trouble if they said Xi Jinping is a sleazebag.
美國總統特朗普其中一個最喜歡用的俚語是“taken to the cleaners”，他上星期接受霍士商業頻道訪問時，又再用到這個習語。他也常用俚語“sleazebag”，他上星期在新聞簡佈會上又再用到這個俚語。這兩個俚語多為美國人所用，因此我鮮有聽過在香港的人會用到。特朗普要批評他的前任，尤其是巴拉克‧奧巴馬的中國政策時，就常用到“taken to the cleaners”。他喜歡說他的前任總統都容許中國take the US to the cleaners。Clean一字可以有多重用法，最普遍的意思是形容某物乾淨。
然而，在這美式俚語中的“cleaners”，並不是形容那些清潔（clean）物品的工人，例如清道夫（street cleaners）。若你已給 “taken to the cleaners”，意即有人大撈你一筆，又或佔你便宜，通常是透過欺騙的手法。當特朗普說，美國被中國“taken to the cleaners”，他的意思是中國以不平等的手法從美國那裏大撈一筆。他責怪奧巴馬及其他前任總統，支持諸多政策讓中國向美國出售大量貨品，卻又不用中國向美國購買大量貨品。因此，美國對中國的年度貿易逆差約有五千億美元。因此，他說中國已taken the US to the cleaners，因為他相信中國透過不平等貿易政策，撈取了美國許多的錢。上星期他又說，聯邦調查局指控他的前顧問邁克‧弗林勾結俄羅斯，局方的人都是 sleazebags。A“sleazebag”（或sleazeball）是指卑鄙小人、無恥之徒。許多美國人都說特朗普他自己就是個sleazebag。美國的言論自由容許人們這樣說。但如果在中國的人說習近平是個sleazebag，那他們的麻煩就大了。中譯：七刻
Michael Chugani 褚簡寧