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改变我们思考方式的8个词汇

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The exact origins of words are often difficult to place. But sometimes they are the inventions of ground-breaking pioneers – from Chaucer to JK Rowling.

通常我们很难准确定位语言的确切起源,但有时语言就是那些具有开创性的拓荒者的发明——比如从乔叟到JK罗琳(都曾开创一种新的语言形式)。

Every word conceals a story, a secret history. Behind the syllables we use every day lurk countless forgotten tales. “If you know the origin of a word”, the 6th Century scholar Isidore of Seville insisted, “everything can be more clearly comprehended”. While most words slip into currency inconspicuously and without leaving traceable trails of their journeys, there is an elite class of verbal inventions whose exact dates of initial utterance have indeed been carefully recorded.

每个文字都蕴含着一个故事,一个私密的故事。在那些我们每天使用的音节背后潜藏着无数被遗忘的故事。研究6世纪的学者塞维尔·伊西多尔坚持认为“如果你知道单词的起源,那么你对很多事物的理解都会很清晰”。大部分单词是不经意的进入传播领域、而且并没有留下相关可追溯的踪迹,但是有一个创造(新的)语言表达的精英阶层,他们最初的话语表达方式被精心的记录了下来。

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Some of these words are the one-off brainchildren of individuals who have long faded into the fog of history. Others are the concoctions of cultural pioneers who deliberately set out to shape the way future generations think and speak. In every instance what is remarkable is how the unlocking of a word’s biography helps us unlock both the biography of the individual who coined it as well as the age in which he or she lived. What follows are eight intriguing coinages that have altered the way we think about, see, hear, discover, and exist in the world around us:

这些被精心记录下来的文字,有的是出自那些早已消失在历史迷雾中的某个人某一次偶然的灵感,还有一些是文化先驱调和的产物,他们有意的去形塑未来一代人的思考和表达方式。

Twitter

推特

Social media would certainly be a less cheerful place without Twitter’s chirpy logo: that powder-blue profile of a floating bird forever frozen in mid warble. But who first had the phonic imagination to fashion an onomatopoetic compromise between the language of feathers and the language of men? ‘Twitter’ (or ‘twiterith’ as it was initially crafted in the second half of the 14th century), first trilled from the quill of Geoffrey Chaucer in his translation of Consolation of Philosophy by the 6th Century philosopher Boethius. Predating both ‘chirp’ and ‘warble’ by a century, ‘twitter’ is one of over 2,200 words for which the Medieval poet is credited with having inked an inaugural usage. That it’s the same author who wrote the poem The Parlement of Foules seems entirely appropriate.

如果没有推特那只永远浮在半空中呈鸣叫姿态的粉蓝色小鸟标识,社交媒体不会是现在这般欢乐的场所。不过,是谁率先有了这种在鸟类语言和人类语言之间塑造一种拟声结合的声音想象力呢?“Twitter”(或者说‘twiterith’,这个词最早出现在14世纪后半期)在杰佛利·乔叟的译作《哲学的慰藉》(原作者为6世纪的哲学家波伊提)中首次出现。Twitter比‘chirp’ 和‘warble’这两个表示鸟鸣的词早出现了一个世纪,它也是中世纪诗人书写就职演说时得到认可的2200多个单词之一。也正是这位作者写了诗歌《白鸟议会》,这似乎是非常说得通的。

Serendipity

美丽的意外

Before 1754, if someone had wanted to express ‘the fortuitous discovery of something by chance’, he or she would have had to dip his or her nib more than a few times to eke out the full slog of such a cumbersome sentiment. Then presto, on Tuesday 28 January, the English writer Horace Walpole, while composing a letter, gifted to the world that rather peppy prance of syllables: ‘serendipity’. Walpole said he based his lyrical invention on a Persian fairy tale, The Three Princes of Serendip, whose protagonists, he insisted, “were always making discoveries, by accidents and sagacity”. That Walpole misremembered the actual gist of the tale (in fact the princes fail to find what they were looking for despite painstaking attempts) hardly matters; ‘serendipity’ is here to stay – a happy accident indeed. It’s not Walpole’s only quirky coinage. ‘Betweenity’, a word far more charming than its better-known synonym, ‘intermediateness’, deserves the same affection that its sibiling ‘serendipity’ has enjoyed.

