I Was Shanghaied!

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Feb 24, 2017 00:42
The other day, when I watched the movie “La La Land,” I heard the leading male role yell to the leading female role, “I was shanghaied!” Though I hadn’t heard of the expression before, I deduced that it meant “I was cheated!” from the context. I looked it up in the dictionary on my smartphone. It turned out that my guessing was close. When used as a verb, “shanghai” means “to induce or compel (someone) to do something, especially by fraud or force.” (In Chinese, it could also mean “to harm/cheat someone.” Haha.)

It sounded a bit strange to me at first, but sank in soon after, because I’ve gotten used to English borrowing words from other languages phonetically. Half a year ago, when I watched a BBC documentary about Mars, I came across a word “kamikaze.” Form the context, I guessed that it meant “reckless as to be suicidal.” I knew some Japanese, so it suddenly dawned on me that it might come from Japanese (神風). I thought it might be a word rarely used, but I’ve now encountered it more than ten times. In Chinese, we also have a set phrase for kamikaze. But, those who have never seen this word can, without referring to a dictionary, easily guess it to be related to a Japanese army who acts in a suicidal way.

Sigh. It seems like in English, while expanding vocabulary we have to gain knowledge at the same time… Isn’t it tiresome? Not to mention that there are lots of words coming from French and Latin. I have little knowledge of French, so I have difficulty spelling French words in English. Words originated from Latin are relatively easier, because word roots can serve as the mnemonic devices.
几天前,我在看电影《爱乐之城》的时候,听见男主角对女主角喊:“I was shanghaied!” 虽然从来没见过这样的说法,但根据语境我猜应该差不多是“I was cheated!”的意思。然后我在手机上查了下字典,果然和我估计的差不多,就是““to induce or compel (someone) to do something, especially by fraud or force.””的意思。(中文里面,shanghai也有伤害的意思。)

起初,这个表达听起来有点点奇怪,不过一下子就被我脑海吸收了,因为我早已习惯英语通过音译借词的方式造词。半年前,我在看一部关于火星的BBC纪录片,听到一个“kamikaze”的词汇,根据语境,应该是“自杀性袭击”的意思。因为我懂日语,所以我猜这个词可能来自日语“神風”。我开始以为这个词不常见,结果到现在我见过十来回。中文里面,我们也有一个相应的词,叫做“神风敢死队。”一个从来没有见过这个词的中国人,不用查词典,就知道这个词和一种自杀性袭击作风的日本军队有关。

一声叹息。好像扩大英语词汇,还得同时学习知识。好麻烦呀!更不用说英语很多词语来自法语和拉丁语。我不懂法语,所以不太会拼写英文中的法语词。拉丁语源词汇要容易点,因为有词根可以帮助记忆。。。