Idioms Denoting Parts of Body Essay
Idioms Denoting Parts of Body
It is common knowledge that one of the most important functions of language is to name the world or express human thoughts through a system of concepts. They exist in association in language and make up a giant network with many interconnection and association among the various subparts. A good example of this interconnection involves metaphor. Metaphor is used in the literary or poetic language. It is also widely used in every day conversational language. It is obvious that metaphor is utilized to express ideas sensibly and vividly as it has great expressive power. It is capable of conveying more of the human feeling, emotion or attitude toward what is said rather than the non-metaphorical or direct way of expression.
The more developed the society is, the more necessary the need of communication becomes; especially in the process of globalization, the communication has spread beyond the boundary of a country. Together with the development of the society in the era of integration, language has been clearly recognized as a very important tool in communication with many purposes. Language can be used to show one’s feeling, attitude, and evaluation.
And through communicating, reading newspapers etc., I realize that people often use words, phrases denoting human body to show their feeling, emotion… In our daily life, we can easily recognize words denoting our body parts used plentifully, not only individual words but also word combinations containing more than one human body part. Regarding to word groups denoting human body parts, their meanings are not the combination of each word’s meaning only, in some cases, their meanings are quite different from the original meaning.
Learning of idioms is important, especially for the foreigner learners. Idioms correspond to a valuable vein in English language, so they need for explanation. Idioms are fixed expressions whose meaning cannot be deduced from the meaning of its components. Learners of English must be aware that the meaning cannot be taken as a combination of words which the idiom consist of. Also behaviour of idioms in sentences is different. One cannot understand literally the meaning of an idiom.
Sometimes it seems that it has no sense or it is illogical. Idioms cannot be changed; especially one cannot use related words when the idiom is concerned. Many of them cannot be used in passive form. The structure of idioms is extraordinary. That is why learners of English must know that the most important thing is not learning idioms by rote, but learning how to use them. If speaker of English knows a lot of idioms and he can use them in a right context, he will be able to communicate more easily.
Idiomatic expressions are phrases which use language in a non-literal way. This is why interpretation of idioms is very hard. Idioms are group of words, phrases that meaning cannot be concluded from the individual words. Every idiom has a deeper, metaphorical meaning. Idioms are very important in life because it is impossible to speak, read, write and listen to English without knowing idiomatic expressions.
Native speakers of English feel more comfortable using idiomatic phrases; however, non-native speakers can be frustrated because the true meaning of an idiom is not always clear. One should remember that idioms can be used when every speaker master a language completely. Nowadays, idioms are essential elements that enrich the language. However, one should remember that speech which is overloaded with idioms loses its originality. On the other hand, lack of idioms make that oral or written speech loses much in its expressiveness.
A large number of phrases and sentences in the English language are related to body parts. Some of them are descriptive while others, elusive. Their origins are dated from Biblical times to the recent days. Each generation adds new idiomatic expressions which are connected with their culture.
The meaning of idiomatic expressions is indefinable. They show that metaphors are very important in our lives and that we do not look at things in the way they are in reality, but rather we perceive them through our understanding and our experience of the world.
The present thesis is an attempt at an analysis of English idioms with a body component. Its goal is to study and present the nature of idioms, their connection with culture and context.
It is common knowledge that one of the most important functions of language is to name the world or express human thoughts through a system of concepts. They exist in association in language and make up a giant network with many interconnection and association among the various subparts. A good example of this interconnection involves metaphor.
Metaphor is used in the literary or poetic language. It is also widely used in every day conversational language. It is obvious that metaphor is utilized to express ideas sensibly and vividly as it has great expressive power. It is capable of conveying more of the human feeling, emotion or attitude toward what is said rather than the non-metaphorical or direct way of expression.
