2009年3月30日 星期一

Foul Language

There are some heated discussions lately on the use of foul language by Hong Kong Legislative Councilors during council discussions. This incident reminds me a book about the linguistic history of the English Language. This book, among other things, talks about semantic change in English words and points out that the meaning of words are very flexible and fluid, although dictionaries purport to give us the correct meaning of a word. Also, semantic change may link to cultural, social and political changes. In total, the book lists out seven types of semantic changes, namely: i) generalization and specialization ii) pejoration and amelioration iii) weakening and strengthening iv) figurative shifts v) invited inferences vi) cultural change, and vii) social change. Of these changes, social change include changes that come from below in the form of slang. According to the book, slang is " the specialized language of any cohesive group (such as a class, an age group, a professional group, etc.", it often gives a new meaning to an existing word, usually it is ephemeral. More information of the book: Laurel Brinton & Leslie Arnovick, The English Language: a Linguistic History (Oxford University Press, 2006). In my Thesaurus I find the the word "slang" has synonyms such as colloquialism, regionalism, vulgarism, and barbarism etc. As for "foul", it has synonyms that include obscene, vulgar, coarse and indecent etc. As for "vulgar", its synonyms include: ignorant, uncultured, low-class, indecent, shameless, disgusting, obscene, lewd, pornographic etc. etc. I think these synonyms may help us figure out the true nature of foul language. To those who love using foul language, there is a piece of advice: you are what you speak.

2009年3月27日 星期五


福澤諭吉(1835 - 1901) 寫於1872 的文章 "学問のすすめ” 其中有壹段是極富啟發性的, 他對當時儒家學者對社會現代化的貢獻作出根本性的疑問:


在同一文章之內, 福澤提出現代教育的目標是教導實學, 例如地理, 會計, 經濟學等等. 這些都劃時代的提議, 相對當時中國學者的一般想法, 有著非常大的差別. 以孫中山為例, 從他寫的信件中, 可以看出一些端倪. 以下是孫中山於一八九四年六月致 李鴻章信中說的 : ". . .我中國仿效西法, 于今已三十余年, 育人才則有同文, 方言各館, 水師, 武備諸堂; 裕財源則辟煤金之礦, 立紡織製造之局; 興商務則招商輪船, 開平鐵路 . . ." 因此我估計孫中山對當時的洋務運動的表現和成就是感到滿意. 他和絕大多數中國人一樣, 並未察看到洋務運動還未觸及中國不少基礎上或者制度上的不足, 例如科舉制的存廢等等. 並未想到當時的改革, 只不過是建基於浮沙之上. 三個月後的一場中日海戰, 使中國人從夢中醒過來. 福澤所寫的文章, 一部份已被學者翻譯成英文, 其中包括: Fukuzawa Yukichi, Fukuzawa Yuichi on Education Selected Works translated and edited by Eiichi Kiyooka, (University of Tokyo Press, 1985).

2009年3月25日 星期三

福澤諭吉 (一)

日文老師今天開始講到日本學者福澤諭吉(1835-1901) 的 "学問のすすめ". 福澤的名字以前曾聽過多次, 但讀他的翻譯書籍或看他的日本原文著作還是第一次. "学問のすすめ" 的第一句是這樣的:

"'天は人上に人を造らず人の下に人を造らず' と言えり。されば天より人を生ずるには、万人は万人みな同じ位にして、生まれながら貴賎上下の差別なく、万物の霊たる身と心の働きをもつて天地の間にあるよろずの物を資り、もつて衣食住の用を達し、自由自在, 互いに人の妨げをなさずしておのおの安楽にこの世を渡らしめ給うの趣意なり".

想到這篇文章是寫於日本的一八七二年, 當時日本社會仍然是有階級思想的痕跡和王權的存在, 因此福澤諭吉的理論可算是相當劃時代, 非常前衛和有創意. 我認為它亦有美國一七七六年獨立宣言中第二句的影子: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certan unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and pursuit of Happiness."

