A few weeks ago, I boiled an egg to make an egg and tomato sandwich for lunch. There was a foul smell when I removed the egg shell. I knew immediately it was a rotten egg and threw it into my kitchen trash (rubbish) bag. A few days later I noticed a hole in an apple for my breakfast. I cut away the hole and realized it was caused by a worm. It was a rotten apple. I threw that away too. I was reminded of these two incidents after I read an interview security secretary John Lee Ka-chiu gave to a state-run newspaper. The expression “state-run” when used to describe the media means newspapers and TV stations controlled by the central government.
Lee Ka-chiu claimed there are bad apples in Hong Kong’s teaching profession who radicalize students. The expression “bad apples” used this way means dishonest people or troublemakers who can have a bad influence on others. The expression “rotten apple” has the same meaning. They both can mean an apple with a worm inside or a bad person who can influence others. The expression “bad egg” has the same meaning as “rotten egg”. When used to describe an egg, it means the egg has become rotten and no longer edible. But when used to describe a person the expressions “bad egg” and “rotten egg” have the same meaning as “bad apple” and “rotten apple”.
The expression “black sheep” has a similar but not exactly the same meaning as a “bad apple” or “rotten egg” when used to describe a person. This expression normally applies to a person in a family. If someone does something bad or brings embarrassment to the family, that person is the black sheep of the family. The expression originated from the fact that sheep are usually white but there are black sheep in rare cases. Many of my friends said the real bad apples are in the government, not the teaching profession. Some said it jokingly. But others meant what they said. They criticized Lee Ka-chiu for insulting the teaching profession.
幾個星期前，我煮了一隻蛋，去弄番茄蛋三文治做午餐。當我剝開蛋殼的時候，有一股發臭的氣味。我立即知道那是一隻壞了的蛋（rotten egg），就丟進廚房的垃圾（trash）袋裏去了。幾天後，我早餐吃蘋果時，留意到蘋果有一個小窿。我切開了那個窿，意識到那是因為蟲蛀而成的。那是一個腐爛了的蘋果（rotten apple），我又把它丟掉了。當我讀到保安局局長李家超接受官方（state-run）報紙訪問後，就想起這兩件事來。習語“state-run”用來形容傳媒時，是指受中央政府控制的報章和電視台。
李家超聲稱，在香港的教育界裏有bad apples，令學生變得更激進。習語“bad apples”在這裏是指不誠實或惹麻煩，會給他人帶來壞影響的人。習語“rotten apple”也是同一意思。這兩個詞同樣可以指有蛀蟲的蘋果，又或害群之馬。習語“bad egg”就跟“rotten egg”的意思一樣，用來形容一隻蛋時，它是指雞蛋已經壞了，不能再吃了；但當用來形容人的時候，習語“bad egg”和“rotten egg”就跟“bad apple”和“rotten apple”的意思一樣。
用習語“black sheep”來形容人的時候，就跟“bad apple”或“rotten egg”有着相近但不完全一樣的意思。這個習語通常是用來說家族中的一員——若某人做了一些壞事，又或令家族蒙羞，那敗類就是家族中的black sheep。此習語是源於一個事實：羊通常都是白色的，但在罕有的情況下，亦會有黑羊（black sheep）。我的很多朋友說，真正的害群之馬（bad apples）其實並非在教育界而是在政府內。一些朋友是開玩笑地說；但另一些朋友卻是實話實說，他們批評李家超出言侮辱教育界。
Michael Chugani 褚簡寧