又中又英——“cut no ice”

  A Hong Kong friend heard an expression on TV he could not understand. He asked me to explain. I decided to explain it in a column for readers to share. The expression my friend heard was “make the cut”. There are many English expressions that use the word “cut”. The most common meaning is to use a knife or scissors to divide things into pieces, like cutting meat into small pieces. But the expression “make the cut” has a totally different meaning. It means to succeed at something, to pass from one round of a competition to the next, or to be one of those chosen from many applicants.

  If 50 people apply for 5 available jobs and you are one of those chosen, you have “made the cut”. If you win the first round in a tennis tournament and proceed to the second round, you have “made the cut”. When I was in school, my friends and I sometimes did not attend classes and played poker instead. This is called “cutting classes”. I don’t advise students to do that! Another expression with the word “cut” is “cut no ice”. This means words or excuses that fail to convince, persuade, or impress others to change their minds. If the government tells you the new national security law is good for Hong Kong but you oppose the law, you can say what the government tells you “cuts no ice” with you.

  This means you don’t believe the government or don’t buy what the government tells you. If you are with a group of people who don’t say anything because they don’t know each other very well, you can tell a joke to make people more comfortable with each other. This is called “cutting the ice” or “breaking the ice”. It is natural for people to feel nervous when they meet the parents of their girlfriends or boyfriends for the first time. Parents can “cut the ice”, or make everyone relax, by talking about their favourite restaurant.

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  我一位香港朋友從電視上聽到一個他不太明白的習語,希望我解釋一下。我決定在專欄裏解釋,好讓各位讀者可以一同了解。我朋友聽到的習語是“make the cut”。有許多英文習語都用到“cut”這個字,它最常見的意思是用刀或剪刀切割某物,例如將肉切成小件。但習語“make the cut”卻有截然不同的意思,是解作成功過關、晉級或入圍下一輪比賽,又或通過甄選,從芸芸申請人中脫穎而出。

  若有五十個人應徵五個職位,而你是其中一位成功獲選的,那你就是“made the cut”。若你在第一輪網球錦標賽中勝出,得以進入下一輪比賽,那你亦是“made the cut”。我以前在學校讀書時,有時會和朋友「走堂」去玩啤牌,這樣子曠課便叫“cutting classes”。我可不會鼓勵學生這樣做啦!“Cut”還有另一個習語“cut no ice”,它是指一些說話或藉口起不了作用,未能說服他人,或令對方改變主意。若政府跟你說,新的《國安法》對香港有利,而你卻是反對這條法律的,你便可以說,what the government tells you “cuts no ice” with you。

  這句話的意思是,你不相信政府,又或政府的說話對你並不管用。若你跟一班人在一起,他們卻不怎樣談話,因為互相不大熟絡,你便可以說個笑話令他們感到較為自在,這樣的「破冰」就叫“cutting the ice”或“breaking the ice”。人們與女友或男友的父母首次見面時難免緊張,父母便可“cut the ice”,談談他們最喜歡的餐廳,藉此緩和緊張的氣氛。

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中譯:七刻

Michael Chugani 褚簡寧


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