People who are not fluent English speakers can sometimes be confused with words that have different meanings. A racket is used for playing tennis. A racket also means loud and unpleasant noise. A novel when used as a noun is a fiction book but as an adjective it means something new or original. Toes are the five separate parts at the end of a foot. But the word “toe” when used in the idiom “toe the line” has a totally different meaning. To toe the line means to do what you are expected to do without causing any trouble. Your boss could ask you to toe the line by obeying the company’s policy even if you disagree with the policy.
Translating English words into Chinese can also cause confusion. I once used Google translate to send a message to a friend who didn’t speak English at all. I asked her if she was free for dinner. The word “free” used this way means if she was available for dinner. She immediately called me to ask why I asked her if she was free. Google translated the word “free” to mean not costing any money! A friend recently sent me a picture of a property agency’s English name that made me split my sides.
To split your sides means to laugh loudly about something. The agency’s English name was Uprising Property Agency. The word “uprising” means a large group of people who often use violence to oppose the government. Similar words are rebellion, revolution, and insurrection. I don’t know why the agency used such a name but it’s likely the Chinese name has a totally different meaning.
英語不流利的人有時可能會混淆一些帶有不同意思的字詞。A racket 可以指一支網球拍； a racket也可以指吵鬧聲。A novel作名詞用時，是指一本小說，但作形容詞用時它是指一些新穎、原創的事物。Toes就是腳趾；但當“toe”用在成語“toe the line”中之時，就有截然不同的意思。To toe the line是指嚴守規矩，聽聽話話，別引起甚麼麻煩。你老闆或許會叫你 toe the line，遵守公司的政策規定，即使你不認同那些規定。
將英語繙譯成中文，有時也可以帶來混淆。曾經有一次我用了谷歌翻譯，給一個完全不會說英語的朋友傳一個短訊。我想問她是否free for dinner，“free”在這裏是問她是否有空一起晚膳。她立即打電話問我，為甚麼問她是否免費（free）——谷歌竟然將“free”一字譯成免費！一位朋友最近亦傳了一張相給我，相中那間地產代理的英文名稱令我 split my sides。
To split your sides是指笑破肚皮。那個地產代理的英文名稱是 Uprising Property Agency。Uprising一字是指一群人去起義，以武力推翻政府，類似的字有 rebellion、revolution和insurrection。我不知道那間地產代理為何會用這個名，但很有可能它的中文名稱有迥然不同的意思。