時間︰2014-07-14 23:45 作者︰未知 點擊︰

In Praise of the Humble Comma

小小逗號贊

Pico Lyer

皮科·埃爾

The gods, they say, give breath, and they take it away. But the samesaid-could be said-could itnot?-of the humble comma. Add it to the present clause, and, all of a sudden, the mind is,quite literally, given pause to think; take it out if you wish or forget it and the mind is deprivedof a resting place. Yet still the comma gets no respea. It seems just a slip of a thing, apedant's tick, a blip on the edge of our consciousness, a kind of printer's smudge almost.Small, we claim, is beautiful (especially in the age of the microchip). Yet what is so often used,and so rarely called, as the comma-unless it be breath itself?

人都說神仙把氣賜予生靈,又把氣奪走。不過這話用在小小的逗號上,何嘗不是如此?給現在這句加上逗號,腦子里真會,突然,停下來想想;若隨意去掉,或忘了它,就剝奪了腦子休息的空間。盡管如此,逗號仍然不受人算重。它似乎只是一個小撇,書呆子手下的一個小點兒,是我們意識邊緣上的一個記號,甚至排字工人沾上的一點污。我們好說以小為美(尤其在這集成電路時代)。然而,還有什麼東西是像逗號那樣頻頻使用而又那樣默默無聞的呢?——不就是氣嗎?

Punctuation, one is taught, has a point: to keep up law and order. Punctuation marks are theroad signs placed along the highway of our communication——to control speeds,providedirections and prevent head-on collisions. A period has the unblinking finality of a red light,the comma is a flashing yellow light that asks us only to slow down, and the semicolon is astop sign that tells us to ease gradually to a halt, before gradually starting up again. Byestablishing the relations between words, punctuation establishes the relations between thepeople using words. That may be one reason why school teachers exalt it and lovers defy it("we love each other and belong to each other let’s don’t ever hurt each other Nicole let's don'tever hurt each other,” wrote Gary Gilmore to his girlfriend )A comma ,he must have known, "separate inseparables" ,in the clinching words of H. W. Fowler, King of English Usage.

我們都學過,標點有一個目的︰維持法律與秩序。標點符號正是我們交通要道上一路設置的路標——用以控制速度,指示方向,避免迎頭相撞。句號具有紅燈的一絲不苟,說一不二;逗號是一閃一閃的黃燈,要求我們只是放慢速度;分號則是停車標記,指示我們緩緩煞車,然後再緩緩啟動標點建立起詞與詞之間的關系,從而建立起用詞人之間的關系。教師捧它,情人煩它,其原因蓋出于此。(蓋瑞·基爾摩爾給女友寫道︰“我愛你你愛我我是你的你是我的我們永遠誰也別傷誰的心科爾我們永遠誰也別傷誰的心。”)他一定學過英語慣用法大王福勒的斷言︰逗號是“把不可分開的東西分開”。

Punctuation, then, is a civic prop, a pillar that holds society upright. (A run on sentence, itsphrases piling up without division, is as unsightly as a sink piled high with dirty dishes.)Smallwonder,then,that punctuation was one of the first proprieties of the Victorian age, the age ofthe corset, that the modernists threw off the sexual revolution might be said to have begunwhen Joyce's Molly Bloomis spilled out all her private thoughts in 36 pages of unbridled, almostunperioded and officially censored prose: and another are bellion was surely marked whenE.E.Cummings first felt free to commit "God" to the lower case.

