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您现在的位置: 考试吧 > 英语听力 > 大学英语听力 > 大学体验英语第三册 > 正文

大学体验英语综合教程第三册Unit5:Passage A:Tongue-tied

  Tongue-tied

  Several weeks ago I was riding in a cab when the driver's eyes caught mine in the rear view mirror and he said, "Excuse me, Miss? Can you help me?"

  As any hard-bitten city dweller knows, the correct answer to a question like "Can you help me?" should always be some version of "It depends." I chirped, "Sure."

  "Thank you," he said. He passed a slip of yellow paper into the back seat.

  I stared at the paper, wondering. Was this a joke? A threat? Hand-printed on the paper in tiny block letters was this:

  proverb

  peculiar

  idiomatic

  "Please," he said. "What is the meaning of these words?"

  I stared at the words in the distressed way you might stare at party guests whose faces you've seen somewhere before but whose names have escaped your mind. Proverb? Peculiar? Idiomatic? How on earth should I know? It's one thing to use a word, it's another to explain it. I resorted to shifting the topic.

  "Where did you get these words?"

  The driver explained that he was Pakistani. He listened to the radio as he drove and often jotted down unfamiliar, fascinating words whose meanings and spellings he then sought from his passengers.

  "Peculiar," he said. "What does this mean?"

  I could manage that one. "Strange," I said. "Odd. Often with a hint of something suspicious."

  "Thank you, Miss. And idiomatic?"

  I cleared my throat. "Um, it's a, well, um. It involves a peculiar use of the language."

  I thought my use of peculiar was kind of clever. He looked confused, a reminder that clever's not clever if it doesn't communicate.

  "Uh, let's see. 'Idiomatic' is related to the word 'idiom'. An idiom's something that's used in, say, a particular part of the country or by a particular group of people. People who aren't part of that group aren't likely to use it and might not understand it."

  Watching his puzzled look, I did what a person often does when at a loss for the right words: I went on talking, as if a thousand vague words would add up to one accurate definition.

  "Can you give me an example?"

  I racked my brains. "Gapers block," I said. A peculiarly Chicago phrase.

  But did it really qualify as idiomatic? I had no idea because the longer I thought about idioms the less sure I was what they were.

  "And proverb?"

  I should have told the poor man right then that I might be misleading him down the proverbial path, whatever that really means, but instead I said, "I think a proverb is kind of like an aphorism. But not quite."

  "A what?"

  "Never mind. A proverb is a condensed saying that teaches you a lesson."

  "An example?"

  The meter clicked off a full 20 cents while I searched madly through my mind. "Haste makes waste?" I finally whimpered.

  But was that a proverb? Wait. Weren't proverbs actually stories, not just phrases? While I was convincing myself they were, he said, "Can an idiom be a proverb?"

  I could answer that. Just not right now, now when it mattered, now when the fate of a curious, intelligent immigrant hung on the answers he assumed would fall from a native speaker's tongue as naturally as leaves from an October tree. So I retreated.

  "Do most of your passengers give you answers when you ask for definitions?"

  "Oh, yes, Miss. Very interesting definitions."

  Until that moment, I'd been so inspired by the driver's determination to learn English, so enthralled by the chance to indulge my curiosity about words with another curious soul, that I didn't fully grasp the potential for linguistic fraud committed in this man's cab. Now I could barely allow myself to imagine what kind of deformed English he was being fed by cowards like me who couldn't simply say, "I don't really know my own language."

  I can only trust that someone as curious as he is also owns a dictionary. And that he figures out that, no matter what his passengers may say, haste doesn't always make waste at the gapers block.

  推荐:约会

     加菲猫超经典搞笑语录(图)

     为取英文名发愁 向好莱坞明星取取经

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