雞同鴨講──政治無處不在，包括在日常英語之中｜A Chicken Talking To A Duck By Chatterbox
No matter where you look these days, you will find politics everywhere. In Hong Kong we have the continuing oath saga still bubbling in the Legislative Council while on the other side of the world, there’s the much-talked about US elections. But mind you, if you care to look beyond it all, you will find that our daily life is intrinsically tied to politics and some of the terms and phrases used to describe politics can easily be applied to depict non-political everyday situations.
If there is a promotion in the office and there are only two potential candidates, you could say it’s a “two-horse race”, which means it’s a competition between two candidates only. Needless to say, this is often used to describe an election.
You can use “hot air” to describe someone talking nonsense, full of empty words or mere rhetoric. You most likely hear people criticise politicians and government officials of being full of hot air which means what they say is exaggerated, pretentious and not believable.
Another term that is likely to pop up in daily conversations is “politically incorrect” to describe language that will cause offence to others. For example, if someone cracks jokes that are racially insensitive or conform to outdated stereotypes, you can say they are being politically incorrect. “Politically correct” is the exact opposite and it’s often shortened to “PC”.
One very interesting phrase you can use in daily life is “get on/off your soapbox” to describe someone talking too much about a subject they feel strongly about. If they get too preachy you can tell them to “get off your soapbox”. It can be quite an effective and indirect way to tell someone to shut up.
If you feel strongly about something and don’t agree with it, you could either “throw in the towel” or “vote with your feet”. The former means giving up on something. The second phrase is even stronger which means you walk away from it. For example, you can say, “if you really hate your job so much, why don’t you just vote with your feet?”
Other interesting political phrases that you can borrow to describe daily circumstances include “absolute power corrupts absolutely” and “if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen”. The former is rather self-explanatory; the latter means if you can’t stand the pressure don’t persist with the task. This phrase certainly comes in handy in any situation in life.
Another fun term to describe people is “paper tiger” which means a person who seems to have power but is ineffectual in reality. How about “spin doctor”? It’s often used to describe a press agent or publicist whose job is to promote a favourable interpretation of events to maximise positive media coverage.
A couple more useful phrases before we go; “red tape” to describe rigid and excessive adherence to bureaucratic rules and regulations that are unnecessary. Finally, “the buck stops here” to describe someone willing to take full responsibility for mistakes made while “pass the buck” is to mean the opposite criticising someone for shirking responsibility.
It’s been a little bit heavy going talking about politics, even indirectly so let’s call it a day. See you all next week.
例如在公司內，有一個晉升機會，潛在候選人卻只有兩名員工，便可以用「two-horse race」──一場只有兩名參賽者的競爭來形容這情況。想當然，這句話在選舉期間不時出現。你也可以用「hot air」來形容某人胡說八道、說話空洞或浮誇。我們常常聽見，人們以至政評家批評政府官員「being full of hot air」，就是指他們言辭誇張、做作、不可信。
另一經常在日常生活用到的短語是「politically incorrect」，它形容會冒犯他人的言論。比方說，某人開了一個種族敏感、過時、刻板的玩笑，便可以說他們「being politically incorrect」，與之相反的，是不時被縮寫為「PC」的「politically correct」。
「Get on/off your soapbox」亦是一個在常被使用的有趣短語，它形容別人對其感興趣的話題說得太多。要是你遇到這些嘮叨不休的人，不妨叫他們「get off your soapbox」，這可以是有效而間接、叫他們閉嘴的方式呢。
另外，要是你非常不同意某事，可以在「throw in the towel」或「vote with your feet」中二擇其一。前者代表放棄某事，後者則指直接離開去表達不滿，語氣比較強烈。例句如：「If you really hate your job so much, why don’t you just vote with your feet?」
與政治有關的短語中，「absolute power corrupts absolutely」及「if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen」也是很有意思的兩句。前者意思相當明顯，後者則代表如果你不能承受壓力，倒不如放棄、別再堅持下去，這句話想必可用於生活中的不同方面。
除此之外，「paper tiger」形容某個看似強大，實際上卻軟弱無能的人。「Spin doctor」又是甚麼意思呢？它代表以為僱主促進有利形象、盡量提高媒體覆蓋率為己任的公關或評論家。
擱筆之前，再多談幾個有用的短語吧！「Red tape」形容無必要卻牢不可破的官僚制度及規則，「the buck stops here」代表某人願意為過錯負上全責。相反地，「pass the buck」則意指某人推諉責任。