如此說來,標點乃是百姓的支柱,是支撐社會不至于垮掉的棟梁冗長的句子,詞組堆砌成贅而不分彼此,就好比洗碗槽堆滿了髒碗,很不雅觀。)也難怪在維多利亞時代,風行緊身胸衣的時代,標點是講禮貌的頭等大事,而現代派一概棄之門外。性的革命可以說就是始于喬伊斯筆下的莫莉·布魯姆,她將全部私衷一吐為快,洋洋36頁文字信口道來,幾乎沒有句號,遭到官家查禁。再就是卡明斯,肯定也算造反,他當初為所欲為,擅自將“Cod”貶為小寫。

Punctuation thus becomes the signatrire of cultures. The hot-blooded Spaniard seems to berevealed in the passion and urgency of his doubled exclamation points and question marks ( "iCaramba! LQuien sabe?"), while the impassive Chinese traditionally added to his so-calledinscrutability by omitting directions from his ideograms. The anarchy and commotion of the60s were given voice in the exploding exclamation marks, riotous capital letters and Day-Gloitalics of Tom Wolfe's spray-paint prose; and in Communist societies, where the State isabsolute, the dignity-and divinity-of capital letters is reserved for Ministries, Sub-Committeesand Secretariats.

于是,標點成了不同文化的標志。西班牙人性好激動,打驚嘆號打問號都用雙重的(“jCaramba! LQuiensabe?”見鬼啦!誰能明白?)情真意切,如見其人;中國人則不好動聲色,表意字的文言自古就不注標點,所謂胸有城府,益見其深。湯姆·沃爾夫那種噴漆式的散文體,驚嘆號一哄而起,大寫字母泛濫成災,斜體字像是涂了熒光漆,無不表達了60年代的無法無天和亂作一團;而在共產黨當政的社會,國家至上,大寫字母的尊嚴——與神威——只留給政府各部委和書記處享用。

Yet punctuation is something more than a culture's birthmark; it scores the music in ourminds, gets our thoughts moving to the rhythm of our hearts. Punctuation is the notation inthe sheet music of our words, telling us when to rest, or when to raise our voices; itacknowledges that the meaning of our discourse, as of any symphonic composition, lies notonly in the units but in the pauses, the pacing and the phrasing. Punctuation is the way onebats one's eyes, lowers one's voice or blushes demurely. Punctuation adjusts the tone andcolor and volume till the feeling comes into perfea focus: not disgust exactly, but distastes; notlust, or like, but love.

然而,標點又不僅是某一種文化的胎記;它記下我們心中的樂曲,指引我們的思想與我們的心聲合拍。標點是我們作詞的歌篇上的樂譜,它告訴我們何時休止,何時提高嗓門;它表明,我們說話著文,猶如譜寫交響樂曲,情意所至,不僅見于整體段落,也見于起落有間、快慢有節以及長短有致。標點就像人眨眨眼楮,低聲細語,或忸怩作態。標點可調整音調、音色和音量,直至找準了感情,萬無一失︰未必是厭惡,而是厭煩;並非情欲之類,而是情愛。

Punctuation, in short, gives us the human voice, and all the meanings that lie between thewords. "You aren't young, are you?" loses its innocence when it loses the question mark.Every child knows the menace of a dropped apostrophe (the parent's "Don't do that" shiftinginto the more slowly enunciated "Do not do that"), and every believer, the ignominy of havinghis faith reduced to "faith." Add an exclamation point to "To be or not to be..." and thegloomy Dane m has all the resolve he needs; add a comma, and the noble sobriety of "Godsave the Queen" becomes a cry of desperation bordering on double sacrilege.

簡言之,標點給我們傳來話音,傳來字里行間的全部含義。“你不小了,是吧?”這話去掉問號,無心便成了有意。做父母的先是說“Don't do that”(“別做那事”),轉而又慢聲慢氣交代清楚︰“Do not.dothat”(不要做那事),每個孩子都听得明白,拿掉了撇號可就把話說絕了。每個信徒也都明白,把他的信教加上引號,所謂“信教”,那可是在污辱他。給“生存或者滅亡……”一句添上個驚嘆號,那位憂心忡忡的丹麥人便是毅然決然萬死不辭之士。在“上帝保佑女王”中間加個逗號,那崇高的莊嚴則成了絕望的呼號,簡直是對雙方的褻瀆。

Sometimes, of course, our markings may be simply a matter of aesthetics.Popping in a commacan be like slipping on the necklace that gives an outfit quiet elegance, or like catching thesound of running water that complements as it completes the silence of a Japaneselandscape. When VS.

