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2008/02/17——WORDS AND THEIR STORIES - Chickenfeed: It Doesn't Add Up to Much

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WORDS AND THEIR STORIES - Chickenfeed: It Doesn't Add Up to Much

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WORDS AND THEIR STORIES - Chickenfeed: It Doesn't Add Up to Much


I'm Susan Clark with WORDS AND THEIR STORIES, a program in Special English on the Voice of America.



Almost every language in the world has a saying that a person can never be too rich.


【一个人在有钱也不过分。注意这个翻译,剧中can never be too 是固定用法,再...也不为过”】

Americans, like people in other countries, always want more money. One
way they express this is by protesting【抗议】 that their jobs do not pay
enough. A common expression is, "I am working for chickenfeed." It means working for very little money. The
expression probably began because seeds fed to chickens made people
think of small change. Small change means metal coins of not much
value, like nickels which are worth five cents.


An early use of the word chickenfeed 【微不足道的数目】
appeared in an American publication in nineteen thirty. It told about a
rich man and his son. Word expert Mitford Mathews says it read, "I'll
bet neither the kid nor his father ever saw a nickel【五分硬币】 or a
dime【十分硬币,没有翻译成一角,是因为美国没有“角”的单位】. They would not have been interested
in such chickenfeed.

早期使用“鸡食”出现在19世纪30年代的一个美国出版物上。他讲述了一个富人和他儿子的故事。词学家Mitford Mathews说上面讲到:我敢打赌,儿子和他父亲都不没见过五分和十分钱,他们本来就对小钱感兴趣。

Chickenfeed also has another interesting meaning known to history experts and World War Two spies and soldiers.


Spy expert Henry S. A. Becket writes that some German spies working in
London during the war also worked for the British. The British
government had to make the Germans believe their spies were working.
So, British officials gave them mostly false information. It was called

间谍专家Henry S. A. Becket 写道,二战时一些在伦敦工作的德国间谍也为不列颠工作。不列颠政府不得不让德国人相信他们的间谍一直在工作。所以不列颠官员给德国人大量虚假信息。这就被成为:鸡食。

The same person who protests that he is working for chickenfeed may also say, "I am working for peanuts." She means she is working for a small amount of money.


It is a very different meaning from the main one in the dictionary. That meaning is small nuts that grow on a plant.


No one knows for sure how a word for something to eat also came to mean
something very small. But, a peanut is a very small food.


The expression is an old one. Word expert Mitford Mathews says that as
early as eighteen fifty-four, an American publication used the words peanut agitators【agitator煽动者,鼓动者】. That meant political troublemakers who did not have a lot of support.

这是一种古老的表达方式。词学家Mitford Mathews说早在1854年,一美国出版物上使用了花生煽动”来形容那些少有支持者的政治捣乱分子。

Another reason for the saying about working for peanuts may be linked
to elephants. Think of how elephants are paid for their work in the
circus. They receive food, not money. One of the foods they like best
is peanuts.


When you add the word gallery to the word peanut you have the name of an area in an American theater. A gallery is a high seating area or balcony above the main floor.


The peanut gallery【顶层楼座;在剧院顶层,票价最低廉之座位】 got its
name because it is the part of the theater most distant from where the
show takes place. So, peanut gallery tickets usually cost less than
other tickets. People pay a small amount of money for them.



This Special English program, WORDS AND THEIR STORIES, was written by Jeri Watson. This is Susan Clark.

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