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政治与英语

政治与英语

我们翻译这篇文章的理由

“虚伪是使用简明语言的大敌。”有时我们为了使自己的文章显得“体面”,会有意无意地选一些看起来很“高级”的话术来表达一些很浅显的意思。这样的词堆砌成句便是套话,空洞且没有灵魂。文章后半段有句话很触动我,大意是“不要屈服于语言”,要让你的思想、你所要表达的意图去选择词汇,而不是动辄上大词、术语。奥威尔的文字犀利但背后传达着真诚,这虽然是对英语语言的批判,但对我们每一个人的写作(无论语种)又何尝没有启发?另,在翻译上,为体现作者对英语语言的批判,而不是对中文的批判,作者提到的案例我们采取保留英文的译法。
——崔颖&宋一

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政治与英语

作者:George Orwell

译者:宋一 & 崔颖

校对:刘蕊 & 邓舒丹

策划:崔颖& 唐萧

Politics and English Language

政治与英语

Most people who bother with the matter at all would admit that the English language is in a bad way, but it is generally assumed that we cannot by conscious action do anything about it. Our civilization is decadent and our language — so the argument runs — must inevitably share in the general collapse. It follows that any struggle against the abuse of language is a sentimental archaism, like preferring candles to electric light or hansom cabs to aeroplanes. Underneath this lies the half-conscious belief that language is a natural growth and not an instrument which we shape for our own purposes.

在乎英语的大多数人都会承认,英语现在步入了歧途,但也都认为,我们无法通过有意识的行为改变现状。文明在衰落,理所当然的,英语也肯定一道颓丧。由此,对语言滥用的反对,不过是感伤的怀古,就像宁愿点蜡烛而不愿开电灯,宁愿坐马车而不愿乘飞机。这种观点的背后,是一种半知半觉,即认为语言浑然天成,不是我们为了实现自身的目的而锻造的工具。

Now, it is clear that the decline of a language must ultimately have political and economic causes: it is not due simply to the bad influence of this or that individual writer. But an effect can become a cause, reinforcing the original cause and producing the same effect in an intensified form, and so on indefinitely. A man may take to drink because he feels himself to be a failure, and then fail all the more completely because he drinks. It is rather the same thing that is happening to the English language. It becomes ugly and inaccurate because our thoughts are foolish, but the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts. The point is that the process is reversible. Modern English, especially written English, is full of bad habits which spread by imitation and which can be avoided if one is willing to take the necessary trouble. If one gets rid of these habits one can think more clearly, and to think clearly is a necessary first step toward political regeneration: so that the fight against bad English is not frivolous and is not the exclusive concern of professional writers. I will come back to this presently, and I hope that by that time the meaning of what I have said here will have become clearer. Meanwhile, here are five specimens of the English language as it is now habitually written.

现在一切都很明了,一种语言的衰落,罪魁祸首一定和政治和经济因素有关,不能简单归罪于某一个作家的恶劣影响。但影响会成为原因,因此进一步佐证最初的原因,产生的影响也就更加恶劣,周而复始。借酒消愁愁更愁。如今英语的遭遇,大抵如此。因为我们的陋见,英语变得不精准、拙劣,陋见也因此更容易占据我们的念头。但关键是,这个过程是可逆的。现代英语,尤其是书面英语,有很多坏习惯,这些习惯在模仿下得到了传播,但事实上,只要愿意费些功夫,完全可以避免这种问题。如果一个人能改掉这些习惯,他的头脑就更清醒,而头脑清醒,是政治重建的地基:所以,和坏英语的抗争并不是无足轻重的小事,更不仅仅只是职业作家的担忧。在后文我会继续就此讨论,希望那时读者能对我现在所写的有更清楚的认识。以下是五段现代英语写作的例子。

These five passages have not been picked out because they are especially bad — I could have quoted far worse if I had chosen — but because they various of the mental vices from which we now suffer. They are a little below the average, but are fairly representative examples. I number them so that I can refer back to them when necessary:

以下五段话不能算作是特别拙劣的英语,若让我筛选一番,还有更为目不忍睹的例子。而是因为它们代表了我们如今遭受的思维顽疾。这五段话略低于平均的写作水平,但都相当有代表性。为便于后文引用,是故将其依次编号。

1. I am not, indeed, sure whether it is not true to say that the Milton who once seemed not unlike a seventeenth-century Shelley had not become, out of an experience ever more bitter in each year, more alien [sic] to the founder of that Jesuit sect which nothing could induce him to tolerate.

Professor Harold Laski (Essay in Freedom of Expression)

2. Above all, we cannot play ducks and drakes with a native battery of idioms which prescribes egregious collocations of vocables as the Basic put up with for tolerate, or put at a loss for bewilder.

Professor Lancelot Hogben (Interglossia)

3. On the one side we have the free personality: by definition it is not neurotic, for it has neither conflict nor dream. Its desires, such as they are, are transparent, for they are just what institutional approval keeps in the forefront of consciousness; another institutional pattern would alter their number and intensity; there is little in them that is natural, irreducible, or culturally dangerous. But on the other side, the social bond itself is nothing but the mutual reflection of these self-secure integrities. Recall the definition of love. Is not this the very picture of a small academic? Where is there a place in this hall of mirrors for either personality or fraternity?

Essay on psychology in Politics (New York)

4. All the ‘best people’ from the gentlemen’s clubs, and all the frantic fascist captains, united in common hatred of Socialism and bestial horror at the rising tide of the mass revolutionary movement, have turned to acts of provocation, to foul incendiarism, to medieval legends of poisoned wells, to legalize their own destruction of proletarian organizations, and rouse the agitated petty-bourgeoise to chauvinistic fervor on behalf of the fight against the revolutionary way out of the crisis.

Communist pamphlet

5. If a new spirit is to be infused into this old country, there is one thorny and contentious reform which must be tackled, and that is the humanization and galvanization of the B.B.C. Timidity here will bespeak canker and atrophy of the soul. The heart of Britain may be sound and of strong beat, for instance, but the British lion’s roar at present is like that of Bottom in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream — as gentle as any sucking dove. A virile new Britain cannot continue indefinitely to be traduced in the eyes or rather ears, of the world by the effete languors of Langham Place, brazenly masquerading as ‘standard English’. When the Voice of Britain is heard at nine o’clock, better far and infinitely less ludicrous to hear aitches honestly dropped than the present priggish, inflated, inhibited, school-ma’amish arch braying of blameless bashful mewing maidens!

