I’m Susan Clark with the Special English program WORDS AND THEIR STORIES.
Young Mister Smith had an idea for his employer. It was an idea for saving money for the company by increasing prices. At the same time, Smith suggested that the company sell goods of less value.
If his employer liked the idea, Smith might be given more pay. Perhaps he might even get a better job with the company.
Business had been very slow. So Mister Smith’s employer thought a few minutes about the idea. But then she shook her head. "I am sorry, Smith," his employer said. "It just will not wash."
公司业务曾经一度非常清淡。因此史密斯的老板考虑了一下这个主意。但随后她摇了摇头。“很抱歉，史密斯，”老板说，“It just will not wash.”
Now, the meaning of these English words should be, "It will not get clean." Yet Smith's idea did not have anything to do with making something clean. So why did his employer say, "It will not wash?"
这个短语现在的意思应该是指“这不会使它变干净。”然而史密斯的主意与弄干净某物没有任何联系。那么他的老板为什么会说：“It will not wash?”
Most word experts agree that "it will not wash" means it will not work. Eric Partridge wrote that the saying probably developed in Britain in the eighteen hundreds. Charlotte Bronte used it in a story published in eighteen forty-nine. She wrote, "That wiln’t wash, miss." Mizz Bronte seems to have meant that the dyes used to color a piece of clothing were not good. The colors could not be depended on to stay in the material.
大多数词汇专家认为，“it will not wash”的意思是行不通。埃里克·帕特里奇（Eric Partridge）写道，这种说法可能源自19世纪的英国。夏洛蒂·勃朗特（Charlotte Bronte）1849年发表的故事中用到了这种说法。她写道，“That wiln’t wash，miss。” 勃朗特貌似是指，用于染这块布的染料不太好，颜色不能可靠附着于布料。
In nineteenth century England, the expression came to mean an undependable statement. It was used mainly to describe an idea. But sometimes it was used about a person.
A critic once said of the poet Robert Browning, "He won’t wash." The critic did not mean that the poet was not a clean person. He meant that Browning’s poems could not be depended on to last.
一位评论家曾经这么谈到对诗人罗伯特·布朗宁（Robert Browning）的看法，“He won’t wash.”这位评论家并不是指这位诗人不讲卫生。他说的是，布朗宁的诗不能传承下去。
Today, we know that judgment was wrong. Robert Browning still is considered a major poet. But very few people remember the man who said Browning would not wash.
Happily for the young employee Smith, his employer wanted him to do well in the company. So the employer "talked turkey" to him. She said, "Your idea would be unfair to our buyers. Think of another way to save money."
A century ago, to talk turkey meant to talk pleasantly. Turkeys in the barnyard were thought to be speaking pleasantly to one another. In recent years, the saying has come to mean an attempt to teach something important.
一个世纪前，“to talk turkey”意味着愉快交谈。人们曾经认为关在谷仓里的火鸡相互之间在愉快地交流。近年来，这种说法的意思已经开始变为“尝试教人某些重要的东西”。
Word expert Charles Funk tells how he believes this change took place.
He says two men were shooting turkeys together. One of them was a white man. The other was an American Indian. The white man began stating reasons why he should get all the turkeys for himself. But the American Indian stopped him. He told the white man, "Now, I talk turkey to you."
他说，两名男子一起去打火鸡。一位是白人，另一位是印第安人。这位白人开始叨叨为什么他要拿走所有火鸡。但这位印第安人打断了他。他对白人男子说，"Now, I talk turkey to you."（注1）
Mister Smith thought of a better idea after his employer talked turkey to him. He was given an increase in pay. So if your idea "will not wash," try "talking turkey" to yourself and come up with a better idea.
注1：相传在北美殖民时期，一个白人和一个印第安人去打猎，事先说好了平分打到的猎物。一天下他们共猎得2只火鸡和3只老鸦。白人把老鸦给了印第安人，把火鸡全留给了自己。印第安人反对这样分配，白人就说You have three birds, I have only two.（你分3只鸟，我只拿了2只。）印第安人回答Stop talking birds. Talk turkey.（先别说鸟了，先说火鸡吧。）因为两个人都明白，他们想要的猎物是火鸡。(51VOA.COM对本文翻译享有全部权利，未经授权请勿转载，违者必究！)