一八七二年在中國是同治十一年. 它因應英國等列強來臨而作出的第一波改革 "自強運動",已經因為兩次鴉片戰爭而劃上句號, 無功而還. 而第二波改革 "洋務運動"則積極地展開. 可惜的是, 對於自由平等等理論, 並不見有學者提出. 兩國當時所要面對的外來問題都是一樣 (開放港口通商和傳教等), 但因為兩國處理手法不同, 往後數十的際遇和發展亦相距甚遠.

2009年3月22日 星期日


This week my Japanese language teacher finished talking about "Koban wa nesugata no yume" "小判は寢姿の夢". This short story comes from Ihara Saikaku's (1642-1693) last major prose work, "Seken munezan'yo" (1692). The twenty short stories collected in this book revolve largely around the life of lower-class city dwellers in the Kyoto and Osaka region on the last day of the year, a time when the year's debts had to be settled. "小判は寢姿の夢" talks about how a poor family settles its debts. Its solution is for the wife to leave behind her new born baby and to work as a wet-nurse for a rich family, knowing that her own baby would probably die of starvation without mother's milk. This story comes to an end when the husband finally decides to bring back his wife so that the family can stay together to celebrate the arrival of the New Year, putting aside their financial worries for the moment.

2009年3月20日 星期五

The Cree Journals

During the some twenty years that lead up to the burning of the Summer Palace in Peking in 1860, there were quite a few occasions that the England Navy was in direct conflict with Qing Dynasty's defense forces on land and at sea. Through the journals and sketches of Edward H. Cree (1814-1901) we can recapture what have happened as far as some battles are concerned. Cree had served in different British Naval ships: Rattlesnake (1839-43), Vixen (1843-6), Fury (1847-50) and Odin (1852-6). His journals have been compiled into a book called "The Cree Journals". It is a collection of journals by Cree for the period 1837-1856. As a surgeon of the Royal Navy, Cree had the opportunity to see Asian countries immediately before they began their full contact with modern Western civilization. He witnessed how the British navy was at work during the Opium War of 1839-42. Although Cree had no formal training in art, he could successfully keep the milieu and mood of the time through many of his colourful sketches. One of his art work is about the "Happy Valley" of Hong Kong in a Friday afternoon in early 1841. In this water-colour, Cree captures vividly a funeral procession for a fallen British, probably the deceased is among the first foreigners to be buried in this 'new' Hong Kong Cemetery (page 90). More colour pictures about Hong Kong can be found on pages 141-144. At pages 92-93 there is a 4"x 13.5" colour drawing depicting the warfare between the British and the Qing soldiers during the second taking of Chusan that took place on October 1st, 1841. At pages 106-109, there is a panoramic view of Nanking in water-colour (5.5"x 21"), drawn on September 2nd, 1842. Information on this book: The Cree Journals, the Voyages of Edward H. Cree, Surgeon R.N., as Related in His Private Journals, 1837-1856, edited and with an introduction by Michael Levien, published by Nelson Canada Limited in 1981 (ISBN:0-17-601539-6).

2009年3月19日 星期四


圓明園鼠首兔面拍賣的討論已告一段落. 期間不少人提到火燒圓明園 一事. 火燒起因是一八六零年當英法聯軍與清朝談判和約期間 (北京條約), 英國陸軍司令克靈頓(格蘭特)經額爾金 (J.B. Elgin) 同意, 為泄清朝殺死英人質之恨而作出. 清朝是於九月中時扣留了二十六名英國人(全部與條約談判有關的), 這批人質於十月八日被釋放時 只有十三人, 因為期餘十三人已經於較早時間被殺害. 而慶幸生還的人, 如果不是有關清官預先收到咸豐皇帝有意殺死全部人質的意圖, 於聖旨到達前幾十分鐘 釋放人質, 側全部英國人相信都會被處死. 火燒圓明園是於十月十八日發生. 有關歷史可以參考陳志奇著的中國近代外交史上冊(三九零到三九二頁), 一九九三年國立編譯館主編.