在1754年之前,如果有人想表达‘意料之外的偶然发现’,他/她或许只能用冗长的文字来表达这种复杂的情绪了。但是在1月28日星期二这一天一切都变了,英国作家霍勒斯· 沃波尔在写信时为世界贡献了这个活泼欢快的词‘serendipity’。沃波尔说他的抒情创造是以一个波斯童话《锡兰三王子》为基础,童话主角“无论偶然或是特意,他总是有新发现”。‘serendipity’现在是用来表示——一个美丽的意外,因此沃波尔记错童话主要故事情节(事实是:即使王子很努力也总是找不到自己要找的东西)这件事几乎对这个词没什么影响。不过并不是只有沃波尔有这样的奇才,‘Betweenity’也是一个远比大家熟知的同义词更具魅力的单词,‘intermediateness’(中间性)也应该得到与‘serendipity’同样多的喜爱。

Panorama

全景照片

Some words seem to vibrate with the very spirit of the meaning they denote. “Panorama” is one of these; its very rhythm seems in harmony with the wide, mountain-top vistas, boundless horizons, and unblinkered breadth of vision for which it stands. That the word (which literally means ‘all-seeing’) should have entered the world’s lexicon around 1789, a year synonymous with the collapse of that notorious cultural enclosure, Paris’s prison-fortress the Bastille, seems entirely appropriate to panorama’s emancipating vibe. How ironic, then, to discover that the word was initially attached to an entirely confined experience: a cylindrical painting that imprisons its audience – an indoor visual contraption devised by the Irish artist Robert Barker.

有些单词似乎能够传神的表达出它所指代的意思的精髓。“Panorama”就是这样一个单词,它独特的读音让它的意思与那种宽广、高大、广阔的地平线以及无垠的视野和谐匹配。这个单词(字面意思就是全景图)本应在1789年入选世界词典。1789这一年的地位堪比圈地运动的结束、巴士底监狱的垮台,就像全景照片这个词解放了人们的感观方式。然而,具有讽刺意味的是,后来发现这个词最初是与一次完全受限的经历相关:一幅禁锢读者的圆筒形油画——一个由爱尔兰艺术家罗伯特巴克设计的室内视觉装置。

Visualise

可视化

It’s hard to believe that no one had ever ‘visualised’ anything before 1817, but that’s the year the Romantic poet and critic Samuel Taylor Coleridge coined the word in his philosophical confession Biographia Literaria (a full century before the word ‘envision’ was minted). In retrospect it seems fitting that a writer whose mind’s eye was haunted by such phantasmic visions as the spectral ship in his poem The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, and by the “flashing eyes” and “floating hair” that unsettle the ending of his prophetic lyric Kubla Khan, should be the one to give a name to the seeing of the unseeable. Tortured throughout his life by both material and immaterial substances alike, Coleridge is unsurprisingly responsible for introducing into English other words for describing the darker aspects of experience, such as ‘psychosomatic’ and ‘pessimism’.

很难想象在1817年以前,没有人可以用“可视化”来形容任何事物,但是到了1817年,浪漫主义诗人兼批评家塞缪尔泰勒·柯尔律治在他的哲学自白《文学传记》中创造了这个词(比‘envision’这个词的出现早了整整一个世纪),回顾过往,就像在他的诗歌作品《古舟子咏》中提到的鬼怪之船,还有“闪光之眼”和“浮毛”这些扰乱他预言性抒情诗歌《忽必烈汗》结尾的幻象,作家的心眼常被幻觉萦绕,所以我们应该为那些不可见的事物起个名字。柯尔律治的一生都被那些物质和非物质的幻象所折磨,所以他毫无悬念的承担起了为其他英语单词创造一个用来描述黑暗面经历相关单词的责任,比如“受心理影响的”和“悲观主义”这样的词。

Intellectualise

智能化

Coleridge is frequently given credit too for devising a related verb: to ‘intellectualise’, meaning to transform a physical object into a property of the mind. While he certainly deserves credit for coining a term that suggests the very opposite – the underused ‘thingify’ (which means to turn a thought into an object) – in fact ‘intellectualise’ probably belongs to an obscure contemporary and inspiration of the Romantic poet: a mysterious 18th-Century traveller known by the curious nickname ‘Walking Stewart’ for his celebrated feat of having wandered over a greater portion of the known world than anyone before him.

