欧博APP:杂志精选》Let’s eat Grandma! 少个逗号意思大不同

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杂志精选》Let’s eat Grandma! 少个逗号意思大不同

中文有一句著名的无标点符号句子「下雨天留客天留我不留」,来自清朝赵恬养《增订解人颐新集》中的著名故事,讲述明朝才子徐文长有次外出访友,巧遇梅雨季节,已经在友人家中待了好几天不走,主人不方便开口赶人,因此故意写纸条希望徐文长看了难为情而自行告别。纸条上写着「下雨天留客天留我不留」,原先意思是「下雨天留客;天留,我不留!」但没想到因为这句话没有标点符号,反倒让徐文长唸成「下雨天,留客天;留我不? 留!」给反将一军。

与英文标点符号相关的故事也不少,像是Let's eat Grandma!跟Let's eat, Grandma!差一个逗号,意思截然不同。

另一个误用标点符号的著名笑话是「熊猫开枪」事件,据说有一本品质欠佳的百科全书介绍熊猫是Panda: large black-and-white bear-like mammal, native to China. Eats, shoots and leaves. 因为逗号在eats跟shoots之间,意思变成「熊猫是大型黑白相间、外型像熊的哺乳动物,原产于中国。吃、射击、离开」。但事实上正确写法应该将最后一个逗号删掉,成为eats shoots and leaves,解释为「吃嫩芽和叶子」。

为了展现对标点符号的重视,美国还特将9月24日订为National Punctuation Day「国家标点符号日」。事实上标点符号有其发展历史,我们一起来阅读以下几个句子。

In the 3rd Century BCE, a librarian in Egypt named Aristophanes had had enough. He was chief of staff at the city's famous library, home to hundreds of thousands of scrolls, which were all frustratingly time-consuming to read. (公元前3世纪,埃及一位名叫Aristophanes的图书馆员已经受够了。他是这座城市著名图书馆的馆长,该图书馆藏书数十万卷,阅读起来相当费时,让人倍感挫折。)

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Back then the Greeks had written their texts so that their letters ran together“withnospacesorpunctuation”and without any distinction between lowercase and capitals. It was up to the reader to pick their way through this unforgiving mass of letters to discover where each word or sentence ended and the next began. (以前希腊人的字都写在一起,中间没有间隔,也无标点符号,甚至没有大小写区别。对于这些大量无情的文字,读者需要自行判断,仔细分辨每个单词或句子的开头和结尾。)

好在Aristophanes想出一种简单的标点符号注释方法,让那些连在一起,不知头尾在哪的希腊文字不再显得冗长。

Aristophanes' breakthrough was to suggest that readers could annotate their documents, relieving the unbroken stream of text with dots of ink aligned with the middle (•), bottom (•) or top (•) of each line. His points corresponded to the pauses of increasing length that a practised reader would habitually insert between formal units of speech called the comma, colon and period. (Aristophanes的创举在于让读者于文章中加上注释,用墨水在每一行的中间、底部或顶部点上标记,让那些连在一起的文字串不会那么冗长难读。他的点点跟一位熟练的读者习惯性地在长句里的正式语音单位间所插入的停顿相对应,亦称之为逗号、冒号和句号。)

Between 400 and 800 AD, as the Bible began to be mass-produced, punctuation was popularized along with it. In the 1400s, a huge shift came with the printing press, which spurred the need for a more unified punctuation system. (西元400到800年间,随着圣经开始大量出版,标点符号也渐渐普及。在西元1400年代,更因为印刷术的兴起,激发了人们对于更统一的标点符号系统的需求。)

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