A man who was involved in a serious car accident was unable to speak when he first regained consciousness. Wishing to know how long he had been unconscious, he took a piece of paper and a pencil from the bedstand and after writing “Date?” on it, gave it to his nurse. She handed it back to him after she had written the word “married” on it.


The professor rapped on his desk and shouted: “Gentlemen, Order!” The entire class yelled: “Beer!”


[2] 同音词

A: What is the most contradictory sign seen in a library?

B: To speak aloud is not allowed.

“aloud”和“allowed”同音,因此,如果第二句话被听成“To speak aloud is not aloud”,当然就是最为自相矛盾的标语了。

[3] 近音 / 近形词

My son Billy was only three when our hometown was hit by a tornado. After the storm had passed, our whole family watched the TV news showing the tremendous destruction that had occurred. Billy’s eyes were as big as saucers as he quietly watched scenes of uprooted trees,smashed windows and missing roofs.

Finally he turned to me and asked,“A tomato did all that?”

“tomato”在美语中读作 [tE5meitEu],和“tornado”([tC:5neidEu],龙卷风)读音相似。三岁小孩比利初次见识龙卷风,误将电视播音员的“tornado”听成了“tomato”,还以为一只小小西红柿竟有翻天之能,所以格外吃惊。

An ad for an insecticide in a newspaper: “Kill Your Aunts.”


[4] 结构歧义


A: The police is looking for a man with one eye.

B: Why don’t they use two?

说话人A本意是用“with one eye”来修饰“a man”,全句意思是警方正在捉拿一个只有“一只眼”的人。但在该句中“with one eye”也可视为“looking”的修饰语,听话人B按此理解,全句意思就变为警方正“用一只眼”捉人,他自然非常疑惑:警察为什么不用“两只眼睛”呢?用两只眼睛找人岂不是更加方便!

[5] 成语

The leopard changes its spots; you see he often goes from one spot to another.

英语中有一句有名的谚语“The leopard cannot change its spots(豹子改变不了身上的花斑)”,是说凶残的动物和邪恶的人都改变不了本性。它在意义上同汉语中的“江山易改,本性难移”接近。“spot”指豹子身上的黑色斑点,但在套用后的句子中,却转指迁徙“地点”。豹子是生活的非洲和亚洲南部的猫科动物,为了谋食,经常变换“spots”。

A: You don’t seem to realize on which side your bread is buttered.

B: What does it matter? I eat both sides!

英语中bread和butter的搭配非常有趣,在成语中使用频繁,常由基本含义引申出丰富的词义。例如:bread and butter由“涂奶油的面包”引申为“生计,赖以谋生的东西”;“bread buttered on both sides”用“双面涂着奶油的面包”喻指“幸运的处境,安适的境遇”;“butter one’s bread on both sides”是说一个人“左右逢源,大走其运”;“have one’s bread buttered for life”指“一辈子生活有了保障(或依靠)”;还有,“quarrel with one’s bread and butter”相当于汉语的“跟自己的饭碗过不去”。

在成语“know on which side one’s bread is buttered”中,“butter”用作动词,指“涂奶油于……”,一个人知道该在面包的哪一面涂奶油,是说他很清楚该讨好谁以使自己获得好处,由此,“know on which side one’s bread is buttered”引申为“知道自己的利益所在,善于为个人利益打算”。


[6] 俚语

A: Why do cowboys always die with their boots on?

B: So they won’t stub their toes when they kick the bucket.

此处问句和答语的两个俚语相互呼应产生了幽默效果。“die with one’s boots on”指“英年早逝”,而不是“穿着靴子死去”;如果把“kick the bucket”理解成“踢桶”,也并不觉得可笑,还会感到答非所问。实际上,“kick the bucket”是一个俚语,原为二十世纪晚期英国用语,由上吊自杀时一脚踢开水桶得来,翻译成汉语可以是“蹬腿死去”。答话人篡改了原意:踢桶的时候穿着靴子才不至于撞痛脚趾。

[7] 谚语

A: My wife is having an affair with the doctor in the town. What shall I do?

B: Feed her one apple a day.

英语中有句谚语“An apple a day keeps the doctor away”,意思是说“每天吃一个苹果可以使人保持健康”。A 说他妻子与一个医生有暧昧关系,B却故意用这句谚语的字面意思来调侃:“每天给她吃一个苹果吧”,这样做就能使她“keep the doctor away(表面意思:远离医生)”了。



Teacher: Who is the speaker of the House?

Smart student: Mother.


“Why don’t you go to church?” the priest asked the non-church goer. “Well, I tell you. The first time I went they threw water in my face, and the second time they tied me to a woman I’ve had to keep ever since.”

“Yes,” said the priest, “And the next time you go they’ll throw dirt on you.”

“threw water in my face” 和 “tied me to a woman” 分别指婴儿受洗礼和在教堂举行结婚仪式。可答话人谈论这两件圣事时的口吻却是很不敬的。因此,牧师反唇相讥,说 “And the next time you go they’ll throw dirt on you”,是说下一次教堂要给他死后下葬了。


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