通常,柯尔律治也因为创造了另一个相关的词而备受赞扬:即‘intellectualise’智能化。意思是为物理对象赋予精神属性。同时他也因创造了一个表示相反意思的词而理所应当得到赞誉——未被充分利用的词‘thingify’ (意思是把想法转化为具体的事物)——其实“智能化”与当时一位无名的浪漫主义诗人相关:他是一位生活在18世纪的以其有趣绰号“行走的斯图尔特”为人所熟知的神秘旅人,他最著名的事迹就是:在已知世界更大范围内漫游的第一人。

Bureaucracy

官僚主义

The hobo narrator of Harry McClintock’s 1928 song Big Rock Candy Mountain dreams of reaching a carefree paradise where “they hung the jerk who invented work”. While history may not remember the name of that particular “jerk”, we do know who the identity of the French economist who invented a word for something almost as tiresome”: ‘bureaucracy’. In 1818, Jean Claude Marie Vincent de Gournay tethered the French word for desk (bureau) to the Greek suffix that means ‘the power of’ (-cracy) and gave a name to the red tape that was beginning to strangle society. Having coined a word for the governmental processes that impose tedious rules on individual behaviour, Gournay might seem the last person we’d expect to give birth to a term that means “let people do as they think best”: laissez-faire.

哈利麦克林托克1928年的那首《大冰糖山》的演说员,梦想到达无忧无虑的天堂,在那里“他们对发明工作的蠢货处以绞刑”。然而历史不会铭记是哪个“蠢货”发明了工作,我们只会记住那位把令人生厌的作风命名为“官僚主义”的法国经济学家。1818年,吉恩·克劳德玛丽文森特古尔耐把表示局、处意思的法语单词desk (bureau)与希腊语表示政权的后缀单词cracy组合到了一起,并为这个开始污染社会风气的官僚作风起了这个名字。古尔耐为那些把冗长的规则强加于个体行为的政府行政程序创造了一个新的词汇,因此可以说古尔耐是最后一个可以让人寄予厚望创造出“让人们做他们认为最好的事”即“自由放任主义”这类词的人。

Photograph

摄影

Strange to think that some of the most seemingly stable names we attach to the objects around us were embraced only gradually and by a process of elimination. The English astronomer and inventor Sir John Herschel’s proposal of the word ‘photograph’ in 1839 had to see off rival coinages before becoming fixed permanently in the world’s vocabulary. Had history taken another path, your gran might be admonishing you for not sending enough ‘sun-prints’ or ‘photogenes’. One competitor, heliograph, which predated ‘photograph’ by a generation, gave Herschel’s suggestion a serious run for its money.

很奇怪,我们身边一些看起来很稳固的物品名称都是逐渐被人们所接受的,过程中还伴随着一定程度的消失现象。英国天文学家兼发明家约翰·赫歇尔1839年对“摄影”这一词的提议就是在打败竞争对手的新词之后才被永久地收入世界词汇当中的。如果历史选择了另一种叫法,那么奶奶在教导我们时的口头禅可能就会变成别发那么多的‘sun-prints’或者‘photogenes’(译者注:都是照片的同义词)。同类词“日光摄影”比“摄影”一词早出现一代的时间,它是与赫歇尔提议的“摄影”一次抗衡的竞争词。

Muggle

麻瓜

Men, needless to say, are not, as a gender, uniquely skilled at coining compelling words, however uncelebrated female neologists have been. With their contributions to culture frequently marginalised, is there any wonder that we find that the Oxford English Dictionary attributes to female writers the first usage of such words as ‘outsider’ (to Jane Austen in 1800) and ‘angst’ (imported from German by George Eliot in 1849). In our own age, it has once again fallen to a female novelist to define who is endowed with the powers of the initiated and those left wanting of wizardry ways. J K Rowling’s coining of ‘muggle’ in her 1997 book Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone to describe mortals bereft of supernatural skill.

毋庸置疑,男人——常被作为一种社会性别——并不擅长创造新词语,但是无名的女性却一直都是新词语创造者。由于女性们对文化的贡献越来越被边缘化,牛津英语词典第一次把像“局外人”(1849年如此形容简奥斯汀)和“焦虑”(1849年由乔治·艾略特从德国引进)这样的词语用来形容女作家也就不足为奇了。在我们自己这个时代,是女性小说家来定义谁被赋予原始力量、谁缺乏巫术方式的时代。罗琳在1997年的小说《哈利波特》中创造了“麻瓜”和“魔法石”两词来形容丧失超自然能力的凡人。

来源:BBC

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