Stories Behind Popular Sayings
Run out of steam
Last year, a lot of hospitals in the world ran out of N95 masks and medical oxygen to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic. This year, while the world is still trying to get this infectious disease under control, some countries are facing the shortage of natural resources, such as coal and natural gas. What would happen if something or someone has " run out of steam " ?  The phrase " run out of steam " is related to the old-fashioned steam engines which gradually slowed down and then stopped when the fire that powered the boiler was too weak to produce any steam.  Its figurative meaning first appeared in the early 19th century. Nowadays it means that someone or something has lost the energy, motivation or enthusiasm to continue.  The Marathon runner ran out of steam in the latter half of the race. The company's business could be running out of steam.  The phrase " run out of gas " is sometimes used instead. " Gas " is the short form for gasoline in American English. In British English, this kind of car fuel is called " petrol " .  去年,全球許多醫院都缺乏N95口罩和醫療氧氣,以應對2019 新型冠狀病毒病大流行。今年,當全世界依然在努力控制這個傳染病之際,有些國家面對著煤炭和天然氣等天然資源的短缺問題。如果某些東西或某人已經run out of steam,究竟會發生甚麼事情?  Run out of steam這個語句與舊式蒸氣機有關。如果發動鍋爐的火太弱,以致未能產生任何蒸氣,那麼,這些蒸氣機就會漸漸減速,然後停止不動。 它的比喻意義首次在19世紀初出現。如今,它意指某人或某些東西失去活力、動機或熱誠繼續做下去。 這個馬拉松跑手在下半場的比賽就筋疲力盡(ran out of steam)了。 這家公司的經營可能失去動力(running out of steam)。 人們有時改用run out of gas。Gas(汽油)是美式英語gasoline的縮寫形式。在英式英語, 這種汽車燃料叫做petrol。     捐款支持公教報  http://kkp.org.hk/donation  
Stories Behind Popular Sayings
Square the circle?
What is a formula of the area of a square? How do you find the area of a circle? With these two formulas in your mind, would you be able to " square the circle " ?  In a literal sense, " square the circle " means construct a square equal in area to a given circle. Squaring the circle is a classical mathematical problem proposed by ancient Greek geometers. For thousands of years, mathematicians have attempted to solve this challenging problem. One of the oldest methods was recorded in the Rhind papyrus, an ancient Egyptian mathematical script of about 1800 BC. Despite their continuous efforts, mathematicians have found some approximate solutions only.  Since there has been no success in squaring the circle by using only straightedge and compass, this expression has been used metaphorically to describe a problem which is very difficult to solve. If someone tries to square the circle, this means that they try to make two things happen which cannot really happen at the same time. Some parents find that making their children be creative and be obedient is like squaring the circle.  正方形面積的方程式是甚麼?你怎樣找出圓形的面積?如果你懂得這兩個方程式,你能否化圓為方(square the circle)?  從字面意義來看,square the circle 的意思是構造跟已知圓形的面積相等的正方形。化圓為方是古希臘幾何學家所提出的一個經典數學難題。數千年以來,數學家曾經嘗試解決這個具挑戰性的問題。其中一個最古老的方法被記錄在公元前1800年左右的一張古埃及數學手稿—— 萊因德紙草書。儘管數學家們不斷努力,但是只找到了一些近似解決方法。 由於人們一直未能成功地只用直尺和圓規化圓為方,這個說法被用作比喻,描述一個極難解決的問題。如果有人嘗試化圓為方,這意指他們嘗試使兩件不能真正同時發生的事情成真。 有些家長覺得,要使自己的子女既有創造力又聽話,就好像是知其不可而為之(squaring the circle)。     捐款支持公教報  http://kkp.org.hk/donation 
Stories Behind Popular Sayings
Don’t bite the hand that feeds you
When someone has helped us, we should say " thank you " to show our gratitude. If we are rude to that person, we might receive the following comment:  " Don't bite the hand that feeds you! "  Imagine that you feed a hungry animal and it bites you on your hand. What would your feeling be? You probably feel hurt both physically and mentally. This is not only because your hand might be bleeding due to the bite, but also because the animal has harmed you when you are trying to care for it. Thus, metaphorically this expression implies that someone is being unthankful or unappreciative to a benefactor.  This phrase first appeared in print in a political pamphlet by the Irish politician Edmund Burke in 1770. Although the origin of this expression remains uncertain, one of Aesop's Fables, " The Gardener and His Dog " , carried a similar meaning. In the story, the gardener's dog was playing near a deep well and fell into it by accident. The gardener ran to rescue it. However, as he tried to pull the dog out, it bit him on the hand.  當有人幫助我們的時候,我們就應該說「謝謝你」,以表示我們的感激之情。如果我們對那人粗魯無禮,我們也許會得到以下的評語:  Don't bite the hand that feeds you! (「別忘恩負義!」)  設想你餵一隻饑餓的動物吃東西, 牠卻咬你的手。你會有甚麼感受?你可能覺得自己的身心都受到傷害。這不僅僅因為你的手因被咬而流血,還因為那隻動物在你試圖照顧牠時傷害了你。因此,從比喻來說,這個語句暗指某人對恩人並不心存感激或毫不感恩。 這個短語最初出現在1770年愛爾蘭政治家愛德蒙.柏克所撰寫的政治小冊子裡。雖然這個語句的根源依然無法確定,但是《伊索寓言》之一《園丁和他的狗》含有類似的意義。在這個故事中,園丁的狗在一個深井旁邊玩耍,不小心跌進井中。園丁跑去救牠。可是, 當他設法把狗拉出來的時候,狗卻咬他的手。    捐款支持公教報  http://kkp.org.hk/donation
Stories Behind Popular Sayings
While international studies have shown that Hong Kong students perform well in reading, mathematics and science, the " spoon-feeding " approach in the education system is still a great concern.  Literally speaking, to spoon-feed someone means to give them food with a spoon. This expression normally applies to babies and toddlers, who only need to swallow the food on the spoon.  Its figurative use was first found in a poetry collection by an English poet, Robert Browning, in 1864.  " So, minds at first must be spoon-fed with truth. "  Nowadays this term is widely used in the domain of education to describe mechanical drilling, rote memorisation, and passive learning. To spoon-feed students means to give them information and answers to the extent that they do not need to do any analysis or exploration but only memorisation of facts.  There are different views on the spoon-feeding culture. While some people think that taking initiative and critical thinking are in children's best interests, some argue that spoon-feeding of learning materials may lead to better exam results. What do you think?  國際研究顯示,香港學生在閱讀、數學和科學表現良好,可是,填鴨式(spoon-feeding)的教育制度依然令人十分關注。 從字面意義來說,to spoon-feed someone的意思是用匙子給他們餵食物。這個說法通常適用於嬰幼兒,因為他們只需吞下匙子上的食物。 這個字的比喻意義首次見於1864年英格蘭詩人羅伯特.白朗寧所撰寫的詩集。 “So, minds at first must be spoon-fed with truth.”  今天,這個術語在教育領域廣泛用來形容機械式操練、死記硬背和被動學習。To spoon-feed students的意思就是倚重給予學生資料和答案,以至於他們無需做任何分析或探究,而只需記誦事實。 人們對填鴨式灌輸的文化持不同意見。一些人覺得積極主動和批判思考能力才是符合兒童的最佳利益,但是有些人卻認為填鴨式灌輸學習材料或能帶來較佳的考試成績。你有甚麼看法呢?     捐款支持公教報  http://kkp.org.hk/donation