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英语文化:你知道数字三有什么奇妙的么?

2015-12-10    来源:英语世界    【      美国外教 在线口语培训

英语文化:你知道数字三有什么奇妙的么?

数字“三”十分奇妙。“三”可组成各自独立又相互联系的整体。时间(time)分为现在(present)、过去(past)和将来(future)三个阶段。空间(space)由长(length)、宽(width)和高(height)三维(three dimensions)组成。物态(physical state)有三种,分别为固体(solid)、液体(liquid)和气体(gas)。

文学作品更加偏爱数字“三”。传统相声《歪批三国》列举了《三国演义》(The Romances of Three Kingdoms)中“桃园三结义”“三英战吕布”“三顾茅庐”和“三气周瑜”等大量带“三”的事件。大作家的鸿篇巨制不乏“三部曲”(trilogy)。大仲马(Alexandre Dumas, père)的达太安 三部曲(d’Artagnan trilogy)《三剑客》(The Three Musketeers)、《二十年后》(Twenty Years After)和《铁面人》(The Vicomte de Bragelonne),高尔基(Maxim Gorky)的自传体三部曲(autobiographic trilogy)《童年》(My Childhood)、《在人间》(In the World)和《我的大学》(My Universities),巴金的激流三部曲(the torrents trilogy)《家》(The Family)、《春》(Spring)和《秋》(Autumn),以及金庸(Louis Cha)的射雕三部曲(the condor heroes trilogy)《射雕英雄传》(The Legend of the Condor Heroes)、《神雕侠侣》(The Return of the Condor Heroes)和《倚天屠龙记》(The Heaven Sword and Dragon Saber),都是脍炙人口的传世佳作。

人们希望用一个尽可能小的数字表现尽可能广泛的代表性。“一”太少,“二”不够,“三”正好。汉语有一些带“三”的格言和俗语正好体现了这种广泛的代表性。例如:

1. 三人行必有我师。

(1)If three of us are walking together, at least one of the other two is good enough to be my teacher.(直译)

(2)In the company of three, I can always find a teacher./ You can always find something to learn from the people who keep you company.(意译)

2. 三个臭皮匠,顶个诸葛亮。
(1)Three humble cobblers with their wits combined can equal Zhuge Liang, the mastermind.(直译)

(2)There is always wisdom in a crowd of people.(意译)

3.举一反三。

(1)You can infer other three things from one fact.(直译)

(2)From one sample you may judge the whole./ You can draw inferences about other cases from one instance./ You can just mention one example which serves for the rest.(意译)

同样地,英语也有带 three的谚语,体现了这种广泛的代表性,即“许多”(many)、“所有的”(all)或“每一个”(every)。例如:

4. When three know it, all know it./ What is known to three is known to everybody. 三人知,天下晓。

5. To him that does everything in its proper time, one day is worth three. 事事及时做,一日胜三日。


“三”还可以暗示一种极限。下面的汉语例句表示最高极限(maximum),即“最多”(at most)。

6. 三句话不离本行。
(1)He never utters three sentences without talking about his own work.(直译)

(2)He can hardly open his mouth without talking shop./ He never begins a talk without referring to his own line./ You are talking shop all the time./ You are really a shop talker.(意译)

7. 富不过三代。
(1)A rich family cannot remain rich for more than three generations./ The wealth of a family will not last three generations.(直译)

(2)Great men’s sons seldom do well.(意译)

8. 事不过三。
(1)Anything undesirable that has happened more than three times must not be tolerated.(直译)

(2)Enough is enough./ Something undesirable that is happening should stop.(意译)

而下面的英语谚语则表示最低极限(minimum),即“至少”(at least)。


9. It takes three generations to make a gentleman. 历经三代才能造就一个有教养的人。(直译)/十年树木,百年树人。(意译)
“三”表示反复的最多次数,汉语的“一而再,再而三”和“再三”的意思是“一次又一次”,英语可以译为 again and again, over and over again, time and again, repeatedly。例如:

10. 他再三向我道歉。He said sorry to me again and again.
“三”的反复性还表现为“全面”(in an all-round way),进而表示“仔细”(carefully)或“谨慎”(prudently)。“三思而行”的意思不是“思考三次”,而是“全面、仔细和谨慎地思考”。例如:

11. 三思而行。
(1)Think thrice before acting.(直译)

(2)Think in an all-round way before acting./ Think over the matter carefully before acting./ Think with prudence before acting./ Look before you leap.(意译)

“三”还可以用来表示“极其紧急的情况”(extreme urgency)。英美政党领袖给该政党议员发出紧急指令,要求他们参加会议并就某议题投票。这种紧急令叫做 three-line whip。例如:

12. A three-line whip is a request to a person to attend a particular function or take part in a particular event, while “three-line” refers to the triple underlining of the written request, indicating its extreme urgency. “紧急令”是要求一个人出席特殊聚会或参加特殊活动的指令,而“三条线”指书面指令上的三条底线,表示极其紧急。

13. A three-line whip refers to a situation where the British MPs in a political party are ordered to attend parliament and vote in a particular way on a particular issue. “紧急令”指的是命令英国某政党议员出席议会会议,并就一项特殊问题以特殊方式投票的情况。


three-time loser的原义是“三次入狱的囚犯”。美国有些州的法律规定:一个人如果因重罪坐过两次牢,第三次犯重罪而又被判刑时,会无条件地被判无期徒刑。例如:

14. Going to prison three times made him a three-time loser. 入狱三次,使他终生监禁。

three-time loser的比喻意义与法律无关,指“不走运,次次失败的人”,即“倒霉蛋”或“倒霉鬼”。例如:

15. A three-time loser is a person with bad luck or poor skills who consistently loses. “倒霉蛋”是个交厄运或无技能,而又总是失败的人。

16. He’s just a three-time loser who will never make anything of himself. 他只不过是个永远一事无成的倒霉鬼。


英国摇滚歌手罗德•斯图尔特(Rod Stewart)曾写过题为 Three-Time Loser的歌曲,生动地描写了一个三次入狱囚犯的窘相。节选如下:

I’m a three time loser.

Caught it up in Monterey,

shook it up in East Virginia,

now my friends say it’s here to stay.

我是个“三进宫”的囚犯。

在蒙特利被抓进班房,

在东弗吉尼亚又犯事,

现在我的朋友们说你就待在这里吧。


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