词汇研习:Helpless=无助?

什么是“无助”?查遍手头的《现代汉语词典》和《辞海》也没有查到。没办法,只好到网上去看看“无助”这个词在实际中是如何使用的。

网上有一个比较文学化的解释:

无助是你漂流江面却没有船桨。无助是你夜遇暴雨却无处蔽身。无助是你峭壁攀爬却没有一根稻草可揽。

无助是你艰难中摸到的船桨被巨浪冲走。无助是你骤雨中的一把小伞被狂风卷跑。无助是你攀援时唯一的缆绳被岩石磨断。

无助是你痛苦时不能去发泄,任泪水浸泡自己的心灵。无助是你受伤害时没有倾诉的角落,任不幸咀嚼你残破的心境。无助是你伤心欲绝时,居然找不到一块可以拭去眼泪的手帕。……

简单点说,“无助”是有事儿时没人帮,没东西靠,只能听之任之,听天由命。

无助一词的由来虽然无从查证,但极可能是英文 helpless 一词的中文翻译:help=帮助,-less=没有,于是 helpless 等于“没有帮助”。把 helpless 翻译成“无助”再方便不过了。可惜,英文的 help 含义不只是“外来的帮助”,还有“自己的努力”:

Help:

1 Provide (a person etc.) with what is needed for a purpose; aid, assist. Also, supply the needs of, succour. Freq. in imper., expr. a need for assistance. OE. b With inf., with or without direct obj.: give help or assistance to do etc. or to do etc. ME.

2 Benefit, do good to; be of use or service to; profit. OE. b verb intrans. Be of use or service; avail. OE. c verb trans. Make (an action, process, etc.) more effective; assist in achieving; promote, further. LME.

3 Relieve or cure (a disease etc.); remedy, amend. Long arch. OE. b Succour in distress or misfortune; deliver, save (from, of); spec. cure of a disease. ME.

4 Make an effort on one’s own behalf; do what is needed for oneself; extricate oneself from a difficulty. ME.

5  Assist (a person etc.) to progress in a specified direction. ME. b Foll. by with: assist (a person) to put, take, or get something (esp. an article of clothing) on, off, etc. ME. c Give assistance in dealing with. E19.

6 Avoid, obviate, prevent, remedy; cause to be otherwise; refrain from, forbear. LME. b With neg. omitted after a neg. expressed or implied. Be unavoidable. colloq. M19.

7 Foll. by to: assist (a person) in obtaining, provide or present with; refl. (also absol. without to) provide oneself (with), take for oneself, euphem. take without permission, steal. Cf. sense 8. LME.

8 Serve (a person) with food etc. (foll. by to); serve (food etc.). L17.

 

Helpless:

1 Lacking help or assistance; needy. Often passing into sense 2. ME.

2 Unable to help oneself; incapable.

来源:Shorter OED*, p 1232

因此,我们可以得出结论:“无助”翻译成“helpless”基本上是可以的,但“helpless”不能每次都翻译成“无助”,应该根据实际情况翻译成“无能为力”、“无可奈何”、“心有余而力不足”等等意思。

————

*缩写说明:OE=Old English(古英语)、ME=Middle English(中古英语)、LME=Late Middle English、E19=Early 19th Century(19世纪早期)、M19=Middle 19th Century、L=late。

1 thought on “词汇研习:Helpless=无助?”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.