I'm having problems figuring The NY Times' translation. Why so complex?

他用非此即彼的二元论来表述这个选择. He presented the choice in binary terms

So Google Translate gives me:

他用非此即彼 - He used one or the other.

This I don't get it. He used not 此-this 即-? 彼- that

二元论 - dualism

来表述这个选择 - to formulate these options

Here's the context:


In the future, when the United States is not directly threatened, “the threshold for military action must be higher,” Mr. Obama said. He presented the choice in binary terms, suggesting that his critics want to use force to solve many of the world’s troubles.

  • 非此即彼 is a philosophical term (in English it's called "Either/Or"). I think this translation is much too complex. – musicnothing May 29 '14 at 19:49
  • Yes, too complex, too professional for ordinary people. – user4072 May 30 '14 at 0:10
  • "Complex" and "professional" are different. In this case, the translation is complex yet unprofessional. – user4086 Jun 3 '14 at 10:35

他用非此即彼 is a sentence fragment, thus Google translate does not translate it well.

非此即彼 literally means "if not this, then it is that", leaving no other choice. I think 非此即彼的二元论 means "binary terms, which means leaving only two choices", it is not a literal translation but one with additional information as ordinary people may not know what 二元论 means.

  • 2
    even if one knows what 二元论 is, this word has multiple meanings. 非此即彼的二元论 is one of them. However, I do think this translation is poor. – Danke Xie May 31 '14 at 4:47

非此即彼 means 非(not)此(this)即(then)彼(that) 二元论 - binary system

Here, "非此即彼" and "二元论" express the same meaning. It seems duplicate. But as said by @zhantongz "binary system"(二元论) is a term too difficult for ordinary people, "非此即彼" is an official expression easier to understand.

I think that's why NY Times translate it like this. It's a bit complex but reasonable:)

Hope this can help

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