又中又英——chumocracy

  Many English words end with “cracy” but they all have different meanings. I came across one such word in The Guardian, a liberal newspaper in Britain. It used the word “chumocracy”. I don’t recall using this word before although I know what it means. It is a rude word to describe a government that only appoints friends, people from the same background, or people who went to the same schools to become senior government officials. The Guardian used “chumocracy” in an investigative news report that revealed a man with connections to Britain’s health secretary received a contract to produce millions of medical vials (small bottles) for coronavirus test kits even though he had no experience in medical supplies. The investigation also found the government had given contracts to Conservative Party-linked firms.

  The Conservative Party is now in power. That’s why The Guardian described such contracts as “chumocracy”. Unlike other words that end with “cracy”, “chumocracy” is an informal word. It comes from the word “chum”, which means a close friend. A more formal word for “chumocracy” is “cronyism”, which means appointing friends or family members to positions of power instead of appointing independent people who have the necessary experience and skills. The word   “cracy” describes a particular form of government, rule, or influence. The most common word that ends with “cracy” is democracy, a word often used in Hong Kong. The word “autocracy” is the opposite of democracy.

  It means dictatorship or totalitarianism. Both words mean a government having total power over the people. The word “meritocracy” means a government by the people with the most ability. It comes from the word “merit”, which has several meanings. But when used in the word “meritocracy”, it means having the quality of being particularly good, so as to deserve praise. Since colonial times, the Hong Kong government has always said it uses meritocracy to promote civil servants. But many people now no longer believe the government uses meritocracy to promote senior government officials.

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  許多英語以“cracy”作尾,但它們全都有不同的意思。我最近就在自由派報章《衞報》上遇到這樣一個字——它用了“chumocracy”一字。雖然我知道這字何解,但想不起我可有用過這個字。它是一個粗鄙的字,用來形容一個政府用人唯親,只會委任自己的朋友、同一背景的人,又或同一學校出身的校友,去擔任政府高官。《衞報》在一則調查報道中用上“chumocracy”,該報道揭發了一個與英國衞生大臣有關係的人,即使他在醫療用品領域上毫無經驗,卻仍獲取合約,去提供數以百萬計用來做新冠病毒測試套件的醫用瓶(vials)。調查亦發現,政府批了合約給一些與保守黨有關連的公司。

  現時英國是由保守黨執政。因此《衞報》形容這樣批出合約是「自己友主義」(“chumocracy”)。不像其他以“cracy”作尾的字,“chumocracy”並非一個正統的字。它來自“chum”一字,即好友、老友。要說“chumocracy”的意思,較正式的字是“cronyism”,即任人唯親,只委任親朋好友去擔任要職,而非委任擁有必要的經驗和技能的獨立人士。包含“cracy”的字也會用來形容政府、政權或某一勢力的特定形態,最常見以“cracy”作尾的字是democracy(民主),是香港常用的字。“Autocracy”則是 democracy 的相反。

  “Autocracy”是指 dictatorship或totalitarianism,它們都解作獨裁、專政、極權主義。“Meritocracy”則是指由精英領導政府。它來自“merit”一字,它有幾個意思,但在“meritocracy”一字裏,它是指特別好的、有專長的,因而配得榮譽的。自殖民時期起,香港政府便常說它晉升公務員是選賢任能的精英政治(meritocracy);但現在許多人都不再相信政府提拔政府高官時是任人唯才(meritocracy)了。中譯:七刻



Michael Chugani 褚簡寧


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