又中又英——burn the midnight oil

  Early to bed, early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise. This proverb means people who sleep early and wake up early will be healthy, making them successful in life. Nowadays, some consider it politically incorrect to say “man”, preferring “person” instead. My own view is we should not change old proverbs just to be politically correct. Changing proverbs is like tampering (interfering) with history and tradition. In today’s very busy world, the saying “early to bed, early to rise” has lost its meaning. Even school-age children go to bed late playing with mobile phones but must wake up early for school.

  This makes them groggy. The word “groggy” used this way means weak or unable to concentrate from lack of sleep. Nowadays, many adults who have jobs burn the midnight oil instead of following the proverb “early to bed, early to rise”. I often use the expression “burn the midnight oil” and heard it recently while watching a Netflix movie. To “burn the midnight oil” means to work late into the night. The expression originated long ago when people had to use an oil lamp or candle because there was no electricity. I think “early to bed, early to rise” is good advice but was hard to follow for me when I had TV shows and columns.

  I always had to burn the midnight oil writing my columns and preparing for my TV shows. I even fell asleep many times while burning the midnight oil writing columns and drinking wine! Now that I have resigned from my TV shows and newspaper columns except for Headline Daily, I should follow the proverb “early to bed, early to rise” but I don’t. I have become “late to bed, late to rise” because every evening I watch Netflix, then read novels late into the night. Even though I am late to rise, I still feel groggy when I wake up. But hiking in country parks makes me feel better.

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  Early to bed, early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise. 這句諺語的意思是,早睡早起的人,會更健康、富裕和聰明,人生會更成功。今時今日,一些人認為說“man”是政治不正確的,情願用“person”來泛指「人」。我的看法是,我們不應單單為了政治正確而去改變古老的諺語。刻意去修改諺語就似在竄改(tampering)歷史與傳統。在今天如此繁忙的世界中,早睡早起(“early to bed, early to rise”)這個說法難免失去了意義。就連那些因為玩手機而晚睡的學齡兒童,也必須早早起牀上學。

  這就會令他們groggy—— groggy在這裏是指因為睡眠不足而變得昏昏沉沉,難以集中精神。今時今日,亦有許多需要工作的成年人要「開夜車」(burn the midnight oil),而非像諺語“early to bed, early to rise”般早睡早起。我不時會用到“burn the midnight oil”這個習語,最近看一齣Netflix的電影時也有聽到。To “burn the midnight oil”即挑燈夜戰、捱更抵夜工作。這個習語源自很久以前,當時還沒有電力,人們要用油燈又或蠟燭之時。我認為早睡早起“early to bed, early to rise”是個好建議,但當我還有電視節目和寫專欄等工作時,就較難以遵從。

  我以往為了寫專欄和預備電視節目,常要熬夜工作(burn the midnight oil)。我甚至試過多番在開夜車(burn the midnight oil)寫專欄和喝酒之際睡着了!現在除了《頭條日報》的專欄,我已經辭去了電視節目和報章專欄的工作,我好應遵從早睡早起“early to bed, early to rise”這個諺語,可是卻沒有。我已經變成晚睡睌起(“late to bed, late to rise”),因為每一晚我也在看Netflix,然後讀小說至夜深。即使我已經很晚起牀(late to rise),睡醒後卻仍然感到昏沉無力(groggy)。不過,到郊野公園遠足令我感覺好多了。

中譯:七刻

Michael Chugani 褚簡寧


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