Now, the VOA Special English program WORDS AND THEIR STORIES.

    Cats are the most popular pets among Americans. So it is not surprising that there are many expressions about cats. Some cats like to catch small birds, like canaries. If someone looks very proud or satisfied with himself, we say he looks like the cat that ate the canary.

    ● 中文形容一个人因为达到某种心愿而有点臭美、心满意足的样子,可以用“偷腥的猫”这个表达。英语也有类似的说法,即“like the cat that ate the canary”。这个短语形象描绘了猫打开鸟笼子,掏出里面的金丝雀吃了之后满足的样子。这个短语调侃意味较浓,较常运用于口语之中。

    Sometimes, a cat likes to play with a small animal it catches.

    So if you play cat and mouse with someone, you change between different kinds of behavior when dealing with another person. For example, a child might offer something sweet to her little brother and then take it away when he reaches for it.

    ● 不知大家是否见过猫玩弄老鼠的情形?通常来说,,不会马上把老鼠弄死,而是抓了又放放了又抓,不,断地玩弄它。因此,短语“play cat and mouse with someone”就表示捉弄某人、对某人欲擒故纵的意思。例如:I know what you are up to. Don’t play cat and mouse with me!(我知道你会这么做的,别再捉弄我了!)

    A cat will often catch a small animal and present it to its owner. The saying that looks like something the cat dragged in describes something in bad condition.

    ● 猫通常会叼些破烂或抓些小动物回来,因此that looks like something the cat dragged in 是指处于糟糕状况的事物。当有人说你“look like something the cat dragged in”,即是指你外表凌乱,肮脏不堪。如:You can’t possibly go to school like that—you look like something the cat dragged in!(你不能这个样子去上学——你看你全身邋里邋遢的。)

    Two old and funny expressions describe something that is the best or finest. Americans might say that something is the cat’s meow and the cat’s pajamas.

    ● “the cat’s meow”和“the cat’s pajamas”都表示不同凡响的、极好的人或物,两者都大有典故。一般来说,当猫很高兴或看到好东西的时候,它都会喵喵叫,因此“the cat’s meow”不难理解。而“the cat’s pajamas”便不是直译过来的“猫的睡袍”的意思了。其实这个短语起源于20世纪20年代,那个时候pajamas(睡袍)是相当时尚的东西,因此爱猫的英美人就用“the cat’s pajamas”来形容那些紧跟潮流、与众不同的事物。

    Children might call a child who is easily frightened a fraidy cat or a scaredy cat. A copycat is someone who acts just like someone else or copies another person’s work. A fat cat is a person with a lot of money.

    ● 很多短语都用猫来形容某一类人:比如:“a fraidy cat”和“a scaredy cat”表示胆小鬼;“a copycat”表示模仿者,抄袭者;而“a fat cat”则指大亨、阔佬, 一般都带有一些贬低的意味。

    You may have known that cats spend most of their time sleeping. Sometimes people sleep for a short time during the day. This is called a cat nap.

    ● 我们常看到猫在白天里懒洋洋趴着睡觉猫嗜睡是出了名的。因此,“,a cat nap”就是指日间小憩,午睡。

    If you tell about something that was supposed to be a secret, we say you let the cat out of the bag. If you are not able to speak or answer a question someone might ask if the cat has got your tongue.

    ● to let the cat out of the bag。从字面上来解释,to let the cat out of the bag的意思是:让那只猫从口袋里出来。但是,它的实际意思是:在不小心的情况下泻露了秘密。这个短语倾向于指秘密是无意中被泄露的,而这个秘密往往是重要而关键的。 “The cat has got your tongue.”直译成“猫咬了你的舌头”似乎有些莫名其妙,它其实表示“瞬间说不出话来,不知道说什么好”的意思。这个短语如今被广泛地使用,但关于它的出处却没有一个统一的说法。有一个说法是,在中东,作为一种惩罚的方式,人们会把说谎者的舌头割掉去喂猫;而另外一个比较靠谱的说法则是,中世纪时,巫师这一职业被视为邪恶的象征,通常会被处死。所以,如果一个巫师被人发现,他就会派他的猫出去咬断这个人的舌头,让他不能说话。

    Have you ever watched children in a classroom when their teacher leaves for a few minutes? When the cat’s away, the mice will play means people sometimes misbehave when there is no supervision.

    ● “When the cat’s away, the mice will play.”猫儿不在,老鼠成精(大王外出, 小鬼跳粱)。 意指在人们在缺乏监督时,有时会行为不当,胡作非为。

    You may have heard this expression: curiosity killed the cat. This means being too concerned about things that are not your business might cause problems.

    ● 说起“好奇杀死猫”,许多读者应该马上就联想到刘嘉玲、胡军联袂出演的同名电影。其实这句话来源于1912年尤金·奥尼尔所写剧本中的一句台词:Curiosity killed the cat. Satisfaction brought him back. 传说中有九条命的猫都会因为好奇心而死,更何况人呢?这句话实际上是告诫人们应该适可而止,不应该过分好奇。

    If your home is very small, you might say there is not enough room to swing a cat. But you probably should not try this at home!

    ● “There is not enough room to swing a cat.”的意思不难理解,连猫都难以行走,说明空间之狭小,根本没有转身的余地。

    If you ever had cats as pets, you know it is difficult to train them or to get them to do something. Cats are not like sheep or cows that can be moved in a group. So we say a difficult or impossible job is like herding cats.

    ● 猫是以喜欢自由出名的,向来不喜欢被驯服,因此要驯服一只猫绝非易事。如果做什么事情“like herding cats”,那说明这件事有极大难度,很难做到。比如说,南加州大学的校长就曾说过这句话:Managing people is like herding cats.(管理人简直难于登天。)

    We leave you with a song from the musical play, "Cats."


    This VOA Special English program WORDS AND THEIR STORIES was written by Shelley Gollust. I’m Faith Lapidus. (51VOA.COM对本文翻译保留全部权利,未经授权请勿转载,违者必究!)