Achilles’ heel= the only vulnerable spot in a person or thing that is otherwise strong; a serious or fatal weakness/ fault After one’s own heart = to like someone because of similar interests An eye for an eye (and a tooth for a tooth)= retaliation/ retribution in kind, a punishment that is as cruel as the crime An eye opener = a surprise; a startling or enlightening experience Armed to the teeth = heavily armed
Behind one’s back = when one is not present
Blue blood = having the qualities of being of noble birth
Can’t put one’s finger on = can’t locate immediately, can’t find the answer Can’t see beyond the end of one’s nose = limited vision concerning decisions of the future Crocodile tears = false tears, pretended grief
Face to face/ eyeball-to-eyeball = confronting each other
Foul mouth = a user of profanity
Hand in hand= in close association
Hands are tied = restrained from acting
Heart-to-heart = intimate speaking freely and seriously about a private subject I could have bitten my tongue off= sorry you said something
In one ear and out the other = does not heed or pay attention It’s in your hands = it is your responsibility
On the tip of one’s tongue= at the point of telling or recalling One foot in the grave = old and decrepit
Over one’s dead body= against one’s strong opposition
Right-hand man= chief assistant
To (not) lift a finger= not to help in the slightest degree
To be all ears = to listen attentively
To be loose–tongued = to talk too much
To be up to one’s ears = immersed in, caught in
To break someone’s heart = cause great sorrow, disappoint someone To breathe down someone’s neck = to follow someone closely in pursuit, the action of a superior who is looking for something wrong or watching someone very closely To bury one’s head in the sand = to refuse to accept facts To catch one’s breath = to rest to regain normal breathing To cry on someone’s shoulder = to go to someone to talk to about a problem To foam/ froth at the mouth= to be very angry
To force one’s hand = make one reveal his plans
To get one’s hands on= obtain
To get out of hand= become uncontrollable
To get through one’s head= to understand or believe
To give one’s right arm = make a big sacrifice; give something of great value To give someone a hand= help, assistance
To go to one’s head= cause dizziness
To have a big mouth= to talk too much
To have a sharp tongue= harsh or sarcastic in speech
To have an eagle eye= to have an excellent eyesight
For the first time the term ‘phraseology’ appeared in 16th century and it meant ‘style’ or ‘vocabulary’. In 18th century it got terminological meaning such as ‘a group of word units’. At the same time in most of European languages ‘phraseology’ meant ‘empty words’. New linguistic branch ‘phraseology’ developed in 20th century, mostly in East Europe. The forerunner of phraseology was Charles. Bally, Swiss linguist. He used the term phraseology when he wrote about different types of word-groups which differ in degree of stability from free word-groups to phraseological units. The study on phraseology was developed by Russian linguists A.A. Shakhmotov and A.D. Polivanov. M. Tarasevitch (1991:448) claims that “[…] linguists became aware of the existence in the language of special larger-than-words units: word-groups consisting of two or more words whose combination is integrated as a unit with a specialized meaning of the whole […].
Russian linguists made an attempt to study various word-groups on a scientific basis. They pointed out the need to establish a new branch of linguistics that would study unusual feature of word-groups. In linguistics, ‘phraseology’ is a term used for describing the context in which a word is used. The term also describes various structural and semantic types of phrases characterized by different degrees of idiomacity in given language. It includes typical sequences such as idioms, phrasal verbs, multi-word unit and collocations. “ Phraseology – the words and phrases used in particular profession or activity or a particular way of putting words together to express something” (Macmillan English Dictionary 2007:1119) Phraseology studies compound meaning of two or more words e.g. like a knife through butter.
The meaning of the phrase is different from the words used alone. Phraseology studies why such meanings come in everyday use, and what possibly are the laws governing these word combinations. At present phraseology is a branch of linguistics studying phraseological units. According to M. Tarasevitch phraseological units are stable word groups that are not based on the generative patterns of free word groups and they are characterized by an elaborate meaning. Tarasevitch claims that phraseological unit should have:
* Stability of use;
* Structural separateness;
* Complexity of meaning and
* Word-groups are not built on the generative pattern of free word-groups. Stability of use means that phraseological units are language units which are members of a language community. Phraseology is connected with culture and speech community. Structural separateness helps to distinguish praseological units from compound words.
Complexity of meaning signifies the non-compositionality of phraseological units, which mean that the meaning of the whole phrase is different from the sum of literal meanings of the words. Each unit is constituted according to its own unique rule, which cannot be predicted. One of three groups of phraseological units is idioms. Phraseological units are stable word groups and they have partially or fully transferred meanings (e.g. kick the bucket). They are lexicalized word group in common use.
What is an idiom?
“A group of words whose meaning is different from the meanings of the individual words” (Oxford Advanced
Learners Dictionary 2000:672)
“An expression established in the usage of a language that is peculiar to itself either in grammatical construction or in having a meaning that cannot be derived as a whole from the conjoined meanings of its elements” (Webster’s Third New International Dictionary 1993:1123)
“[…] an idiom is a lexicalized, reproducible word group in common use, which has the syntactic stability, and may carry connotations, but whose meaning cannot be derived from the meanings of its constituents” (Cowie 2001:125)
The word ‘idiom’ comes from the Greek root idio, meaning a unique signature. An idiom is an expression, a phrase or a combination of words that has a meaning that is different from a meaning of the individual words. Each language contains expressions which make no sense when they are translated literally into another language. Sometimes idiom can have literal meaning in some situation and different idiomatic meaning in another situation. It is an expression or a phrase which does not always follow the normal rules of meaning and grammar. If somebody (especially a foreigner or a person outside a given culture) does not know that some words convey a meaning that is unrelated to the individual meaning of those words, he may does not understand what someone is saying.
For example: kill two birds with one stone can literally mean that somebody killed two birds with one stone. But the idiom has totally different meaning: one resolves two difficulties or matters with a one single action. Many idioms are similar to expressions in other languages, can be easy to understand and its meaning is usually obvious. For instance, black ship of the family in Poland can be easily understood because there is an identical idiom and it can be easily translated. Other idioms come from older phrases which have changed their meaning over time, for example, kick the bucket originally referred to suicide victims standing on inverted buckets, they kick them away and in this way hang themselves, but now it means simply to die.