Letter in Tribune

Each of these passages has faults of its own, but, quite apart from avoidable ugliness, two qualities are common to all of them. The first is staleness of imagery; the other is lack of precision. The writer either has a meaning and cannot express it, or he inadvertently says something else, or he is almost indifferent as to whether his words mean anything or not. This mixture of vagueness and sheer incompetence is the most marked characteristic of modern English prose, and especially of any kind of political writing. As soon as certain topics are raised, the concrete melts into the abstract and no one seems able to think of turns of speech that are not hackneyed: prose consists less and less of words chosen for the sake of their meaning, and more and more of phrases tacked together like the sections of a prefabricated hen-house. I list below, with notes and examples, various of the tricks by means of which the work of prose-construction is habitually dodged.

每段都有自己的问题,但是除了可以避免的拙劣,它们还有两点通病:陈腐的比喻和不精确。作者或是词不达意,或是不经意间文不对题,再或者,对自己笔下所写是否有意义,几乎毫不关心。含糊其辞加上不会写作,就是当代英语写作最鲜明的特征,这在政治写作尤为突出。某些话题一经提起,实际的意思就变得晦涩难懂,似乎没有人能想出哪些不是老生常谈的演讲片段,有实际意义的词越来越少,胡乱搭配的词越来越多,如同预建养鸡场的建筑部件。在下文中,利用注解和例子,写作过程中为了逃避选词的麻烦而使用的诡计。

DYING METAPHORS. A newly invented metaphor assists thought by evoking a visual image, while on the other hand a metaphor which is technically ‘dead’ (e. g. iron resolution) has in effect reverted to being an ordinary word and can generally be used without loss of vividness. But in between these two classes there is a huge dump of worn-out metaphors which have lost all evocative power and are merely used because they save people the trouble of inventing phrases for themselves. Examples are: Ring the changes on, take up the cudgel for, toe the line, ride roughshod over, stand shoulder to shoulder with, play into the hands of, no axe to grind, grist to the mill, fishing in troubled waters, on the order of the day, Achilles’ heel, swan song, hotbed. Many of these are used without knowledge of their meaning (what is a ‘rift’, for instance?), and incompatible metaphors are frequently mixed, a sure sign that the writer is not interested in what he is saying. Some metaphors now current have been twisted out of their original meaning without those who use them even being aware of the fact. For example, toe the line is sometimes written as tow the line. Another example is the hammer and the anvil, now always used with the implication that the anvil gets the worst of it. In real life it is always the anvil that breaks the hammer, never the other way about: a writer who stopped to think what he was saying would avoid perverting the original phrase.

消亡的暗喻。一方面,一个新发明的暗喻,能在我们的脑海中生成一幅生动的画面,另一方面,一些看起来已经“消亡”的暗喻,例如iron resolution,已经变成了日常用语,但在广泛使用的过程中也不至于丢失画面感。但除这两类暗喻外,还存在大量老掉牙的暗喻,它们已经失去所有能唤起画面感的魔力,使用它们仅是为了省去自己创造新词的麻烦。例如:Ring the changes on, take up the cudgel for, toe the line, ride roughshod over, stand shoulder to shoulder with, play into the hands of, no axe to grind, grist to the mill, fishing in troubled waters, on the order of the day, Achilles’ heel, swan song, hotbed,在使用上述暗喻的时候,人们根本不知其所云,还常常把一些互相矛盾的暗喻并列使用,这表明者对自己所言何物漠不关心。有些暗喻如今已经失去了原有的意思,但就算是使用者对此却也一无所知。例如,toe the line 有时候会写作 tow the line。另一个例子是the hammer and the anvil(铁锤和铁砧),现在经常被理解为铁砧(anvil)总是吃亏。但在现实生活中,常常是铁锤,而不是铁砧被砸碎。作家只要停笔思考他想要表达的内容,就不会曲解这个词组的原意。

OPERATORS OR VERBAL FALSE LIMBS. These save the trouble of picking out appropriate verbs and nouns, and at the same time pad each sentence with extra syllables which give it an appearance of symmetry. Characteristic phrases are render inoperative, militate against, make contact with, be subjected to, give rise to, give grounds for, have the effect of, play a leading part (role) in, make itself felt, take effect, exhibit a tendency to, serve the purpose of, etc., etc. The keynote is the elimination of simple verbs. Instead of being a single word, such as break, stop, spoil, mend, kill, a verb becomes a phrase, made up of a noun or adjective tacked on to some general-purpose verb such as prove, serve, form, play, render. In addition, the passive voice is wherever possible used in preference to the active, and noun constructions are used instead of gerunds (by examination of instead of by examining). The range of verbs is further cut down by means of the -ize and de- formations, and the banal statements are given an appearance of profundity by means of the not un- formation. Simple conjunctions and prepositions are replaced by such phrases as with respect to, having regard to, the fact that, by dint of, in view of, in the interests of, on the hypothesis that; and the ends of sentences are saved by anticlimax by such resounding commonplaces as greatly to be desired, cannot be left out of account, a development to be expected in the near future, deserving of serious consideration, brought to a satisfactory conclusion, and so on and so forth.

