Nose to the grindstone

你见过磨石(grindstone)吗?它是用来磨谷物的两片圆石头中的一片(a rotating stone wheel used for sharpening, shaping, polishing, etc.)。那么,把鼻子放到两片磨石之间就必然会受伤。所以,“nose to the grindstone”这个习语最初是用来表达“疼痛”的意思,但是现在这个习语已经不再有这个意思了。

“To put or keep one’s nose to the grindstone”现在的意思是“to be in a state of strenuous hard work”。19世纪中叶,“keep/put one’s nose to the grindstone”这个习语就有了“辛苦工作”的意思,特别指枯燥乏味的工作。这个短语通常用来形容长时间辛苦劳作的人们,如下面这句话描写的:“But without a dependable retirement plan, we would not be assure of being able to enjoy a comfortable and leisurely retirement, and would have to keep our poor noses to the grindstone until we conk out.”(Business World, 1999)

下面我们来谈谈“put your nose to the grindstone”和“put your shoulder to the wheel”的区别,二者意思极为相近,但前者指那种持续的,看似无休无止的工作,而“put your shoulder to the wheel”则形容有限的工作,精力充沛的完成某项工作,特别是有难度的工作。 “Put your shoulder to the wheel”的这个意义起源于人们用肩头抵住车轮,把陷入泥潭的车子推出去。

Businesses that had seemed in a state of suspended animation in the latter part of the week, their workers distracted by worry and grief, put shoulders to the wheel and noses to the grindstone. The incredible engine that is the American economy began to pick up speed once more. (The Atlanta Journal and Constitution, September 17, 2001)