英语语法 学英语,练听力,上听力课堂! 注册 登录
> 英语语法 > 英语修辞与写作 >  第34篇

英语修辞与写作·12.3 Euphemism

所属教程:英语修辞与写作

浏览:

2021年10月19日

手机版
扫描二维码方便学习和分享

12.3 Euphemism

12.3A Euphemism的含义与形式

1) Euphemism一词源于希腊语,eu是前缀,意思是“好”,phemism的意思是“说法”,合起来就是说“好听的话”、“吉利话”,汉语称之为“委婉语”,即使用语气较温和、含义较雅致或含糊的表达方式代替粗俗、生硬、直露的说法。例如不直接说某人“死了”(died),而讲“去世了”(passed away),不直接讲“上厕所”(go to the lavatory),而说“去洗手间”(go to the bathroom),等。

2) 委婉语的形式多种多样,可从不同角度去分析归纳。这里仅从读音、构词、语法和变通表达几个方面简要地加以说明。

从读音方面看,laboratory的重音后移被认为是一个典型的例子:原来重读在第一个音节,同lavatory的读音相近,为了避免不愉快的误会或联想,就把重读后移一个音节。又如根据读音规则,特殊疑问句(如Where are you going?)句末不用升调,而应用降调,但人们为了客气,如不改变句型时就往往改用低升调,对方听了感到较亲切和有礼貌。

构词方面,缩略是常见形式,如ladies(代ladies' Room),W. C.(代water closet),out (out of work), lav (lavatory), G-man (garbageman), BM (bowel movement)。

语法方面,过去时(或过去进行时)、否定式、情态词would / should等都可构成委婉形式。例如:

I wondered / I was wondering if you could spare a few minutes to go over my abstract.

I don't think that it is his idea. (Don't say: I think that it is not his idea.)

I would like / I'd like to hear your views.

There's something I'd advise you to consider in the program.

“变通表达”(Tactful expression)是委婉语的一种最常见的形式,实际上只要适应场合需要,有时美化,有时淡化,都是使用某种委婉形式。例如:

为了满足乘客的尊严感,一些航空公司改变机舱等级的称谓:一等舱(First Class)改称豪华舱(Deluxe Class或 Premium Class),二等舱(Second Class)改称头等舱、商务舱(Business Class),三等舱改称经济舱(Economic Class)或旅游舱(Tourist Class),这样一来,似乎所有乘客(尤其坐三等舱者)的地位和待遇都上升一级,皆大欢喜。

同样,为了照顾人们的尊严,对一些反面的人和事不直接说出,而使用较为含糊的词语加以淡化。例如,学校教师不直接讲某学生“愚钝”(stupid, obtuse),而讲他“反应较慢”(He a bit slow for his age);某人犯法让警察抓进去了,也不直接说,而讲得含糊其辞:

Paul did something, and the police ... well, now he's staying at the correctional center.

句中correctional center是prison的代名词,to do something是个抽象词语,类似的还有it, the thing, the problem,等。除抽象词语外,一些外来语以及Synecdoche, Understatement等辞格都可用来构成委婉表达。

12.3B Euphemism的使用

英语中的委婉语是经过长期使用的传统辞格,同时又是一个不断发展变化的开放性辞格,为此,注意把握传统性与开放性的关系是恰当使用这个辞格的关键。

1) 所谓传统性,首先表现在委婉语的使用范围,它主要是避免使用那些忌讳语(Taboo words),如对人的生、老、病、死等不直讲,而采用较为含糊、婉转的表达方式,如用to be expecting代替pregnant,用to be stout(指男)或plump(指女)代替fat,用heart condition代替heart attack,用social disease代替venereal disease,用to be elderly或senior代替old,用pass away / be no more / depart代替die,用cemetery / memorial park / memory garden代替graveyard;用make love with / go to bed with代替have sex with,等。

委婉语的开放性则表现在其使用范围大大突破了传统的忌讳语,如前面讲到的“变通表达”出现在社会生活的各个方面,出现了各行各业的礼貌语言。

2) 委婉语的传统性表现在其使用目的上,就是前面讲到的避讳和礼貌两个方面,而其开放性则表现在使用目的上的多样化,并引出了种种利用委婉语应付情面和满足自尊心理以及谋取不正当利益的消极倾向。在社会职业称呼上,把maid / housekeeper称为domestic help / day help / live in help诚然人性化一些,把prostitute称之为sex worker也似无不可,但若过分拔高,一般服务员也升级service manager,甚至butcher也称为meat technologist, garbage collector也成了sanitation engineer或solid waste ecologist,就未免太过头了。商人利用委婉语招徕生意,pawnshop换上了loan office的招牌,过去的secondhand store变成了resale store, “super”, “giant”, “special”字样满天飞,大多是新瓶旧酒,只名目悦耳罢了。政客们走得最远,他们不仅自己摇身一变,由politician成了legislator,而且肆意利用委婉语达到不可告人的目的,如为了掩饰社会矛盾,否认poor的存在,只讲disadvantaged / underprivileged,贫民窟也由slum变成了substandard housing / depressed areas / special areas;美国的海外驻军U. S. overseas military deployment名声不好,就用American presence代之,还用pacification代替war,用liberate代替capture,明明是入侵(invasion),却说成是“先发制人的行动”(pre-emptive action),等等,这就不仅远离了委婉语的本来宗旨,而是借此形式进行欺骗宣传和强词夺理了。