套用短语或动词性假肢。使用这些方法,作者省去了挑选合适动词和名词的麻烦,同时通过添加额外的音节,让句子看起来工整。比较典型的例子包括render inoperative, militate against, make contact with, be subjected to, give rise to, give grounds for, have the effect of, play a leading part (role) in, make itself felt, take effect, exhibit a tendency to, serve the purpose of等等。关键就在于略去简单动词。不使用break, stop, spoil, mend, kill等单词,反而使用由形容词和名词与没有实际意义的动词,如prove, serve, form, play, render等搭配而成的词组。此外,总是用被动代替主动,用名词结构代替动名词(比如examination 和examining)。通过ize和 de- 结构组词,动词的数量进一步减少。not和-un也让简单的陈述蒙了一层高深的意味。简单的连词和代词也被with respect to, having regard to, the fact that, by dint of, in view of, in the interests of, on the hypothesis that等词组取而代之。句子的结尾也让greatly to be desired, cannot be left out of account, a development to be expected in the near future, deserving of serious consideration, brought to a satisfactory conclusion等看起来振聋发聩的普通词组扫了兴。

PRETENTIOUS DICTION. Words like phenomenon, element, individual (as noun), objective, categorical, effective, virtual, basic, primary, promote, constitute, exhibit, exploit, utilize, eliminate, liquidate, are used to dress up a simple statement and give an air of scientific impartiality to biased judgements. Adjectives like epoch-making, epic, historic, unforgettable, triumphant, age-old, inevitable, inexorable, veritable, are used to dignify the sordid process of international politics, while writing that aims at glorifying war usually takes on an archaic colour, its characteristic words being: realm, throne, chariot, mailed fist, trident, sword, shield, buckler, banner, jackboot, clarion. Foreign words and expressions such as cul de sac, ancien regime, deus ex machina, mutatis mutandis, status quo, gleichschaltung, weltanschauung, are used to give an air of culture and elegance. Except for the useful abbreviations i. e., e. g. and etc., there is no real need for any of the hundreds of foreign phrases now current in the English language. Bad writers, and especially scientific, political, and sociological writers, are nearly always haunted by the notion that Latin or Greek words are grander than Saxon ones, and unnecessary words like expedite, ameliorate, predict, extraneous, deracinated, clandestine, subaqueous, and hundreds of others constantly gain ground from their Anglo-Saxon numbers(1). The jargon peculiar to Marxist writing (hyena, hangman, cannibal, petty bourgeois, these gentry, lackey, flunkey, mad dog, White Guard, etc.) consists largely of words translated from Russian, German, or French; but the normal way of coining a new word is to use Latin or Greek root with the appropriate affix and, where necessary, the -ize formation. It is often easier to make up words of this kind (deregionalize, impermissible, extramarital, non-fragmentary and so forth) than to think up the English words that will cover one’s meaning. The result, in general, is an increase in slovenliness and vagueness.

装腔作势的词藻。用phenomenon, element, individual (as noun), objective, categorical, effective, virtual, basic, primary, promote, constitute, exhibit, exploit, utilize, eliminate, liquidate来修饰简单的表达,用科学公正来掩饰自己的个人偏见。用epoch-making, epic, historic, unforgettable, triumphant, age-old, inevitable, inexorable, veritable,给肮脏的国际政治戴上正义的光环。美化战争的写作都透出古典的气息,其中标志词有 realm, throne, chariot, mailed fist, trident, sword, shield, buckler, banner, jackboot, clarion。使用外来语和表达如s cul de sac, ancien regime, deus ex machina, mutatis mutandis, status quo, gleichschaltung, weltanschauung,来营造一种异域典雅。除了 i.e., e.g.和etc.等少数几个缩写,如今英语语言中的几百个外来语没有什么实际意义。拙劣的作家,尤其是科学、社会学和政治领域的作家,他们盲目相信拉丁和希腊词汇比撒克逊语言更华美,expedite, ameliorate, predict, extraneous, deracinated, clandestine, subaqueous等几百个没有必要用的词渐渐占了撒克逊同类表达的上风。和马克思主义写作相关的术语,如hyena, hangman, cannibal, petty bourgeois, these gentry, lackey, flunkey, mad dog, White Guard等词汇主要翻译自俄语、德语或法语。但造新词的常规做法,是用拉丁语或希腊语作词根加上合适的前缀,如果有必要,可以利用-ize组词。生造deregionalize, impermissible, extramarital, non-fragmentary and so forth这类词,通常比想出同样意思的英语要简单。但这样下去,英语也变得更加拖泥带水、含糊其辞。

MEANINGLESS WORDS. In certain kinds of writing, particularly in art criticism and literary criticism, it is normal to come across long passages which are almost completely lacking in meaning(2). Words like romantic, plastic, values, human, dead, sentimental, natural, vitality, as used in art criticism, are strictly meaningless, in the sense that they not only do not point to any discoverable object, but are hardly ever expected to do so by the reader. When one critic writes, ‘The outstanding feature of Mr. X’s work is its living quality’, while another writes, ‘The immediately striking thing about Mr. X’s work is its peculiar deadness’, the reader accepts this as a simple difference opinion. If words like black and white were involved, instead of the jargon words dead and living, he would see at once that language was being used in an improper way. Many political words are similarly abused. The word Fascism has now no meaning except in so far as it signifies ‘something not desirable’. The words democracy, socialism, freedom, patriotic, realistic, justice have each of them several different meanings which cannot be reconciled with one another. In the case of a word like democracy, not only is there no agreed definition, but the attempt to make one is resisted from all sides. It is almost universally felt that when we call a country democratic, we are praising it: consequently, the defenders of every kind of regime claim that it is a democracy, and fear that they might have to stop using that word if it were tied down to any one meaning. Words of this kind are often used in a consciously dishonest way. That is, the person who uses them has his own private definition, but allows his hearer to think he means something quite different. Statements like Marshal Petain was a true patriot, The Soviet press is the freest in the world, The Catholic Church is opposed to persecution, are almost always made with intent to deceive. Other words used in variable meanings, in most cases more or less dishonestly, are: class, totalitarian, science, progressive, reactionary, bourgeois, equality.

