And now Words and Their Stories -- a weekly program from VOA Learning English.
Our show explores the roots and modern uses of expressions in American English.
Today we talk about the word “resolution.” Resolution is a word with more than one meaning.
However, when talking about a New Year, a resolution is a promise people make to themselves to be better. The person decides to make a serious effort to do something over the next 12 months.
Many people use the start of a new year as a time to try something new or change something about themselves. This use of resolution dates back to the late 1700s. These earlier resolutions were usually of a religious nature.
However, these days, New Year’s resolutions are usually about living healthier, having more success and finding greater satisfaction in life.
So, some common New Year’s resolutions are to:
keep in contact with family and friends,
go back to school,
cut back on alcohol,
or get more or better sleep.
|Fireworks light up the sky near Malaysia's Petronas Twin Towers during New Year celebrations in Kuala Lumpur on January 1, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / MOHD RASFAN)|
Some people may make a New Year’s resolution to improve only one area of their life. Others may feel they need to completely change everything. These people may use the New Year as a time to turn over a new leaf! Turning over a new leaf means to make a change and behave in a more responsible manner.
有些人可能会制定一项改善单一生活领域的新年决心，还有人可能觉得自己需要彻底改变。这些人可能将新年作为洗心革面重新做人（Turning over a new leaf）的时机。Turning over a new leaf是做出改变，行事更有担当。
At the start of a New Year, you can wipe the slate clean. This means you can simply wash away all the mistakes you made from the past year, as one would remove chalk from a school black board.
在新年伊始，你可以忘记过去重头再来（wipe the slate clean）。意思是说你可以将过去一年犯下的所有错误一笔勾销，就像把黑板上的粉笔字擦掉一样。
Just remember that before you start from a clean slate, learn from the mistakes you made. If not, you may find yourself going back to square one. Some word historians say this expression comes from a board game called Snakes and Ladders. In this game, you begin on square one and win by climbing the ladders to the last square. However, landing on a snake could send you back to the first square, or the very beginning.
只是要记住，在你改过自新（ start from a clean slate）之前，要从自己犯过的错误中吸取教训。否则你可能会发现自己又回到了起点（back to square one）。一些词汇历史学家表示，这种表达源自于蛇梯棋。在这种游戏中，玩家从第一个格子开始，通过梯子爬到最后一格获得胜利。然而，落在蛇形图案的格子里会让你回到起点。
The expression back to square one could have come from the game Hopscotch. This game also begins on a box marked with the number “1.”
Back to square one这种表达还可能源自跳房子游戏。这个游戏也是从一个标有数字1的格子开始。
If your plans for the New Year are not working out at all, you may have to go back to the drawing board. This means that your plan or method is not working. So, you have to go back and develop a new solution to the problem. People who draw images, such as cartoonists, use a drawing board.
如果你的新年决心未能实现，你可能需要重新规划（go back to the drawing board），这意味着你的方案或方法不奏效。所以，你必须重头开始寻找解决问题的办法。漫画家之类的绘图人员会用到绘图板。
The phrase go back to the drawing board comes from Peter Arno, who worked as a cartoonist for New Yorker magazine. In 1941, he made a cartoon showing military men running toward a crashed plane. The designer of plane is seen walking away with his designs under his arm. The caption says, "Well, back to the old drawing board".
Go back to the drawing board这句短语出自于彼得·阿诺（Peter Arno），他是“纽约客”杂志的漫画家。1941年，他画了一副漫画，画面是军人们冲向一架坠毁的飞机，还可以看到飞机设计师把自己的设计方案夹在胳膊下走开。标题写道，“Well, back to the old drawing board”。
So, for many people the New Year is a good time for a fresh start.
Still, many people do not make New Year’s resolutions. They do not want to put added pressure on themselves. Or they are happy with what they are doing and how their lives are progressing.
And some people may think that there is no reason to try so hard to change yourself. They may agree with the old saying that a leopard never changes its spots. This means you are born as you are born and no amount of effort can change that.
还有些人可能认为，没有理由要这么辛苦地改变自己。他们可能会赞同本性难移（a leopard never changes its spots）这句老话，意思是生来如此，无从改变。
After all, change can be hard. Getting up early to exercise every day is hard.
Setting aside time every day to learn a new language or musical instrument is not easy.
As we get older, it might be even more difficult for people to change their behavior. Maybe that’s way we say, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.”
I’m Anna Matteo. Have a Happy New Year!
Words in This Story
slate – n. a tablet (as of slate) used for writing on
cartoon – n. a drawing in a newspaper or magazine intended as a humorous comment on something
caption – n. a sentence or group of words that is written on or next to a picture to explain what is being shown