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VOA词汇掌故(翻译+字幕+讲解):把闪电装进瓶子里

日期: 来源:比比西英语网

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Now, Words and Their Stories, a weekly program from VOA Learning English.

On this show, we explore common phrases and expressions in American English.

Today we talk about a saying that comes from nature -- the weather, to be exact.

Lightning is a powerful force of nature. In fact, a lightning strike carries millions of volts of electricity.

Scientists say a bolt of lightning strikes somewhere on Earth every second. That is a lot of energy!

Think how wonderful it would be if we could capture lightning and sell it in a bottle. Sadly, that is not something you or I can do, at least not yet.

The phrase "to catch lighting in a bottle" means to capture something powerful or difficult. Then you are able to control it and perhaps show it to the world. This is where the "bottle" part is important.

We can also use "to capture lightning in a bottle" to describe an extremely difficult or unlikely success. Or you can simply call something elusive, fleeting and brilliant "lightning in a bottle."

So, something elusive is difficult to define or to identify. "Fleeting" means to be here one minute and gone the next. Something fleeting is hard to hold onto. It is hard to catch or even define. It's as if it's too special.

For example, once I worked on a theater project and the experience was like lightning in a bottle. The performers -- all gifted and friendly -- became like family. We spent every day together. The material we performed was funny, yet difficult. And every night the people who gathered to watch us perform were wonderful. Experiences like that do not come along every day.

So, we often use the term "lightning in a bottle" when talking about something creative. But not always.

In the world of sports, players and teams have also been known for catching lightning in a bottle. Anything physical that is "lightning in a bottle" can be described as a rare feat. Climbing the top of Mount Everest is considered a rare feat of endurance.

Sometimes we use this expression to describe something that it is difficult to do and use it as a simile. A simile compares two things and begins with the word "like" or "as." For example, getting all the scientists to agree on a subject for the conference was like trying to catch lightning in a bottle. They all wanted to talk about different issues.

As you may have noticed, we either use the verbs "capture" or "catch" for this expression. "Catch" is less official sounding.

Language experts do not know exactly where this expression comes from. Some say it may have started with Benjamin Franklin -- the American diplomat, businessman and inventor.

Ben Franklin is known for a scientific experiment involving electricity and lightning. As the story goes, Franklin once flew a kite in a lightning storm. He had hoped that lightning would strike the kite as it flew high in the sky. He thought the electricity would travel down the string to a metal key at the bottom. Then the plan was to catch the electricity in a glass jar.

But that didn't happen. However, it did lead to the invention of the lightning rod and the understanding of positive and negative charges.

So, you can't catch real lightning in a bottle. But hopefully, during your lifetime you'll have the experience of catching a little of your own lightning in a bottle.

We'll end the show with a final usage of this expression. It is not that common but probably worth noting. "Bottled lightning" can also mean a very strong alcoholic drink.

And that's Words and Their Stories.

I'm Anna Matteo.

And I'm Bryan Lynn.

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  • 如果你给这个短语加上个单词,那它的意思就大大改变了。如果“我活在乌云之下(living under a dark cloud)”,那这句话的意思是我总是很沮丧,很悲观。我们可以更这样说:“生活在忧郁的阴影里”或者“活在贫困的阴影下”。所以,你看,人们可以活在各种不同的阴影之下。

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  • VOA词汇掌故(翻译+字幕+讲解):生活总是有希望的

  • 如果你给这个短语加上个单词,那它的意思就大大改变了。如果“我活在乌云之下(living under a dark cloud)”,那这句话的意思是我总是很沮丧,很悲观。我们可以更这样说:“生活在忧郁的阴影里”或者“活在贫困的阴影下”。所以,你看,人们可以活在各种不同的阴影之下。
  • VOA词汇掌故(翻译+字幕+讲解):把闪电装进瓶子里

  • 有时候我们用这个来明喻很难完成的某事。“明喻”是将两件事物作比较,并以单词“like(像)”或者“(as)”开头。例如,要让所有的科学家都同意这个会议主题就像捉住闪电放进瓶子那般的困难。他们都想谈论不同的主题。