A newspaper commentary I read recently reminded me of an interesting expression. The expression is “on a wing and a prayer”. Most readers will know the meaning of the word “wing”. It can mean a bird’s wing or the wing of a plane. The word “prayer” comes from the word “pray”. People pray in churches, temples, and mosques. But the expression “on a wing and a prayer” has a different meaning. It means doing something in the hope you will succeed but with very little chance of success. You can say you tried running the marathon on a wing and a prayer.
This means you took part in the marathon even though you knew you would not succeed in completing it. I remembered that expression when I read a commentary in which the writer tweaked the expression. To tweak something means to change it slightly. The writer said “on a whinge and a prayer”. To whinge means to complain repeatedly about something in an annoying way. The writer made up this expression by tweaking the expression “on a wing and a prayer”. He used the word “whinge” to describe a long list of complaints by a politician. He used the word “prayer” to mean that the politician hoped the people he was complaining to would listen to his complaints.
Tweaking idioms to produce a different meaning is not easy but can be fun. People who have spare time can try to do it. I will try on a wing and a prayer and will share it with you if I succeed.
最近讀到一份報章的評論，令我想起一個有趣的習語。那個習語是“on a wing and a prayer”。大多讀者也知道“wing”的意思，它可以指雀鳥的翅膀（wing）或是飛機的機翼（wing）。而“prayer”一字則來源自“pray”。人們會在教堂、廟宇和清真寺禱告祈求（pray）。然而，習語“on a wing and a prayer”卻有不同的意思，它是指做某事時希望能成功，卻只有一絲成功的可能。你可以說，you tried running the marathon on a wing and a prayer。
你這樣說的意思是，你參加了馬拉松比賽，即使你深知自己能成功跑完的機會渺茫。我讀到那篇評論時想起了那個習語，但作者將習語稍為改了（tweaked）。To tweak something 是指輕微調整、改動某事物。該作者說“on a whinge and a prayer”。To whinge是指重重複複、絮絮叨叨地抱怨某事。作者將習語“on a wing and a prayer”稍稍扭（tweaking）了一下，改成這個習語。他用“whinge”一字去形容某位政客長篇大論的抱怨。他用“prayer”一字，是想表明那位政客祈望他抱怨的對象會聽取他的怨言。
將成語稍為改動（tweaking），造成另一個意思，這並不容易，但可以很好玩。有餘暇的人可以試試這樣做。我儘管試試，即使難以成功（on a wing and a prayer），若我真的做到，便會分享給你們看看。