空话。一些特定领域的写作,特别是艺术和文学评论,长篇大论但不着边际的文章比比皆是。在艺术评论中用romantic, plastic, values, human, dead, sentimental, natural, vitality等词语,严格来说是没有实际意义的,因为这些词没有指明任何看得见摸得着的物体,读者也不能指望有所收获。如果一个评论家写‘The outstanding feature of Mr. X’s work is its living quality’,另一个写‘The immediately striking thing about Mr. X’s work is its peculiar deadness’,在读者眼中,只不过是观点不同罢了。但如果用的是 black and white,而不是dead and living这种术语,读者马上就会发现语言被误用了。许多政治词汇也同样遭到了滥用。例如,如今Fascism 一词除指代“不好的事情”外,没有其它含义。democracy, socialism, freedom, patriotic, realistic, justice 每个都有好几层含义,这几层含义又相互矛盾。以democracy为例,该词不仅没有统一的意义,就连去确定其含义的尝试也遭到了各方的反对。如果用democratic来形容一个国家,几乎所有人都认为是在赞美它。因此,任何政体的捍卫者都会称自己的国家是一个democracy,并且为该词可能会有固定的意思,而担惊受怕。用这类词通常是在有意识地欺骗。也就是说,使用这些词的人内心有自己的解释,但是让自己的听众会错意。类似Marshal Petain was a true patriot, The Soviet press is the freest in the world, The Catholic Church is opposed to persecution等声明,本就是为了欺骗而说。其它词有多层意思,但使用者或多或少带点欺骗的意味,如 class, totalitarian, science, progressive, reactionary, bourgeois, equality。

Now that I have made this catalogue of swindles and perversions, let me give another example of the kind of writing that they lead to. This time it must of its nature be an imaginary one. I am going to translate a passage of good English into modern English of the worst sort. Here is a well-known verse from Ecclesiastes:

在列举了一系列欺骗和误用的手法后,请让我列举一个例子,看看使用这种写作手法能写出什么样的句子。当然,这次是虚构。我要将一段妙笔生花的英文改的佶屈聱口。下文是《圣经·传道书》中截取的一段韵文。

I returned and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.

Here it is in modern English:

Objective considerations of contemporary phenomena compel the conclusion that success or failure in competitive activities exhibits no tendency to be commensurate with innate capacity, but that a considerable element of the unpredictable must invariably be taken into account.

I returned and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.

现代英文会写成这个样子:

Objective considerations of contemporary phenomena compel the conclusion that success or failure in competitive activities exhibits no tendency to be commensurate with innate capacity, but that a considerable element of the unpredictable must invariably be taken into account.

This is a parody, but not a very gross one. Exhibit (3), above, for instance, contains several patches of the same kind of English. It will be seen that I have not made a full translation. The beginning and ending of the sentence follow the original meaning fairly closely, but in the middle the concrete illustrations−−race, battle, bread−−dissolve into the vague phrase “success or failure in competitive activities.” This had to be so, because no modern writer of the kind I am discussing— no one capable of using phrases like “objective consideration of contemporary phenomena”−−would ever tabulate his thoughts in that precise and detailed way. The whole tendency of modern prose is away from concreteness. Now analyze these two sentences a little more closely. The first contains 49 words but only 60 syllables, and all its words are those of everyday life. The second contains 38 words of 90 syllables: 18 of its words are from Latin roots, and one from Greek. The first sentence contains six vivid images, and only one phrase (“time and chance”) that could be called vague. The second contains not a single fresh, arresting phrase, and in spite of its 90 syllables it gives only a shortened version of the meaning contained in the first. Yet without a doubt it is the second kind of sentence that is gaining ground in modern English. I do not want to exaggerate. This kind of writing is not yet universal, and outcrops of simplicity will occur here and there in the worst-written page. Still, if you or I were told to write a few lines on the uncertainty of human fortunes, we should probably come much nearer to my imaginary sentence than to the one from Ecclesiastes.

如上便是一个拙劣的仿写版,但还不算十分恶劣。比如前面的例(3)里就包含了若干部分这种类型(外实内虚,词不达意)的英语表达。那仿写版看上去就像 —— 我没有完整地翻译一样。仿写句的首尾和文本原意还是相当一致的,但在句中, 竟跑、战斗、食物 —— 这些具体的实例,通通消失在 “success or failure in competitive activities” 这样充满模糊性的词组里了。这也是不得已而为, 因为就没有这种我所谈及的现代作家 —— 没人有能力使用像“objective consideration of contemporary phenomena”这样的词组 —— 把他的诸多想法精确且详尽地呈现出来。 现代散文的整体趋势就是远离具体。现在让我们来更仔细地分析一下这两句话。第一句一共四十九个词但只有六十个音节,而且这句话所有的词都是日常用语。第二句有九十个音节三十八个词:十八个词含拉丁词根,一个有希腊词根。第一句有六个生动的形象,只有一个词组”time and chance”可以说是含糊其辞的。而第二句中连一个鲜活的、吸引人的词组都没有,尽管它有九十个音节,但它只展示了一个(比较第一句而言)意思被缩减了的版本。然而毫无疑问,第二种类型的句子在现代英语中风头正劲。我无意夸大其词,虽然这种类型的写作尚未成为普遍用法,但笼统简单的表达方式将在差劲的写作中频频出现。 不过,如果你我受人之托去写一些关于人类财富变幻无常类的说辞,那我们也许就该将笔锋靠近我那虚构的仿写之作,而不是《圣经·传道书》中的选段。