2009年3月12日 星期四


香港電台製作的 '香港歷史系列' 第二集 '辛亥革命在香港' 講及孫中山先生. 在芸芸眾多有關孫中山的書籍中, 我較喜歡的是一本由法語翻譯的書: Marie-Clarie Bergere, translated by Janet Lloyd Sun Yat-sen (Stanford, California: Stanford University Press, 1998). 它的其中一些主要論點抄錄如下:

The Sun Yat-sen who emerges from a factual account is a muddled politician, an opportunist with generous but confused ideas, interested first and foremost in conquest and power games. This Sun made little impression on the course of history. . . the power of decison eluded him. Nor was he a great theroist. His doctrine of the Three Principles of the People had neither the originality nor the intellectual rigor of either Marxsim or the great political texts of Chinese Reform - by men like Kan Youwei and Liang Qichao. . . The real Sun Yat-sen . . . is a figure of the contempory world: a communicator, a kind of media genius (pages 4-5). His extreme geographic mobility nurtured his equally great versatility of mind and temperament. He could cross cultural boundaries as easily as geographical ones, adapt to all societies, all types of men. . . [He] always on the lookout for partners and allies, he tried his luck with Chinese warlords and American bankers, the French military and the Japanese bureaucracy. . . he recruited his friends among adventurers, fixers, outsiders, idealists, and extremists rejected by their own societies (pages 6-7).

2009年3月11日 星期三


重閱 Kamo-no-Chomei 所寫的 "方丈記", 發現作者在末段所表達的情懷和我近年的心態相似, 故抄錄如下以茲作一記錄:


2009年3月10日 星期二


昨晨的一場大雪, 令到市面交通一遍混亂, 而我亦遲了十分鐘向日文老師報到. 她要講解的是井原西鶴的一篇散文, 題目是 "小判は寢姿の夢". 她曾說不少人認為西鶴是日本的莎士比亞. 於是我在參考書中找他的一些背景. 節錄如下:

Saikaku Ihara: Writer and haikai poet [1642-93], born in Osaka. . . It is said that he [once]composed 23,500 ku in 24 hours . . . He then began to write tales and novels in ukyo-zoshi style on the daily life, characters, and morals of his time. . . Ihara Saikaku's body of work is extraordinarily fecund, and is usually divided into three periods. [參考來源 : Louis Frederic, translated by Kathe Roth Japan Encyclopedia. Cambridge, Massachusetts London, England: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2002]


2009年3月9日 星期一


在今年初開始, 各地不同的媒體都報導今年是達爾文 (Charles Darwin 1809 -82) 出世二百週年紀念, 指出他是一個偉大的生物學家. 他的 "進化論"是現今生物學的基石. 他的科學理論對人類知識發展有著非常重要的影響. 事實上人類在知識探求的過程中, 哥白尼 (Nicolaus Copernicus 1473-1543) 的貢獻亦非常重要. 他於一五四三發表的 "天體運行論", 對人類知識的發展, 相對"進化論" 的重要性, 有過之而無不及. 再者, 他需要面對的社會壓力亦不下於達爾文. 有關哥白尼和他的理論被發表經過, 可參考 Thomas. S. Kuhn, The Copernican Revolution: Planetary Astronomy in the Development of Western Thought (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1966).

2009年3月8日 星期日


最近香港有些學者正積極推行"香港學". 數十年前一些法國學者亦曾推行以地域為中心的研究. 他們的研究概念是把某一個地方的經濟, 社會, 文化 及政治溶為一爐而共冶. 其代表作已由法文翻譯成英文. 它的書名是 'The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World in the Age of Philip II' 原作者是 Ferand Braudel. 英文翻譯由 Sian Reynolds 完成, 並於一九七二年由 New York Harper & Row 出版.

2009年3月7日 星期六

John. F. Kennedy

最近美國總統奧巴馬對華爾街的大公司高層人員的強硬言論, 使我想起前美國總統肯尼迪 (John F. Kennedy) 在一九六一年就職演說中的一句說話:". . . If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich." 我認為人類的歷史是不停的和沒有預設方向的. 我相信有遠見的領袖是可以對它發揮積極影響.

2009年3月6日 星期五


今天開始了這個網誌, 它的中文名字可以叫做方丈記(ほうじょうき).我最近讀了方丈記, 它的開始幾句是這樣子的: