Michael Chugani 褚簡寧 - don’t count your chickens before they are hatched.｜又中又英
It is unusual for fluent English speakers to make a mistake when using an age-old (very old) idiom but an elected US politician made a mistake when using one of the oldest idioms in the English language. Some historians believe it originated in 1570. He made the mistake during a TV interview about laws that would make it harder for Americans to buy guns. Stricter gun laws have become a hot-button issue after many shootings, including in a supermarket where 10 people died and at a school where 21 were killed. A hot-button issue is an issue that makes people have strong emotions and opinions. Democratic reform was a hot-button issue in Hong Kong but no longer because of the national security law.
As I have explained in a recent column, the Second Amendment of the US Constitution, written 250 years ago, gives citizens the right to bear arms, which means to carry weapons. After decades of disagreement the US Senate has tentatively agreed to a new gun control law. The proposal must pass both the US Senate and House of Representatives before it can become law. When the politician was asked on TV if he was confident he said “don’t count your eggs before they are hatched”. The correct idiom is “don’t count your chickens before they are hatched”. If you want your eggs to hatch, which means for them to break so chickens can come out, there is no point counting the eggs because some may not hatch.
If you want to know how many chickens you will have, count the chickens after the eggs have hatched, not before. The expression “don’t count your chickens before they are hatched” means you shouldn’t expect something to happen before it has actually happened. If you tell your friends you are sure you will get the high-paying job you applied for, your friends may say “don’t count your chickens before they are hatched.”
操流利英語的人在用一個古老（age-old）的成語時出錯，是很少見的，但一名當選的美國政客，在使用其中一個最古老的英文成語時卻說錯了。一些歷史學家相信，該成語源自一五七○年。他是在一個電視訪問期間說錯的，當時正在談着令美國人更難買槍械的法例。發生了那許多槍擊案，包括在一間超市內有十人喪生，以及在校園內有二十一人被殺之後，更嚴厲的槍械管制法成為了hot-button話題——a hot-button issue是指一個令人有強烈感受和意見的敏感話題。民主改革在香港曾是敏感話題（hot-button），但現在因為國安法，已不再是一個敏感熱話了。
我曾在最近的文章裏解釋過，於二百五十年前定立的美國憲法第二修正案，容許市民有權利持有及攜帶槍枝（bear arms）。經過數十年的爭吵，美國參議院臨時通過一條新的槍械管制法。當那名政客在電視上被問到他對此是否有信心時，他說：“don’t count your eggs before they are hatched”，然而，正確的成語是“don’t count your chickens before they are hatched”。若你想雞蛋孵化（hatch），雞仔破殼而出，數算雞蛋是無意思的，因為當中有些並不會孵出（hatch）雞仔。
若你想知道你將會有幾多隻雞，你應該在雞蛋孵化之後，而非之前，去點算雞隻。習語“don’t count your chickens before they are hatched”，意思就是在事情真正發生之前，話別說太早，或過早打響如意算盤，因為事情仍然存在許多變數。若你告訴你的朋友們，你申請的一份高薪厚職一定到手，朋友們希望你別高興得太早，便可以說“don’t count your chickens before they are hatched”。
Michael Chugani 褚簡寧
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