William Safire, pundit and lexicographer, died on September 27th, aged 79
权威政治评论家、词典编纂家威廉•赛菲尔于九月二十七日辞世,享年79岁

HAD William Safire written his own obituary, he would have laid down a few simple rules. First, use the active, not the passive voice, no matter how inert the corpse. Second, taking the bull by the hand, nix those mixed metaphors. Third, kill all sentences starting with conjunctions, or ending in “by”, “with”, or “on”. De mortuis nil nisi bonum? Preferably not; swaydo-intellectual Latinisms cut no ice with him, unless he allowed himself a silkily Catulline ave atque vale.

如果让威廉•赛菲尔写自己的讣告,他会立下几条简单的规矩。首先,要用主动而非被动语态,甭管死者的躯体如何僵硬不动。其次,类似“降牛要抓手”[注1] 这样的混杂隐喻要不得。第三,毙掉所有用连词开头或是用“by”、“with” 或“on”结尾的句子。那能不能用用拉丁文,比如“对于死者唯有赞美”(De mortuis nil nisi bonum”)?最好别;他对被人拉来伪装智识的拉丁文词句不以为然[注2],除非他愿意用拉丁文为自己写一首像卡图卢斯的“敬礼和道别”那样珠圆玉润的 悼亡诗[注3]。

As a practised scribbler—never truly a hack, for that word, borrowed from England, denoted a broken-down horse let out for hire—he also knew better than to squander a good nugget in the lede. Not until halfway through his article would grieving readers learn, for example, that he used to buy the unknown Ariel Sharon breakfast each time he came to New York; that Barbara Bush would wink at him on grand occasions, while her husband froze him out; or that he once wrote a spoof interview with Richard Nixon languishing in purgatory, his entry into heaven having been delayed because…he had imposed wage and price controls.

作为一名经验老到的三流作家(他从来不是英语中称为hack的雇佣文人,因为那个从英格兰借来的词本指用来出租的老弱马匹),他也知道在讣告一开头就把好 东西端出来太过浪费。哀悼他的读者需要读到他那份讣告的中间部分才会得知关于他的一些趣事珍闻,比如每次他到纽约都会吃一顿无人知晓的所谓“阿里尔•沙 龙”早饭套餐[注3a];又比如芭芭拉•布什在庄重的场合看到他时总爱冲他眨眼睛,虽然她丈夫总给他一副冷脸;还比如他曾写过一则搞笑式采访,采访对象是 理查德•尼克松,正在炼狱里恹恹地打发时日。该君进天堂的时间被延后的愿因是他对工资和物价实施了政府管制。[注4]

Mr Safire was a pundit, or wise man, a word derived from the Hindi via Henry R. Luce at Time magazine (source also of the words tycoon, moppet and socialite, to none of which Mr Safire either ascended or aspired). As such, he wrote political and lexicological columns for the New York Times for more than 30 years. He was also, in a nod to his Jewish ancestry, a maven, meaning “he who understands”, a Hebrew-Yiddish word slipped into English in the 1960s in an ad for herring in cream sauce. He was of the old school, and had been so long in the commentary dodge that he sometimes called his computer his typewriter (though keeping up, as nimbly as any 20-something, with the blargon and cellphoney-baloney of the age). He wore plaid. An Englishman would have called it tweed, originally a misreading of tweel, the Scots form of twill. Either way, the check was loud, and rarely matched his tie.

赛菲尔先生生前是一名pundit或曰智者,这是从印地语经由《时代周刊》的亨利•R•鲁斯传入英语的一个词(鲁斯的《时代周刊》也是tycoon(大 亨), moppet(孩童) socialite(社会名流)的来源,赛菲尔先生既没成为,也没想成为,这三个词所描述的任何一类人)。作为一名智者(或权威政治评论家),他为《纽约 时报》写了三十多年的政治和词汇专栏。又因为其犹太裔的背景,他也可以说是位maven(内行),意为“懂行的人”,这是个希伯莱-意第绪语单词,上世纪 六十年代靠一则奶油酱腌鲱鱼的广告溜进了英语。赛菲尔是个老派人物,他在评论这一行干了太久,以致于他有时管他的计算机叫打字机(虽然他也紧跟时代,熟知 blargon(部落格一族的行话)和cellphoney-baloney(打手机时的胡说八道)一类的新潮说法[注5],在这上头俨然和二十来岁的小 青年一样身手敏捷)。他常穿彩格呢的衣服(plaid)。英格兰人会叫它粗花呢(tweed),这起初其实是tweel一词的误读,而后者是苏格兰人对 twill的拼法。但不管怎样,赛菲尔身上的彩格都太刺眼,和他的领带鲜有相配的时候。

