Politics Thoughts on Writing 中文文章

人一藍, 腦就殘:來看看梁燕城博士的爛英文吧!

“比何君堯的爛英文更爛” - 馮睎乾這樣形容梁燕城博士為了證明何君堯的清白,以中國文化專家身份,給英國事務律師紀律審裁處遞交的那份英文供詞。

“比何君堯的爛英文更爛” – 馮睎乾這樣形容梁燕城博士為了證明何君堯的清白,以中國文化專家身份,給英國事務律師紀律審裁處遞交的那份英文供詞。

梁博士似乎沒覺得他的英文很爛,因他驕傲地把那份供詞發到他的臉書,並標榜自己是“唐君毅和牟宗三的學生,且發表過一百多篇學術論文。”

我抽出他所寫的其中一段英文,作出以下點評:

梁博士原文:

“When people speak in this phrase 殺無赦 (sha wu she) nowadays, its meaning is for a dramatic  expression only. From the point of modern day ordinary language analysis, the meaning of 殺無赦 (sha wu she) is “unforgiven” and not really mean “killing”. One of the example is a Hollywood movie namely “Unforgiven” in 1992, directed by Clint Eastwood and written by David Peoples,its Chinese title in Chinese translation as 殺無赦 (sha wu she) in Taiwan. Therefore, the way of using this phrase nowadays is to proof more on to signify meaning of unforgiven instead of killing.”

“When people speak in this phrase 殺無赦“ – this is pure Chinglish. Dr Leung must have had in mind something like “當有人講到殺無赦.”

The line that follows – “its meaning is for dramatic expression only” – isn’t grammatical either, because “its meaning” doesn’t match the subject of the sentence (people who say 殺無赦). 

An error-free version might read like this: “In contemporary times, when native Chinese speakers say 殺無赦,by no means are they indicating that they want to kill someone.”

“From the point of modern day ordinary language analysis” – the reader already knows Dr Leung is offering an analysis of the modern usage of 殺無赦, so what’s the point of saying this? His paragraph’s content would have remained the same if he hadn’t added this phrase. 

“The meaning of 殺無赦 (sha wu she) is ‘unforgiven” and not really mean ‘killing’” – Dr Leung should have omitted “really mean.” I do wonder about his liking for the words mean/meaning, though; we are only two sentences into this paragraph, yet already he has used them three times. Is his vocabulary this sparse?

The rest of his paragraph is curiously riddled with the kind of errors even primary school kids would have known not to make – “one of the example” should have been “one of the examples.”

Other slip-ups to note:

Dr Leung’s version

 “One of the example is a Hollywood movie namely “Unforgiven” in 1992, directed by Clint Eastwood and written by David Peoples,its Chinese title in Chinese translation as 殺無赦 (sha wu she) in Taiwan.” 

My edit:

“By way of illustration, I’d refer to Clint Eastwood’s western “Unforgiven”: in Taiwan, the name of the film was translated into Chinese as 殺無赦.” 

Dr Leung’s version:

“Therefore, the way of using this phrase nowadays is to proof more on to signify meaning of unforgiven instead of killing.”

My edit:

“Accordingly, under the current linguistic practices, 殺無赦 signifies the withholding of forgiveness rather than the urge to inflict serious physical harm.”

I’d actually take issue with Dr Leung’s strategy of citing a translated film title as authority to back his claim that 殺無赦 connotes refusing to absolve someone and not killing someone. The thing is, to do their job well, translators of film names typically practise poetic license. So, “仙樂飄飄處處聞“ (a line borrowed from the Tang Dynasty poem 長恨歌)works much better as the Chinese translation of “The Sound of Music” than the literal ”音樂的聲音.“ Since translations of film names often don’t reflect everyday habits of speech, Dr Leung shouldn’t have used the Unforgiven-殺無赦 example because it wouldn’t help him prove that Junius Ho meant no harm when he invoked that phrase at a rally.

My rewrite of Dr Leung’s paragraph is short and sweet:

”In contemporary times, native Chinese speakers deploy 殺無赦 as a figure of speech only. They don’t mean to kill anyone, any more than someone who says ‘an eye for an eye’ intends to rip out another person’s eyeball.“

I'm Michelle Ng (吳若琦), an Oxford-educated bilingual political writer and English writing coach based in Hong Kong. I'm currently an English columnist for Apple Daily and Ming Pao, and a Chinese columnist for 眾新聞. I have written for Hong Kong Free Press, The Wall Street Journal and The Vancouver Sun. 

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