3) 委婉语有约定俗成、相对固定的表达方式。例如大小便不好直讲,就出现了一系列说法: I have to pay a call / I'd like to be excused / I have to retire for a moment / Where's the restroom? / May I wash hands?等等。据说有次一个随团旅游的女士别出心裁地生造了一个说法:“May I go somewhere?”导游未能领会其意,便信口答道:“Sorry, you can't now. We've got to stay together here for a break.”弄得女士十分尴尬。

虽然随意生造委婉语违反了传统要求,但另一个方面,委婉语的特点又正是推陈出新,不断有新的说法出现,或有几种不同的说法可以选择。对于这种情况,需要从两个方面加以注意:

从横向看,首先要注意不同国家可能有不同的委婉表达方式。例如同美国朋友谈到1993年是鸡年这个话题,就要用rooster一词。美国发行的1993年鸡年邮票上的图案是公鸡,文字是“The lunar calender in 1993 is symbolised by the rooster.”为什么不用cock?因为cock,还有ass, bull等都是美国人的忌讳词,而要分别用rooster, donkey, ox取代。此外,还要注意到同一词语具有多义时,要提防贬义有可能造成的不好联想。例如:to be intimate with somebody通常表示“跟某人亲近”、“关系密切”等一般含义,但intimacy也可能指不正当的男女关系,特别是美国电视上公布了“Jack is intimate with one of his twin daughters”事件之后,这个词语的贬义突出了,表示其他含义的功能受到削弱,甚至会被排斥掉,为此人们在谈及男女之间的正常交往时会尽量避免用它。

从纵向看,不同的委婉语往往带有不同时代的烙印。据说在英国维多利亚女王时代,人体胸部以下的名称都在忌讳之列,breast和leg都不能讲,于是就有以white(或light) meat和black (或dark) meat分别表示餐桌上的chicken breast和chicken leg这类当时使用的委婉语。17世纪英语中曾用occupy作为have sex的委婉语,但早已不再用,相反,两性关系的禁忌逐渐解除,西方的电视辩论中直接讲have sex with,连十几岁的小女孩也当众承认“I've slept with him and got pregnant”,而用不着expecting或in the family way了。由于反对性别歧视运动的影响,近几十年来带有男性标记的词语渐有被中性词语取代的趋势:一种情况是出现了一些新词,如wo/man代替woman and man(男人和女人),chairperson代替chairman(主席),supervisor代替foreman(领班),Member of Congress代替Congressman(国会议员),homemaker代替housewife(主妇),flight attendant代替airline hostess(航班服务员);另一种情况是使用中性的代词或冠词指代或照应通性名词,如用(s)he取代he和she,用the代替his来确指像the teacher,the listener等可男可女的名词等等。

上世纪初叶,由于劳资关系紧张,又出现了industrial relation(劳资关系)和industrial dispute(劳资争端)这样的委婉语,分别取代relations between labour and capital, labour-capital relations, employee-employer relations, labour-management relations和dispute between labour and management等。美国在“越战”时期曾用pacification代替bombing,burning和imprisonment;海湾战争以来又出现了air operation, ground operation这类表示空中打击和地面战争的代用语,甚至把civilian casualties(平民伤亡)也说成是collateral damage(附带损伤),等等。显然这类委婉语都具有欺骗性,值得我们注意。

练习十二 (Exercise Twelve)

I. Preview Questions:

1. What synonym can you use for “Hyperbole”?

2. What constructions can you usually use for Hyperbole?

3. Is it true that Hyperbole is always describing something much bigger / greater than it actually is?

4. Which figure of speech can be regarded as one in opposition to Hyperbole?

5. Does Understatement include two chief forms called “Litotes” and “Meiosis”?

6. Can you give an example to indicate how tactful it is to express one's attitude by Understatement?

7. What is the basic meaning of “euphemism”?

8. What grammatical structures can you use as forms of Euphemism?

9. Can you give examples of “tactful expressions”?

10. What kind of Euphemism should we keep close watch on so as not to be deceived?

II. Rewrite the following sentences by turning ordinary expressions into emphatic forms or vice versa:

1. We produce good shoes for all marathon runners.

2. The two brothers are quite different.

3. I haven't seen you for a long time.

4. The cost mounted to very great figures.

5. The professor has a good knowledge of the ancient Greek culture.

6. Such a thing will be the last I can do.

7. I didn't like to see him at all.

8. In short, as I accepted the rising of the sun, I accepted that up above me was all that was fine and noble and gracious, all that gave decency and dignity to life, all that made life worth living and that enumerated one for his travail and misery.

