又中又英——“long laundry list”

  Some months ago I explained the expression “bucket list”. Many people from the West have a “bucket list”. I have one too. The expression means a list of things people want to do during their lifetime, or before they die. There is a 2007 movie called The Bucket List about two very ill men who wanted to do a list of things before they “kicked the bucket”, which means to die. Last week, Republican US Congressman Kevin McCarthy used another expression with the word “list”. He criticized President Joe Biden’s US$1.9 trillion plan to help businesses, people, and the economy badly affected by the coronavirus pandemic. The plan was passed last week by the US Congress, which is now controlled by the Democrats.

  Congressman McCarthy said instead of helping people badly affected by the pandemic, the highly-expensive plan was a “long laundry list” of left-wing priorities which have nothing to do with the pandemic. Other Republicans criticized the plan as a socialist agenda by Democrats. The expression “laundry list” simply means a very long list of things or people. People who like to complain have a long laundry list of their complaints. You can have a laundry list of rich or famous people. Senior Hong Kong officials are not good at using speeches to inspire people. Their speeches are usually a laundry list of things they say the government has done.

  It is not clear how this expression originated. Some people say a laundry list is an actual list of clothes some laundry shops make so they don’t mix up the clothes of different customers. Others say laundry shops make a laundry list to separate dark-coloured or dyed clothes from light-coloured clothes. I hate going to the supermarket because Hong Kong supermarkets are often crowded and the aisles are very narrow. I usually go just once a week. That’s why I keep a laundry list in my mobile of the things I need to buy when I go.

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  幾個月前,我解釋過“bucket list”這個習語。西方有許多人都有一張“bucket list”,我也有一張。這個習語的意思是人在一生中又或死前想要完成的願望清單。二〇〇七年就有一套電影叫《The Bucket List》(港譯《玩轉身前事》),講述兩個病重的男人,在他們“kicked the bucket”,即「兩腳一伸」之前,想做的一系列的事。上星期,美國共和黨眾議員凱文‧麥卡錫就用了另一個有「list」字的習語。他批評總統拜登為了援助受新冠肺炎疫情嚴重打擊的商戶、市民以及經濟,而推出的一萬九千億美元紓困方案。此方案上星期在美國眾議院獲得通過,現時眾議院為民主黨佔多數。

  眾議員麥卡錫指,這高昂的方案與其說是援助受疫情嚴重影響的人,不如說是左翼優先的「冗長洗衣單」(“long laundry list”),對抗疫起不到任何作用。其他共和黨人也批評這方案是民主黨人的社會主義議程。習語「laundry list」簡單來說就是一張冗長的細項或人物清單。喜歡投訴的人,會羅列出一張長長的投訴清單(laundry list);要細數富豪或名人,你也可得出一張長長的清單(laundry list)。香港高官並不擅長用演講去鼓舞人心,他們的演辭通常都是一張冗長的清單(laundry list),細數他們口中政府曾經做過的事。

  這個習語的由來並不清楚,有些人說a laundry list真的是一些洗衣店所列出的洗衣單,好讓他們不會混淆不同顧客的衣物;另一些人則說,洗衣店會列出一張洗衣單(laundry list),去分隔深色、染色的衣物與淺色的衣物。我討厭去超市,因為香港的超市通常都是很擠逼的,通道亦非常狹窄。我通常一星期才去一趟,因此我手機裏會有一張購物清單(laundry list),列出我去超市時需要買的東西。中譯:七刻

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Michael Chugani 褚簡寧


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