Naipaul , in his latest novel, writes, "He was a middle-aged man, with glasses," the first commacan seem a little precious. Yet it gives the description a spin, as well as a subtlety, that itotherwise lacks, and it shows that the glasses are not part of the middle-agedness, butsomething else.

當然,’有時我們的標點符號也許只是個審美的問題。插進一個逗號,猶如給一套服裝悄然配上項鏈,使之顯得嫻靜優雅,又如在日本園林的一片幽靜之外還听到潺潺流水聲,使園景更加充實。奈保爾在他新近的一部小說中寫道︰“他是個中年人,戴著一副眼鏡。”前一個逗號看似有點做作。然而它使描述更為婉轉,也更為微妙,否則都顯不出來;它還表明,那副眼鏡並非人到中年就非戴不可,而是別有由來。

Thus all these tiny scratches give us breadth and heft and depth. A world that has only periodsis a world without inflections. It is a world without shade. It has a music without sharps andflats. It is a martial music. It has a jackboot rhythm. Words cannot bend and curve. Acomma, by comparison,catches the gentle drift of the mind in thought, turning in on itselfand back on itself, reversing, redoubling and returning along the course of its own sweet rivermusic; while the semicolon brings clauses and thoughts together with all the silent discretionof a hostess arranging guests around her dinner table.

可見所有這些小來小去的一深度。只有句點的世界是個千篇撇一點都給我們增加了廣度、分量和一律的世界。是個沒有差別的世界。它的樂曲不分升調降調。是一首軍樂曲。是長筒靴的節奏。文字不能彎曲。相形之下,逗號卻能捕捉頭腦里思路的涓涓細流,任它沿著自己娓娓動听的河上樂曲的航線,自行蜿蜒曲折,倒流,重疊。分號則將分句與思想融為一體,猶如女主人不露聲色地把來賓一一妥善安排入席。

Punctuation, then, is a matter of care. Care for words, yes, but also, and more important, forwhat the words imply. Only a lover notices the small things: the way the afternoon lightcatches the nape of a neck, or how a strand of hair slips out from behind an ear, or the way afinger curls around a cup. And no one scans a letter so closely as a lover, searching for its smallprint, straining to hear its nuances, its gasps, its sighs and hesitations, poring over the secretmessages that lie in every cadence. The difference between"Jane (whom I adore)" and "Jane,whom I adore," and the difference between them both and "Jane-whom I adore-" marks all thedistance between ecstasy and heartache. "No iron can pierce the heart with such force as aperiod put at just the right place," in Isaac Babel's lovely words; a comma can let us hear avoice break, or a heart. Punctuation, in fact, is a labor of love. Which brings us back in a way togods.

由此說來,標點符號又是個要謹慎從事的問題。用詞要慎,不錯,但更要緊的是對詞的涵義尤宜慎重。只有情人才注意到這些細節︰下午的陽光如何照在後頸上,一縷發絲如何從耳後根滑下來,手指如何勾住杯子。誰看信也不會像情人那般仔細,苦苦尋覓信中的微小印跡,極力听出其間的細微差別,其中的喘息、感嘆和猶豫不決,潛心揣摩那抑揚頓挫中的秘密信息。“簡(我深愛她)”與“簡,我深愛她”兩句之間的差別,以及這兩句與“簡——我深愛她——”之間的差別,標明了醉心與傷心之間的距離。巴別爾有句話說得多好︰“句點用得其所,可穿透人心,雖刀槍力莫能及。”逗號則可使我們听到聲咽或心碎。標點符號其實是一項心甘情願而為之的工作。它多少使我們重新成為主宰。

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