又中又英——can’t make head or tail of.

  There are several English expressions that only people in countries which use them know what they mean. People outside these countries usually can’t make head or tail of what the expressions are. One such expression is across the pond. It is used mostly by people in the US and Britain. People who are not Americans or British usually can’t make head or tail of the expression. Even some people in the US and Britain can’t make head or tail of it because it is not widely used. If you can’t make head or tail of something, it means you can’t understand it at all. I explained the expression “across the pond” some years ago.

  A pond is a small area of water, usually man-made. But the “pond” in “across the pond” means the Atlantic Ocean which separates the coasts of the US and Britain. The Atlantic Ocean is, of course, not a pond but the expression is used in a humorous and friendly way to show the close relationship between the US and Britain even though the two countries are geographically separated by an ocean. Last week, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison used the expression “across the ditch” when he went to New Zealand for talks with New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. The expression is similar to “across the pond” but refers to the Tasman Sea which separates Australia and New Zealand.

  Although the Tasman Sea is much smaller than the Atlantic Ocean, it is not a pond. The word “ditch” has several meanings but used this way it means the Tasman Sea. Like “across the pond”, the expression “across the ditch” emphasizes the close relationship between Australia and New Zealand. It is used mostly by people in Australia and New Zealand. When Australians travel to New Zealand, they say they are going “across the ditch” or “over the ditch”. New Zealanders say the same when they travel to Australia. Most other people can’t make head or tail of the expression.

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  有幾個英文習語,只有用它們的國家的人才會知道其意思,那些國家以外的人,通常完全搞不懂(can’t make head or tail of)那些習語。其中一個這樣的習語就是across the pond,主要是美國和英國的人在用。若非美國人或英國人,聽到這個習語通常都會摸不着頭腦(can’t make head or tail of);就連某些美國和英國的人都不大理解(can’t make head or tail of)此習語,因為它不是那麼廣泛使用。若你can’t make head or tail of something,意即你對某事一頭霧水,完全弄不懂其意思。我好些年前就曾解釋過“across the pond”這個習語。

  A pond就是一個小池塘,多是人工造成的。但“across the pond”裏的“pond”卻是指分隔美國與英國海岸的大西洋。大西洋當然不是一個小池塘(pond),但這個習語語帶幽默又親切,用來表示美國與英國的密切關係,即使在地理上兩國中間隔着個海洋。上星期,當澳洲總理史葛‧莫里森要到訪紐西蘭,跟紐西蘭總理傑辛達‧阿德恩會談時,就用上了習語“across the ditch”。這個習語跟“across the pond”大同小異,只是它所指的是分隔澳洲與紐西蘭的塔斯曼海。

  即使塔斯曼海比大西洋要小,它也不是一個池塘。“Ditch”有許多意思,但在這裏它指的是塔斯曼海。正如“across the pond”,習語“across the ditch”強調了澳洲跟紐西蘭的緊密關係,通常是澳洲和紐西蘭的人會用。當澳洲人要到紐西蘭旅遊時,便會說他們將要“across the ditch”或“over the ditch”;相反紐西蘭人要去澳洲時,也會這樣說。許多其他地方的人聽到這個習語也會一頭霧水(can’t make head or tail of)。中譯:七刻

Michael Chugani 褚簡寧


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