III. Rewrite the following by using Understatement or Euphemism:

1. I think she will not come because she has been pregnant for about five months.

2. They were greatly surprised at the outcome.

3. It's rather difficult to restore peace in that area.

4. He has three good friends: One is a mailman, another fireman and the third policeman.

5. Sorry, I simply can't promise.

6. His father died last week and is going to be buried next Sunday.

7. Do you know which bus I should take to the natural museum?

8. The lunar calendar in 1995 is symbolized by the pig.

IV. Read the following and then determine whether each of the statements is true (T) or false (F).

Euphemism — words with overly favorable connotations — are often used to conceal what might be offensive or disturbing. The word prison is being replaced by penal institution and correctional facility, suggesting places less harsh and dehumanizing than those in which we actually incarcerate violators of the law. Another social problem is being made less poignant because the words indigent, inner-city, and low-income are commonly substituted for poor, a term with more explicit connotations. And we no longer have poor children; they are disadvantaged, underprivileged, or culturally deprived.

Euphemism, or “language pollution,” or “doublespeak,” as some call it, is often intended to obscure or hide the real situation. Bureaucrats are especially skillful in selecting terms with inoffensive connotations, as was evident in the Watergate affair: the Watergate defendants' perjury and destruction of evidence were referred to as stonewalling; their unethical procedures as game plans. Government officials are not the only ones at fault. Big business no longer lays off workers, it furloughs them. And labor engages in work stoppages, not strikes.

Occasionally, but only occasionally, language pollution is reversed, the offensive terms replacing the more polite ones. More newspapers now report that women are raped instead of criminally assaulted, a word substitution that may contribute to greater public concern about this offense. Similarly, syphilis and gonorrhea, formerly taboo words, are replacing the polite term venereal disease in an effort to arouse public concern.

Sometimes euphemisms are harmless. Like white lies, they may be kinder than the literal truth. One of our ugliest words for people is crippled; a pleasanter one is handicapped. To many people, being considered old is a terrifying experience, so they sometimes prefer to be called senior citizens instead of old people. And to give individuals a greater sense of prestige and importance in their work, we often refer to hair stylists instead of barbers, beauticians instead of hairdressers, custodians instead of janitors, realtors instead of real estate salesmen, and morticians instead of undertakers. These substitutions and others like them do little harm and make life more tolerable for the people involved. But you should be so alert to the use of words that you recognize euphemisms and generally avoid them in your writing.

(Michael E. Adelstein & Jean G. Pival)

Statements based on the previous text:

1. When referring to children who are not bright, people tend to use terms such as “disadvantaged”, “underprivileged”, or “culturally deprived”, or “a bit slow” instead of “poor”, “silly”, “stupid”, for the latter are harsh and offensive that will hurt their parents or other relatives. (  )

2. One should watch out for the use of euphemisms, and generally try to make use of them in your writing. (  )

3. The two terms of “language pollution” and “doublespeak” both are used to refer to the same phenomenon in the English language — Euphemism.  (  )

4. The one successful use of Euphemism is to replace the offensive terms by the more polite ones; however, some newspapers tend to use some of the formerly taboo terms that may contribute to greater public concern. (  )

5. The general purpose of using Euphemism is to conceal what might be offensive or disturbing, e.g. the word “prison” is being replaced by “penal institution” and “correctional faculty”, suggesting places less harsh and dehumanizing than those where violators of the law are usually incarcerated. (  )

6. Generally speaking, more polite or more pleasant terms are used in our daily life, e.g. “handicapped” for “crippled”, “senior citizens” for “old peole”, “hair stylists” for “barbers”, etc.; however, the above tendency has just been reversed nowadays, as such ugly terms “raped”, “syphilis” and “gonorrhea”are found black and white in the newspapers instead of “criminally assaulted”and “veneral disease”in an effort to arouse public concern. (  )

参考答案

Ⅱ. 1. We produce the best shoes of the world for all marathon runners.

2. The two brothers are different in a thousand and one ways.

3. I haven't seen you for ages.

4. The cost mounted to astronomical figures.

5. The professor has an extensive/encyclopedic knowledge of the ancient Greek culture.

6. I will never do such a thing.

7. He was the last man I'd like to see.

8. I used to think that things in the upper society were all fine.

Ⅲ. 1. I don't think she will come, because she's about five months gone.

2. They were not a little surprised at the outcome.

3. It's no easy matter to restore peace in that area.

4. ... One is a letter carrier, another firefighter and the third police officer.

5. Sorry, that's more than I can promise.

6. His father passed away last week and is going to be laid to rest next Sunday.

7. Could you tell me which bus will take me to the natural museum?

8. The lunar calendar in 1995 is symbolized by the boar.

Ⅳ. 1.T 2. F 3. T 4. T 5. T 6. F

 


用户搜索

疯狂英语 英语语法 新概念英语 走遍美国 四级听力 英语音标 英语入门 发音 美语 四级 新东方 七年级 赖世雄 zero是什么意思厦门市温陵商贸中心安置区英语学习交流群

  • 频道推荐
  • |
  • 全站推荐
  • 推荐下载
  • 网站推荐