As I have tried to show, modern writing at its worst does not consist in picking out words for the sake of their meaning and inventing images in order to make the meaning clearer. It consists in gumming together long strips of words which have already been set in order by someone else, and making the results presentable by sheer humbug. The attraction of this way of writing, is that it is easy. It is easier−−even quicker, once you have the habit−−to say In my opinion it is a not unjustifiable assumption that than to say I think. If you use ready−made phrases, you not only don’t have to hunt about for words; you also don’t have to bother with the rhythms of your sentences, since these phrases are generally so arranged as to be more or less euphonious. When you are composing in a hurry−−when you are dictating to a stenographer, for instance, or making a public speech−−it is natural to fall into a pretentious, Latinized style. Tags likea consideration which we should do well to bear in mind or a conclusion towhich all of us would readily assent will save many a sentence from coming down with a bump. By using stale metaphors, similes and idioms, you save much mental effort at the cost of leaving your meaning vague, not only for your reader/ but for yourself. This is the significance of mixed metaphors. The sole aim of a metaphor is to call up a visual image. When these images clash–as in The Fascist octopus has sung its swan song, the jackboot is thrown into the melting pot−−it can be taken as certain that the writer is not seeing a mental image of the objects he is naming; in other words he is not really thinking. Look again at the examples I gave at the beginning of this essay. Professor Laski (1) uses five negatives in 53 words. One of these is superfluous, making nonsense of the whole passage, and in addition there is the slip — alien for akin — making further nonsense, and several avoidable pieces of clumsiness which increase the general vagueness. Professor Hogben (2) plays ducks and drakes with a battery which is able to write prescriptions, and, while disapproving of the everyday phrase put up with, is unwilling to look egregious up in the dictionary and see what it means; (3), if one takes an uncharitable attitude towards it, is simply meaningless: probably one could work out its intended meaning by reading the whole of the article in which it occurs. In (4), the writer knows more or less what he wants to say, but an accumulation of stale phrases chokes him like tea leaves blocking a sink. In (5), words and meaning have almost parted company. People who write in this manner usually have a general emotional meaning−−they dislike one thing and want to express solidarity with another−−but they are not interested in the detail of what they are saying. A scrupulous writer, in every sentence that he writes, will ask himself at least four questions, thus: What am I trying to say? What words will express it? What image or idiom will make it clearer? Is this image fresh enough to have an effect? And he will probably ask himself two more: Could I put it more shortly? Have I said anything that is avoidably ugly? But you are not obliged to go to all this trouble. You can shirk it by simply throwing your mind open and letting the ready−made phrases come crowding in. They will construct your sentences for you−−even think your thoughts for you, to a certain extent−and at need they will perform the important service of partially concealing your meaning even from yourself. It is at this point that the special connection between politics and the debasement of language becomes clear.

正如我试着展示的,最差劲儿的现代写作,不在为了表意而选词,也不在为了使意思更清楚而虚构形象。它差在堆砌陈词滥调,这些大词的用法又往往早已是他人牙慧,人们把假而空的语言用在自己的写作里,把文章弄得像模像样。 这种写作方式有吸引力的地方就是 —— 它很容易。 比起用I think ,用In my opinion it is a not unjustifiable assumption that,确实更流畅(一旦形成了习惯,甚至更快)。如果你用现成的词组、语言,你不仅不必绞尽脑汁地搜罗词语,也不必为每句的韵律烦心,因为这些现成的语言通常已经组织得有模有样,至少令人听起来舒服。当你在匆忙中创作,比如:你向速记员口述,又或者发表公众演讲时,表述落入自命不凡、拉丁化风格是很正常的。像a consideration which we should do well to bear in mind or a conclusion to which all of us would readily assent 比如这样的句子,可以使语言更加流畅通顺地说下去,中间不至于磕磕绊绊。通过使用陈旧的隐喻、明喻和习语,你省去了不少脑力,其代价就是让你所表达的意思模糊不清,这不仅是对你的读者而言,对你自己也是一样。这便是混合隐喻的症结所在。隐喻的唯一目的即唤起人们的视觉印象。当这些视觉印象发生冲突 —— 如,法西斯的八足章鱼唱了它的天鹅之歌;(士兵穿的)长筒马靴被扔进了熔炉 —— 可以肯定的是:该作者的脑中并没有看到他所写的物体具体长什么样子。换句话说,那个作者并没有思考。再看一下在这篇文章开头我所给出的例子。拉斯基教授在例(1)句的五十三个词中用了五个否定词。这些否定词中有一个是多余的,这让整段话毫无意义可言,除此之外,还有个小错,把alien错当作akin使用,让该句话更显荒唐,以及多处本可以避免的、让句意更加模糊的生硬死板之处。霍格本教授在例子(2)中不同意滥用本国俗语组成恶劣的搭配,尽管他不满日常词组 put up with,也不愿去查下词典看看egregious 到底是什么意思。再看例(3),如果某人用苛责的态度看待该例,那真是没什么意义的。待读者读过整篇文章后再遇到这句,也许能想明白文章原本到底想说什么。例(4)里,作者在一定程度上知道自己想说什么,但毫无新意的词组积聚到一起使他无法表达,就像茶叶堵住了水槽那样。例(5),词语和意思几乎就“没有联系”。那些用这种手法写作的人,通常带着一种普遍情绪上的含义 —— 他们不喜欢某种东西,并且想表达对另一种东西的喜爱和亲近 —— 但他们对自己所谈之物的细节并不感兴趣。一丝不苟的作家,在其写每一句时,都会问自己至少四个问题即:我试图表达什么? 哪些词能表达这个想法?什么样的情境或者习语能让我的表述更明了?这个画面新颖到可以产生效果吗?他也许还会多问自己两个问题:我能让它更简短吗?我所述的语言有避开粗鄙吗?话虽如此,但你也不必把这些问题都过一遍。你可以避开这个麻烦,你可以简单地让大脑处于开放状态,允许那些现成的词组、语言涌上心头。这些冲进大脑的词语会为你编词织句 —— 甚至某种程度上,这些词句会替你思考—— 紧急时候,这些现成的词句会发挥其重要的功效,甚至就在你眼前藏起一部分你的本来意图。在这一刻,政治与语言的衰退之间那特殊的连结就变得更清晰了。

In our time it is broadly true that political writing is bad writing. Where it is not true, it will generally be found that the writer is some kind of rebel, expressing his private opinions and not a “party line.” Orthodoxy, of whatever color, seems to demand a lifeless, imitative style. The political dialects/ to be found in pamphlets, leading articles, manifestoes, White Papers and the speeches of under−secretaries do, of course, vary from party to party, but they are all alike in that one almost never finds in them a fresh, vivid, home−made turn of speech. When one watches some tired hack on the platform mechanically repeating the familiar phrases—bestial, atrocities, iron heel, bloodstained tyranny, free peoples of the world, stand shoulder to shoulder−−one often has a curious feeling that one is not watching a live human being but some kind of dummy: a feeling which suddenly becomes stronger at moments when the light catches the speaker’s spectacles and turns them into blank discs which seem to have no eyes behind them. And this is not altogether fanciful. A speaker who uses that kind of phraseology has gone some distance towards turning himself into a machine. The appropriate noises are coming out of his larynx, but his brain is not involved,as it would be if he were choosing his words for himself. If the speech he is making is one that he is accustomed to make over and over again, he may be almost unconscious of what he is saying, as one is when one utters the responses in church. And this reduced state of consciousness, if not indispensable, is at any rate favorable to political conformity.

