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Almost vs. Nearly哪個比較接近?描述「近似」的形容詞大比較!

2016 / 11 / 24

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我幾乎在每堂課都會談到用字精確的重要性。前陣子讀到一本有點歷史的文法書: The Reader Over Your Shoulder: A Handbook for Writers of English Prose,1943。有趣的是,這本書嘗試為相近字排列順序,這部分的內容出現在「明確敘述的原則 Principles of Clear Statement」的章節中。這項原則是:「談到多少多久時,絕對要正確無誤」。書中對於用字精確度的重視,顯示出用字選擇的重要性在過去這七十年中,幾乎沒有太大的改變。

這本書的作者表示此「比例的普遍度量」表沒有收錄在任何字典或參照表中,內容如下:

Not nearly(幾乎沒有)、nearly(幾近)、almost(幾乎)、not quite(不完全)、all but(將近)、just not(唯獨沒有)、within an ace(差一點)、within a hair’s breadth(毫釐之差)、oh! by the skin of my teeth(就差那麼一點)、just(剛好)、only just(差一點不能)、with a bit of a rush(有幾分倉促)、comfortably(從容)、easily(輕鬆)、with plenty to spare(時間充裕)。

身為讀者的我們也許不贊成這個排列順序,甚至還想加入其他詞。這些片語中,有些看起來是過時,但看到這些詞按順序排開,還挺有趣的。如果您曾疑惑nearly或almost哪個比較接近被描述的目標,以下兩位細心的讀者認為,nearly更接近目標。

Graves和Hodge認為「比例的普遍度量」(如nearly、part of等)可以轉換成百分比,他們將這個轉換結果如下列出(底線為本文作者所加):

(100%) Mr. Jordan’s fortune consisted wholly of bar-gold.
(99%) Practically all his fortune consisted of bar-gold.
(95%) His fortune consisted almost entirely of bar-gold.
(90%) Nearly all his fortune consisted of bar-gold.
(80%) By far the greater part of his fortune consisted of bar-gold.
(70%) The greater part of his fortune consisted of bar-gold.
(60%) More than half his fortune consisted of bar-gold.
(55%) Rather more than half his fortune consisted of bar-gold.
(50%) Half his fortune consisted of bar-gold.
(45%) Nearly half his fortune consisted of bar-gold.
(40%) A large part of his fortune consisted of bar-gold.
(35%) Quite a large part of his fortune consisted of bar-gold.
(30%) A considerable part of his fortune consisted of bar-gold.
(25%) Part of his fortune consisted of bar-gold.
(15%) A small part of his fortune consisted of bar-gold.
(10%) Not much of his fortune consisted of bar-gold.
(5%) A very small part of his fortune consisted of bar-gold.
(1%) An inconsiderable part of his fortune consisted of bar-gold.
(0%) None of his fortune consisted of bar-gold.

Graves和Hodge認為這是「普遍接受」的量表,但同時也表示作者常常為了戲劇效果而將程度提高5%,進而導致量表混亂。這或許是出於對文章內容缺乏信心,許多作者常為了效果或強調而誇大事實。

我們不難想像在某些情況中,這個量表或許存在著無法解決的爭議,但至少提供了一個基礎的參照點。正如我們對色譜的定義都不太一樣,我們對 於the greater part(較大一部分)和a small part(小部分)到底是指多大一部分,想法也未必一致。如果用百分比來說我吃了35% 的蘋果派,或許我就可以較正確列出怎樣能放縱大吃的公式了吧。

以APA格式為例,如何在論文中使用第一人稱?
在什麼情況下,科學論文寫作該使用直接引述?