He stood out at the Times, though, less for his clothes than his views. These were to the fiercely libertarian right, a stance rarely seen at the Gray Lady. That was exactly why Punch Sulzberger hired him. He arrived in 1973 fresh from a job as speechwriter and campaign strategist for Nixon and his veep, Spiro Agnew, after an energetic earlier career as a flack, or public-relations man. The word came from the second world war, describing the smoke from German anti-aircraft shells, and hence the puffed-up information or exaggerated shows Mr Safire and his sort provided. He liked battlefield coinings. His favourite word of all, his friend Daniel Schorr thought, was zap, as in “Let me zap him.” Failing that, snappers and zingers were regularly landed on his foes: Hillary Clinton, Lee Kuan Yew, the startled John Ashcroft when attorney-general, and anyone using singular verbs with plural nouns.

不过,他在《纽时》期间引人侧目的原因更多的倒不是他的衣着,而是他的观点。赛菲尔所持的是强烈推崇个人自由的偏右观点,而这一立场在 有“灰色娘子”之称的《纽时》[注6]是难得一见的。这正是潘趣•萨尔兹伯格当初雇他的原因。1973年他到《纽时》开始上班,不久前他还是尼克松和其副 总统斯皮罗•阿格纽的演讲撰稿人和竞选策划,再往前他曾是一名生龙活虎的flack,即公关人员。该词来自第二次世界大战,本是描述德军防空炮弹爆炸时产 生的浓烟,后来就转指赛菲尔先生和其公关业同行所提供的自吹自擂的信息或夸张的表演。他喜欢源自战场的新词。他的朋友丹尼尔•萧尔[注7]觉得他最爱用的 词是zap(电击般命中),比如”Let me zap him”(“让我把他给毙了)。”要是没法对他的敌人一击致命,他也会用脍炙人口的妙语和切中要害的警句来往敌人身上招呼。后者包括希拉里•克林顿、李光 耀、在司法部长任上受了惊吓的约翰•艾什克劳夫特、以及任何在复数名词后使用动词单数形式的人。

Hold that prognostication
先别急着预测

Nixon he did not dislike. (Nor backwards sentences, neither.) To him he was not Tricky Dick, a name first coined in 1950 by a rival in a race for junior senator from California, but rather Mr Nice Guy. Mr Safire did him a large favour, in 1959, by engineering a conversation between him and Nikita Khrushchev (Nik heated, Dick cool) at a trade fair in Moscow. Once he had joined the Times, though, Mr Safire was shocked to find himself the victim of a Nixonian wiretap. It was made no better, but much more interesting, when one of his Lexicographic Irregulars found an early usage from the civil war, a tap into the telegraph wires at Lebanon Junction during Morgan’s raid of 1863 that discovered the Louisville garrison to be “much alarmed”.