在我们的时代,称政治写作为拙劣的写作,大体上说是名副其实的。但也不能一概而论,例外就在:通常你会发现某位作家其实是个反抗者,他在表达他的个人观点,而不是某个“政党的路线”。正统观念,不管是什么党派,似乎都要求一种毫无生机、模仿的风格。宣传册、报刊社论、宣言书、白皮书以及副部长的演讲,上述各项中所涉及的政治语言,当然会因党派不同而各有所异,但是这些语言又都差不多,在这种语体中,几乎绝不会出现鲜活、生动、与众不同的措辞特征。当人们看着某个陈腐的文人,为政府、政党摇唇鼓舌,在台上机械地重复那些熟悉的语言时—— bestial, atrocities, iron heel, bloodstained tyranny, free peoples of the world, stand shoulder to shoulder —— 人们经常会产生一种古怪的感觉,他们并没在看一个活人,而是在看着某个木偶:当灯光照到演讲者的镜片上时,这感觉突然就更强烈了,那光把这两个小镜片变成了两个空白的唱片,似乎这眼镜背后没有眼珠子一样。这不是完全耽于空想。用这种措辞的演讲者在将自己变成机器的道路上已经走了一段了。与他所述主题相关的声音从他的咽喉里传出,但本该参与这一活动的大脑却并没有介入,如果他为自己选择词句去演讲,那他的脑子会在思考。如果他所发表的演讲,是那个他早已熟悉且说过无数次的老一套,他也许都意识不到他在说什么,就像人们在教堂里对祷告给出的回应那样。这种人的意识状态的削减,至少很符合政治上的要求,甚至是(从政)必不可少的。

In our time, political speech and writing are largely the defense of the indefensible. Things like the continuance of British rule in India, the Russian purges and deportations, the dropping of the atom bombs on Japan, can indeed be defended, but only by arguments which are too brutal for most people to face, and which do not square with the professed aims of political parties. Thus political language has to consist largely of euphemism, question−begging and sheer cloudy vagueness. Defenseless villages are bombarded from the air, the inhabitants driven out into the countryside, the cattle machine−gunned, the huts set on fire with incendiary bullets: this is called pacification. Millions of peasants are robbed of their farms and sent trudging along the roads with no more than they can carry: this is called transfer of population or rectification of frontiers. People are imprisoned for years without trial, or shot in the back of the neck or sent to die of scurvy in Arctic lumber camps: this is called elimination of unreliable elements. Such phraseology is needed if one wants to name things without calling up mental pictures of them. Consider for instance some comfortable English professor defending Russian totalitarianism. He cannot say outright, “I believe in killing off your opponents when you can get good results by doing so.” Probably, therefore, he will say something like this:

在我们的时代,政治演说与写作多半是为无辩护余地的论点进行辩论。像英国在印度的长期统治、苏联的大清洗与放逐、向日本投原子弹,这些事确实可以辩解,但只能用那些对大部分人来讲残忍到不堪面对的论点,以及与政党公开宣称的目标相悖的理由去辩解。因此,政治语言多是由委婉的说法、以假定正确的论点得出结论的狡辩及纯粹如云似雾、含混不清的措辞构成的。毫无防御能力的村庄遭到空袭轰炸,居民们被驱逐到乡间,机枪扫射牛群,燃烧弹将一间间棚屋点燃:这称作pacification。剥夺上百万农民的农场,再让他们沿着路边跋涉,最多只能带走随身物品:这叫transfer of population or rectification of frontiers。囚禁人们多年而不审讯,对着人们后脖颈开枪射杀,或送去关押战俘、劳工的集中营,让他们因坏血病相继惨死:这叫做elimination of unreliable elements。如果有人想不在听众脑中勾起上述画面的情况下说明事情,那是需要措辞的。例如,让我们想想某位自如的英语教授在捍卫俄国的极权主义时,他不会公然说,“我相信杀了那些你的反对派,你便会有好果子吃。”很可能他会这么说:

While freely conceding that the Soviet régime exhibits certain features which the humanitarian may be inclined to deplore, we must, I think, agree that a certain curtailment of the right to political opposition is an unavoidable concomitant of transitional periods, and that the rigors which the Russian people have been called upon to undergo have been amply justified in the sphere of concrete achievement.

虽然我们欣然承认,苏维埃政权展现出了某些人道主义可能想要谴责的地方,但是我认为,我们必须同意对那些政治反对分子,在其权利上给予一定限制,这是过渡时期不可避免的事情,而且,俄国人民所经受的这份严苛,正是我们取得实在成就的充分展现。

The inflated style is itself a kind of euphemism. A mass of Latin words falls upon the facts like soft snow, blurring the outlines and covering up all the details. The great enemy of clear language is insincerity. When there is a gap between one’s real and one’s declared aims, one turns, as it were instinctively, to long words and exhausted idioms, like a cuttlefish squirting out ink. In our age there is no such thing as “keeping out of politics.” All issues are political issues, and politics itself is a mass of lies, evasions, folly, hatred and schizophrenia. When the general atmosphere is bad, language must suffer. I should expect to find−−this is a guess which I have not sufficient knowledge to verify−−that the German, Russian and Italian languages have all deteriorated in the last ten or fifteen years as a result of dictatorship.

