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A double-edged sword

刊登日期: 2017.03.04
作者: Grace Tse  

Your English teacher asked you to hand in a project in two weeks’ time. The topic is: 

Technology is a double-edged sword. 

First of all, you need to find out the meaning of “a double-edged sword”. When we say that something is a double-edged sword(or a two-edged sword), we mean that it has advantages as well as disadvantages

It is believed that this idiom comes from an Arabic(阿拉伯)expression. A sword is a weapon with a handle and a long metal blade. The edge of a sword is its sharpened side of the blade. While kitchen knives or cleavers which Chinese housewives use are single-edged. Most swords are double-edged for thrusting and striking in ancient wars. In effect, a double-edged sword is a more dangerous weapon because it has two sharp edges. 

Some scholars found that when the idiom appeared in a British magazine called “The Gentleman’s Magazine” published in 1809, it referred to two bad effects. 

“The burden of taxes, like a two-edged sword, reduced men to poverty, and exposed them to be seduced by bribery.” 

In the above sentence, taxes lead to poverty and bribery. Both effects are bad rather than opposite (i.e. good and bad). However, it is not known when “a double-edged sword” started to mean both positive and negative effects, as with another idiom “cut both ways”. 

Your decision will cut both ways(有利有弊). 

The internet is a double-edged sword (雙刃劍;有利有弊). 

So, when you prepare the above-mentioned project, you need to discuss both advantages and disadvantages of technology. 


Glossary

Advantages 好處
Disadvantages 壞處
Cleavers 切肉刀
Thrusting 刺
Poverty 貧窮
Bribery 賄賂
Positive 正面
Negative 負面

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