尼克松他并没有不喜欢。(赛菲尔也不讨厌倒装句。)在他看来,尼克松并不是“耍滑头的迪克”(Tricky Dick)――这个名字首见于1950年,编出这个名字的人是尼克松竞选加州资浅参议员时的一个对手――赛菲尔眼中的尼克松是好人一个(Mr. Nice Guy)[注8]。1959年,在莫斯科的一个交易会上赛菲尔安排尼克松和尼基塔•赫鲁晓夫进行了一段对话,从而帮了尼克松一个大忙(因为对话中的尼克显 得情绪激动,而迪克则态度冷静)。不过,当他加盟了《纽时》后,赛菲尔先生旋即发现他自己居然也被尼克松令人搭线偷听过,这让他震惊不已。他的一名“词典 游击队员”[注9]后来找到了南北内战期间即已出现的一则wiretap的用法――“1863年摩根突击”期间正在北方进行袭扰的“摩根突击队”在黎巴嫩 会合点(Lebanon Junction)这个地方往电报线(wires)上搭线(tap),从而发现在路易斯维尔驻防的北方军“颇为警觉”。这则wiretap早期用法的例子 并没有让尼克松对赛菲尔进行偷听这件事变得不那么糟糕,但它让这件事有趣多了。

The most famous phrase from his speechwriting days was nattering nabobs of negativism, written for Agnew as a joke to describe “defeatists who thought we could never win in Vietnam”. Agnew liked alliteration. (So did Mr Safire; though asinine alliteration was best avoided, when pounding out the punditry he could rarely resist.) In his “Political Dictionary” he later explained that negativism was the key word; that nabob, from the Urdu, meaning governor, hence self-important potentate, was the ideal practitioner of a negative outlook (see the use by John Adams in 1776); and that nattering was meant to denote complaining, but that Stewart Alsop, his pundit-mentor, had told him that the British use was closer to chattering. Neither Agnew nor Vietnam victory-thoughts lasted too much longer.更多信息请访问:http://www.24en.com/

赛菲尔担任演讲稿撰稿人期间造出的最有名的一个短语是“牢骚满腹的怀疑主义大佬”(nattering nabobs of negativism),这本是为[副总统]阿格纽写的一个逗笑的说法,用来描述“认为我们绝不可能在越南打赢的那些个失败主义者”。阿格纽喜欢押头韵 [注10]。(赛菲尔先生在打字机上重重地敲出他那些不吐不快的权威见解时也好这一手,虽然他极少犯为头韵而头韵的错误。)  他后来在其《政治词典》一 书中解释说,“怀疑主义”(negativism)是上面这个短语的关键词;来自乌尔都语的“大佬”(nabob)本指总督,所以引申为妄自尊大的要人, 用来指持怀疑主义观点者再合适不过(见约翰•亚当斯1776年对nabob一词的用法[注11]);而nattering这个词被用来指发牢骚,但对他进 行言传身教的权威评论家斯图亚特•阿尔索普告诉他说英国人对该词的使用接近chattering(聊天)。阿格纽不久就因丑闻辞职,而在越战中取胜的想法 也没持续太久。

He saw himself, mixing the metaphor only slightly, as a lone wolf gazing at the horizon. Since world politics was his beat as well as the English language, he loped off on wild excursions into both. He became obsessed with Iraqi spymasters meeting al-Qaeda operatives in Prague, and remained a cheerleader for the Iraq war when most folk had fallen quiet. (It was neither a total war nor quite a limited war, just a quick war, he wrote, after which joyful Iraqis would thank their liberators, and freed scientists would reveal giant stacks of weapons of mass destruction.) His legions of lefter-leaning fans wondered whether he also believed in the tooth fairy. They could look it up, in perhaps the most pleasing cross-reference from his “Political Dictionary”: “Tooth fairy, See SANTA CLAUS, NOBODY SHOOTS AT.”

他把自己看作一头凝望远方地平线的独行狼(这个暗喻只是略略有些混杂[注12])。既然世界政治和英语这一语言都是他负责报道的领域,他在这两个领域都狼 奔豕突般地走过些弯路。他喋喋不休地谈论伊拉克的间谍头目和阿尔盖达的特工在布拉格碰头一事[注13],并且在大部分伊拉克战争支持者们都不再吱声后,他 仍然为伊战摇旗呐喊。(他写道,伊战既不是总体战(total war),也不是有限战争(limited war), 而只不过是一场速决战 (quick war)。战事结束后,欢天喜地的伊拉克人会感谢他们的解放者,而重获自由的科学家们(freed scientists)将会把堆积如山的大规模杀伤武器呈现在世人面前。)他的无数观点更为左倾的粉丝们纳闷他是不是也相信牙齿仙女(tooth fairy)的存在。他们可以去查阅他的《政治词典》里也许是最令人愉快的一条相互参照的注释:“牙齿仙女,参见没人会向圣诞老人开枪。”[注14]