这种华而不实的文风本身就是一种委婉语。一大堆拉丁词语如松软的雪花洒落在事实之上,将文章主旨概要弄得模糊不清,将文中细枝末节尽皆覆盖。虚伪是使用简明语言的大敌。当写作者的真实目的与其所宣称的目的中间存在不同之时,他就会如乌贼喷出墨汁一般,本能地转而使用长单词和毫无意义的词语。在我们的时代,“不谈政治”是不可能的。所有的事件都是政治事件,而政治本身就是诸多的谎言、“虚情假意”、愚蠢的(行为、思想、做法)、仇恨与精神分裂症的集合。当整体气氛衰败,语言也必受打击。我预计能找到 —— 但这还只是一个没有足够知识去证实的猜想 —— 在过去十年或十五年间,因为独裁政府的缘故,德语、俄语和意大利语也全都不复从前了。

But if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought. A bad usage can spread by tradition and imitation, even among people who should and do know better. The debased language that I have been discussing is in some ways very convenient. Phrases like a not unjustifiable assumption, leaves much to be desired, would serve no good purpose, a consideration which we should do well to bear in mind, are a continuous temptation, a packet of aspirins always at one’s elbow. Look back through this essay, and for certain you will find that I have again and again committed the very faults I am protesting against. By this morning’s post I have received a pamphlet dealing with conditions in Germany. The author tells me that he “felt impelled” to write it. I open it at random, and here is almost the first sentence that I see: “[The Allies] have an opportunity not only of achieving a radical transformation of Germany’s social and political structure in such a way as to avoid a nationalistic reaction in Germany itself, but at the same time of laying the foundations of a cooperative and unified Europe.” You see, he “feels impelled” to write−−feels, presumably, that he has something new to say−−and yet his words, like cavalry horses answering the bugle, group themselves automatically into the familiar dreary pattern. This invasion of one’s mind by ready−made phrases (lay the foundations, achieve a radical transformation) can only be prevented if one is constantly on guard against them, and every such phrase anesthetizes a portion of one’s brain.

但如果思想使语言腐化堕落,语言同样能腐化思想。差劲的用法能通过传统与模仿传播,甚至那些本该知道或者知道更好的语言表达方法的人也会受其影响。我一直以来所讨论的那种腐朽糟糕的语言,在某些方面,是非常便利的。这些词组将为那些可鄙的意图效力。如a not unjustifiable assumption, leaves much to be desired, would serve no good purpose, a consideration which we should do well to bear in mind 这些词句都是一种持续不断的诱惑,正如手边总是有一盒阿斯匹林(可供使用)。回看这篇文章,你一定会发现,我一次又一次地犯着那些我正强调着的错误。今早的邮件中我收到一本宣传册,是关于处理德国国内现状的。作者告诉我,他“禁不住”去写它。我漫不经心地打开,如下几乎是我看到的第一句:“同盟国不仅有机会从根本上转变德国社会和政治结构体系,避免在德国自己国土上产生民族主义的反应,与此同时,这也为一个合作且统一的欧洲打下基础。”你看,他“禁不住”去写 —— 感觉,大概是吧,感觉他有些新的想法要说 —— 然而他的语言,就如战马应号角而动那样,不假思索地掉进了单调乏味的写作模式。这种来自现成语言、词句对人意识的侵略 (lay the foundations, achieve a radical transformation)只有在人们始终对其保持警惕的情况下才可避免,而且每一个现成的词语都会麻醉使用者的大脑中的某一部分。

I said earlier that the decadence of our language is probably curable. Those who deny this would argue, if they produced an argument at all, that language merely reflects existing social conditions, and that we cannot influence its development by any direct tinkering with words and constructions. So far as the general tone or spirit of a language/ goes, this may be true, but it is not true in detail. Silly words and expressions have often disappeared, not through any evolutionary process but owing to the conscious action of a minority. Two recent examples were explore every avenue and leave no stone unturned, which were killed by the jeers of a few journalists. There is a long list of fly−blown metaphors which could similarly be got rid of if enough people would interest themselves in the job; and it should also be possible to laugh the not un− formation out of existence, to reduce the amount of Latin and Greek in the average sentence, to drive out foreign phrases and strayed scientific words, and, in general, to make pretentiousness unfashionable. But all these are minor points. The defense of the English language implies more than this, and perhaps it is best to start by saying what it does not imply.

我早些时候谈到,我们语言的堕落也许是有救的。那些反对这一观点的人会说 —— 假设他们最后想出了一种观点吧 —— 语言仅仅反映了现存的社会情况,并且我们不能通过任何对选词、用词和句法构建进行直接修补的方法去影响语言的发展。就语言的整体基调或精神的走向来看,这一观点也许没错,但细节上并不如实如此。愚蠢的词语经常会消失不见,它们的消亡并不是通过任何进化过程导致的淘汰,而是因为少数人有意识的(对用词和语法结构进行直接修补的)行动所致。最近的两个例子便是explore every avenue 和 leave no stone unturned,这两个词组由于受到个别新闻工作者的嘲笑而废弃不用了。这有一张长长的清单,满是那些被败坏了的隐喻,我们也可以同样废除它们,只要有足够的人对“有意识的行动”有兴趣即可。此外,嘲笑not un-这种单词构词法,以使其绝迹;在一般句子中减少拉丁语与希腊语的数量;赶走那些外来词组和生僻的科学用语;总体上,让自以为是、矫揉造作的措辞不再走俏,这些都是合理的。但这一切都是次要的点。捍卫英语语言要做的必然比上述多得多,最好的开始也许就是,用dose not(没有)来表达,“它‘没有’暗示的是什么”。

One can cure oneself of the not un− formation by memorizing this sentence: A not unblack dog was chasing a not unsmall rabbit across a not ungreen field.

人们对not un- 构词法的自救方法便是记住下面这个句子:“A not unblack dog was chasing a not unsmall rabbit across a not ungreen field.”

To begin with, it has nothing to do with archaism, with the salvaging of obsolete words and turns of speech, or with the setting−up of a “standard−English” which must never be departed from. On the contrary, it is especially concerned with the scrapping of every word or idiom which has outworn its usefulness. It has nothing to do with correct grammar and syntax, which are of no importance so long as one makes one’s meaning clear, or with the avoidance of Americanisms, or with having what is called a “good prose style.” On the other hand it is not concerned with fake simplicity and the attempt to make written English colloquial. Nor does it even imply in every case preferring the Saxon word to the Latin one, though it does imply using the fewest and shortest words that will cover one’s meaning. In prose, the worst thing one can do with words is to surrender them. When you think of a concrete object, you think wordlessly, and then, if you want to describe the thing you have been visualizing, you probably hunt about till you find the exact words that seem to fit it. When you think of something abstract you are more inclined to use words from the start, and unless you make a conscious effort to prevent it, the existing dialect will come rushing in and do the job for you, at the expense of blurring or even changing your meaning. Probably it is better to put off using words as long as possible and get one’s meaning as clear as one can through pictures or sensations. Afterwards one can choose−−not simply accept−−the phrases that will best cover the meaning, and then switch round and decide what impressions one’s words are likely to make on another person. What is above all needed is to let the meaning choose the word, and not the other way about. This last effort of the mind cuts out all stale or mixed images, all prefabricated phrases, needless repetitions, and humbug and vagueness generally. But one can often be in doubt about the effect of a word or a phrase, and one needs rules that one can rely on when instinct fails. I think the following rules will cover most cases:

首先,捍卫英语语言对古语、古董词汇和其措辞特征的保存没有关系,与建立那种绝不可违背的“标准英语”也没有关系。相反,捍卫英语语言特别关注在语言中,剔除每一个丧失了使用价值的单词或俗语。它和正确的语法与句法毫无关系,只要一个人可以将自己的意思表达清楚,句法语法并不重要,这与避免美国(字、词、短语)用法,或拥有那所谓的“优秀散文之风”也毫无关系。另一方面,它不关注虚假的简洁表述和使书面英语口语话的企图。它甚至没有在每一例子中暗示比起拉丁词汇更偏爱撒克逊(英语)单词,但它确实暗示去使用最少最短且可以把意图说清的词语。 上述所需的便是——让你要表达的意思去选择词语,而不是反行其道。在散文中,人们对词语能做的最糟糕的事便是 —— 屈服于词汇。当你想到某一具体的事物,你默默地思忖,而后假设你想描述这个你一直在脑中视觉化的东西,那在找到适合描述这一物品的最精准的词汇之前,你可能会尽力地搜寻词语。 当你想到某些抽象的东西,你更倾向在一开始便去用一些词汇,除非你有意识地阻止自己这么想,否则现成的语言会冲上来帮你遣词造句,那代价就是让句意模糊甚至是改变你的本意。 也许尽可能的思考再选词,并让人们的意图通过图片或者其他观感尽可能清晰地阐明会更好。 接着,人们可以选择 —— 而不是简单接受 —— 那些能传达其意的词组去表达,然后设身处地的思考并决定:一个人的语言可能会对另一个人产生什么样的印象。这思维上的最后一搏清除了一切没有生气的或鱼龙混杂的比喻、一切现成的词组、无意义的重复和整体上矫揉造作与含混不清的用语。 但人们经常对一个单词或词组所带来的效果产生怀疑,因此人们需要一些规则,即当直觉不奏效时,人们可以参照、依赖它们。我想如下几条规则将适用于大部分案例:

(i) Never use a metaphor, simile or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.

绝不用隐喻、直喻或是其他你总在印刷品上看到的修辞。

(ii) Never use a long word where a short one will do.

有“小词”可以用时,绝不用“大词”。

(iii) If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.

能砍掉的词,一定要砍掉。

(iv) Never use the passive where you can use the active.

能用主动态绝不用被动态。

(v) Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.

如果可以想到一个意思相当的常用单词,绝不用外来词、科学词汇或者行话。

(vi) Break any of these rules sooner than say anything barbarous.

爆粗口时,尽早打破这些规则。

These rules sound elementary, and so they are, but they demand a deep change of attitude in anyone who has grown used to writing in the style now fashionable. One could keep all of them and still write bad English, but one could not write the kind of stuff that I quoted in these five specimens at the beginning of this article.

这些规则听起来很基础,它们也确实如此,但这些规则要求任何一个已经逐渐习惯于当下风行的写作风格的人在态度上进行深刻的转变。 人们有可能记住这些规则,却仍旧写得很糟糕,但人们不会再写我在文章开头引用的五个例子中的那种东西了。

I have not here been considering the literary use of language, but merely language as an instrument for expressing and not for concealing or preventing thought. Stuart Chase and others have come near to claiming that all abstract words are meaningless, and have used this as a pretext for advocating a kind of political quietism. Since you don’t know what Fascism is, how can you struggle against Fascism? One need not swallow such absurdities as this, but one ought to recognize that the present political chaos is connected with the decay of language, and that one can probably bring about some improvement by starting at the verbal end. If you simplify your English, you are freed from the worst follies of orthodoxy. You cannot speak any of the necessary dialects, and when you make a stupid remark its stupidity will be obvious, even to yourself. Political language−and with variations this is true of all political parties, from Conservatives to Anarchists−−is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable. and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind. One cannot change this all in a moment, but one can at least change one’s own habits, and from time to time one can even, if one jeers loudly enough, send some worn−out and useless phrase−−some jackboot, Achilles’ heel, hotbed, melting pot, acid test, veritable inferno or other lump of verbal refuse−−into the dustbin where it belongs.

我一直没有考虑语言的文学用法,仅仅将语言作为一种表达的工具,而不是用它来隐瞒或阻碍思考。斯图尔特·切斯(Stuart Chase)和其他作家都快要声称所有抽象词汇都是无意义的了,他们用其作为一种托辞来支持一种政治上的无为主义。既然你不知道何为法西斯主意,你又如何能与法西斯主义抗争呢?你不需相信上述各种荒诞的想法,但你应该能识别出当今政坛的混乱与语言的衰退密不可分,你也许可以从词汇言语的角度开始入手促成些许改善。如果你精炼你的语言,那你就从那些最糟又正统的蠢事儿中解放出来了。你不会再讲任何必要的正统语言,而且当你说了一些愚蠢的话,这种愚蠢连你自己都会觉得显而易见。政治语言—— 以及该语言的各种变体,这对所有党派来说都是真实的,上及英国保守党下到无政府主义者 —— 它的意图就是让谎言听起来足够真实,让谋杀更加体面。给纯粹的假话套上一层实在的外衣。人们没办法一下就改变这一切,但人们至少可以改变自己的习惯,偶尔人们甚至可以,假设人们的讥笑足够大声,把一些陈腐无用的词组 —— 像那些 jackboot, Achilles’ heel, hotbed, melting pot, acid test, veritable inferno 或其他垃圾词语 —— 扔进垃圾桶,那才是它们的归宿。

  • 本文源于Politics and the English Language(George Orwell)

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