原文取自《The Selfish Gene》第25页:

Sexual reproduction has the effect of mixing and shuffling genes. This means that any one individual body is just a temporary vehicle for a short-lived combination of genes. The combination of genes that is any one individual may be short-lived, but the genes themselves are potentially very long-lived. Their paths constantly cross and recross down the generations. One gene maybe regarded as a unit that survives through a large number of successive individual bodies. This is the central argument that will be developed in this chapter.


It is an argument that some of my most respected colleagues obstinately refuse to agree with, so you must forgive me if I seem to labour it!

我有很多优秀的同仁,坚决不接受这种观点,如果待会我言不简意不赅,还请大家见谅。


“labour”一词,大家用的最多的是名词词性,阅读量大一点的人可能知道动词词性,不过也都是不及物动词的用法。查字典也发现,labour根本没有及物动词这个词性。以剑桥词典为例,在非专有名词(首字母小写)的情况下,有两种名词解释和一种动词解释。动词解释下有两条释义,可是词性都标记为[I],也就是不及物动词,这和本文里“labour it”的及物动词用法不符。

但是!在动词解释下面,列出了“labour”在动词词性中的习语(idiom)用法,其中第一条是“labour the point”。

回到原文,“labour it”中的代词“it”,指代的是前面的单数名词“argument”。

“argument”在剑桥词典中的释义为:

a reason or reasons why you support or oppose an idea or suggestion, or the process of explaining these reasons

“point”在剑桥词典中的释义为:

an idea, opinion, or piece of information that is said or written

两个词都有“观点、立场”的意思,所以习语“labour the point”=“labour the argument”=“labour it”。

再来看“labour the point”是什么意思:

to try too hard to express an idea, feeling, or opinion, repeating it when this is not necessary

用大白话翻译出来就是,“表达观点的时候啰里啰嗦、用力过猛”。好像没有什么简单明了的中文表达方式与这个意思对应。但是,“言简意赅”的意思是“言语简练而观点明确”,和这个意思恰好相反,所以加了个不字。一方面把原文意思表达出来,另一方面把原文作者自嘲的语言风格也翻译出来。

有的时候,想要找的信息未必在一眼就能看见的地方,多挖掘一些线索,就会有意外的收获。

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