备注:

注1:本应说take the bull by the horns,即降牛要抓角,指不畏艰险,迎难而上。牛当然没“手”,所以说降牛要抓“手”就是一个“混杂暗喻”,即用了彼此矛盾的比喻。这是修辞上的忌讳之一。

注2:Swaydo-intellectual即pseudo-intellectual。赛菲尔在2005年的一篇专栏文章中用到这个词,详见http://www.nytimes.com/2005/01/24/opinion/24safire1.html?_r=1 。据说这可能是暗指中情局局长J. Edgar Hoover或数次竞选总统未果的George Wallace对pseudo一词的发音。不知道这两个人那样发音的原因是什么,也许是把拼写想成了psuedo,那样的话根据拉丁文的发音规则,sue 这个部分确实可以发成sway的音。

注3:Catullus是古罗马抒情诗人。他的一首著名的悼亡诗以ave atque vale(英文译为Hail and Farewell)结尾。

注3a:Ariel Sharon(沙龙)曾任以色列总理。原文中说以其名字命名的这种早餐籍籍无名,看来还真是这样。在网上找了一会,没有关于它的只言片语。想来它应该是纽 约某家犹太人餐馆里的特色早餐。沙龙军人出身,大部分时间都主张对恐怖分子和任何挑战以色列的周边势力采取强悍的打击。赛菲尔估计对沙龙同志颇为欣赏。 2006年沙龙因为中风开始昏迷,现在似乎仍然基本上处于植物人状态。感觉上他老兄离开我们已经很久了。

注4:共和党长时间以来的路线都是反对政府干预经济生活。对私人企业给自己的员工付多少工资以及商品定价进行政府干预,在共和党正统观点看来简直就是十恶不赦。

注5:《纽时》被叫做“灰色娘子”,原因是它的外观和风格都比较古板。

注6:英语中本来已有phoney-baloney(胡说八道;一派骗人的胡言)。Blargon是由blog和jargon合成的。

注7: Daniel Schorr或Dan Schorr,是美国一名资深的新闻评论员。星期六早晨的NPR一周新闻回顾中时常有他不长的一段点评。已经93岁了。

注8:Mr. Nice Guy分别是摄于1987年和1997年(后拍的叫《一个好人》,成龙主演)两部电影的名字。

注9:Lexicographical Irregulars指为赛菲尔词汇专栏志愿提供字词使用实例的人。因为并非专门干这行,所以[估计是赛菲尔吧]就管这群人叫帮他编词典的非正规军,或游击队。

注10:Alliteration,押头韵,指一句话中相邻的两个或更多单词词首辅音相同。原文这一段有好几处押了头韵。Avoid asinine alliterations那个短语是赛菲尔自己说的,详见上面给出链接的那篇文章。

注11:赛菲尔在其《政治词典》中提到John Adams在1776年使用过nabob这个词。详见该书638页。大家可以在Google books上免费看到该书的内容。

注12:狼一般是群居的,所谓独行狼大概在现实中是不怎么存在的--狼可能偶尔会自个儿呆会儿吧,但不太可能长时间独行。狼的近亲coyote好像就和狼 在这一点上有所不同。有一次看介绍黄石公园的一个纪录片,中间一头丧夫的coyote就独自远行,后来在另一个地方生出了遗腹子。(丧夫的原因是公郊狼错 误判断了其活动范围内新来的一批狼,以为后者会和以前的那群狼一样对他的抢食行为不去较真。错误判断的后果极其严重。)

注13:布拉格事件应该是布什发动伊战的一个理由之一,因为如果阿尔盖达真和伊拉克的特工在布拉格接过头,就或许能证明伊拉克和911事件有关系。现在的共识当然是萨达姆政权根本就和911没关系。

注14:这条互见在《政治词典》第747页。Santa Claus那个词条在该书的642页。