慢速英语:Words and Their Stories: It Will Not Wash

Source: VOA    2011-10-09   English BBS   Favorite  
I'm Susan Clark with the Special English program WORDS AND THEIR STORIES.
我是Susan Clark,这里是美国之音慢速英语词汇掌故节目。

Young Mister Smith had an idea for his employer. It was an idea for saving money for the company by increasing prices. At the same time, Smith suggested that the company sell goods of less value.

If his employer liked the idea, Smith might be given more pay. Perhaps he might even get a better job with the company.

Business had been very slow. So Mister Smith's employer thought a few minutes about the idea. But then she shook her head. "I am sorry, Smith," his employer said. "It just will not wash."

Now, the meaning of these English words should be, "It will not get clean."  Yet Smith's idea did not have anything to do with making something clean. So why did his employer say, "It will not wash?"

Most word experts agree that "it will not wash" means it will not work.  Eric Partridge wrote that the saying probably developed in Britain in the eighteen hundreds. Charlotte Bronte used it in a story published in eighteen forty-nine. She wrote, "That wiln't wash, miss." Mizz Bronte seems to have meant that the dyes used to color a piece of clothing were not good. The colors could not be depended on to stay in the material.
大多数词汇专家都赞同,“it will not wash”的意思是这行不通。Eric Partridge写道,这种说法可能起源于19世纪的英国。Charlotte Bronte在1849年发表的故事中用到了这种说法。她写道,“That wiln't wash,小姐。” Bronte似乎在说,用于染这块布的染料并不好,颜色不能附着于布料上。

In nineteenth century England, the expression came to mean an undependable statement. It was used mainly to describe an idea. But sometimes it was used about a person.

A critic once said of the poet Robert Browning, "He won't wash." The critic did not mean that the poet was not a clean person.  He meant that Browning's poems could not be depended on to last.
一位评论家曾经这样说过诗人Robert Browning,“He won't wash.”这位评论家并不是说这位诗人不爱干净。他的意思是,Browning的诗不能传承下去。

Today, we know that judgment was wrong.  Robert Browning still is considered a major poet.  But very few people remember the man who said Browning would not wash.
今天,我们知道这个判断是错误的。Robert Browning仍被认为是一个重要的诗人。但很少有人记得那个说过Browning不重要的评论家。

Happily for the young employee Smith, his employer wanted him to do well in the company. So the employer "talked turkey" to him. She said, "Your idea would be unfair to our buyers. Think of another way to save money."
令人高兴的是史密斯这位年轻的员工,他的老板希望他在公司更加出色。因此,老板认认真真地(talked turkey)对他说。她说,“你的想法可能对我们的买家不公平。想想另一种赚钱的方法吧。”

A century ago, to talk turkey meant to talk pleasantly. Turkeys in the barnyard were thought to be speaking pleasantly to one another. In recent years, the saying has come to mean an attempt to teach something important.
一个世纪之前,“to talk turkey”的意思是愉快地交谈。谷仓里的火鸡被认为在彼此愉快交谈。近年来,这种说法的意思已经开始转变为“尝试谈一些重要的事情”。

Word expert Charles Funk tells how he believes this change took place.
词汇专家Charles Funk讲述了他理解的这个短语词义发生变化的过程。
He says two men were shooting turkeys together. One of them was a white man. The other was an American Indian. The white man began stating reasons why he should get all the turkeys for himself. But the American Indian stopped him. He told the white man, "Now, I talk turkey to you."
他说,两名男子一起去打火鸡。一个是白人男子,另一个是美洲印第安人。这位白人开始说明原因,为什么它应该得到所有的火鸡。但这位印第安人打断了他。他告诉白人男子,"Now, I talk turkey to you."

Mister Smith thought of a better idea after his employer talked turkey to him. He was given an increase in pay. So if your idea "will not wash," try "talking turkey" to yourself and come up with a better idea.


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