Shelley (1995) suggests that some idioms are slang. “Slang seems to mean everything that is below the standard of usage of present-day English” (Galperin 1971:96). Galperin cited a definition of slang of “Webster’s New World Dictionary of the American Language”: “1. Originally, the specialized vocabulary and idioms of criminals tramps, etc. The purpose of which was to disguise from outsiders the meaning of what was said; now usually called cant.
2. The specialized vocabulary and idioms of those in the same work, way of life, etc.; now usually called shoptalk, argot, jargon. “ (Galperin 1971:96). According to Thomas (1995) idioms are known as clichés. Clichés are expressions that have been used over and over again. They are overused and common expressions. Idioms are perceived as a very interesting part of the language because they are different from simple words and phrases. They make language life and rich because they take existing words and combine them with a new sense and create totally new expressions.
“[…] language is a living thing […]. Living things grow and change, so does language.” (Seidl and McMordie 1988:11) English language being flexible enriches its vocabulary with the words invented by language speakers, which makes English more colourful with new idiomatic expressions. Since idioms have unpredictable meaning, structure and collocations, they are linguistic curiosities. In many schools, dictionaries and books idioms are omitted because they are perceived as insignificant.
They are rarely used in classrooms. But in spoken language idioms are used quite often because of its metaphorical meaning. According to Seidl and McMordie (1988) the attitude to language is still changing. It is observed in some parts of grammar (case, number and tense), and in style. Some words which were deemed as slang in the past now are considered informal or colloquial. Idioms are not any longer colloquial expressions. They appear in formal style, in poetry and in the language of the Bible.
Idioms and culture
“By culture we understand the ability of members of speech community to orientate themselves with respect to social, moral, political and so on values in their empirical and mental experience. Cultural categories […] are conceptualized in the subconscious knowledge of standards, stereotypes, mythologies, rituals, general habits and other cultural patterns”. (Cowie 2001:57)
The term idiom refers to a group of words which are usually confusing to people who are not familiar with the language. Nevertheless, many phrases or expressions from natural language are in fact idioms or have idiomatic origin and they have been assimilated into the language. Idioms are often colloquial metaphors. They often combine in their semantics more than one type of cultural information. It means that they require some foundational knowledge, information and experience which are used only within a culture where groups must have common reference. As cultures are localized around some area, idioms are not useful for communication outside of that local context.
But there are some idioms that can be more universally used than others, they can be easily translated and their metaphorical meaning can be more easily deduced. Those common idioms have deep roots in many languages, they can be translated in other languages and tend to become international. Idioms are an essential part of English style language study. One cannot say that he know English history, culture and society without understanding the meaning and the roots of English idioms. Each generation has added its new non-literal expressions which are defined by the values, beliefs, traditions, customs and events of the times.
If you master idioms you will be on your path to better understanding English culture, customs, society and lifestyle of English people. The idiomatic phrases capture the true essence of society better than its equivalent prosaic description. When one uses idioms among English friends and even business associates, he can create emotional bands that bring him closer to their culture. Mastery of idioms can lead to better understanding of people. Often background information on the origin or popular usage of idioms provides important insight into culture.
Different aspects of an idiom
Seidl and McMordie (1988) said that idioms are not only colloquial expressions, but they also appear in formal style and in poetry. Idioms often occur in journalism, radio and magazines to make information, stories and articles more interesting. However, idioms are often connected with informal language. The construction of an idiom is strict and for one it can be odd (e.g. not by a long chalk). Sometimes the construction seems to be illogical (e.g. for two pins). This is why learning idioms is not only very difficult task but also very exciting and intriguing. People who do not know certain idioms cannot easily understand the others. Such a phrase would not make sense and one cannot deduce what is actual meaning of the expression.
These features causes that idioms have to be learnt as a whole expressions without any changes. Sometimes idioms have alternative forms without any change in their meaning (e.g. to drop a brick and put one’s foot in it mean to say something tactlessly or blue-eyed boy and golden boy – a favoured person). In some cases several verbs can be used in one idiom and the meaning is the same, but sometimes there are slight changes in meaning connected with the verb which it substitutes (e.g. keep/bear someone in mind, come/get to/reach the point). An idiom is natural to native speakers of the language and only people who are possess English very good can use idiomatic expressions in their speech. Idioms have different structures and combinations.
They can be short or long, they contain various parts of speech and they are unpredictable, but sometimes one may guess meaning from the context, when the idiom is used in a particular situation. Foreigners know the meaning of the idiom when it is related to the mother tongue of the speaker (e.g. be in seven heaven in Polish its mean być w siódmym niebie). Some idioms are so difficult that one cannot guess the meaning from the context correctly. It is difficult to learn them. Idioms can change their meaning during period of time or simple phrase can transform into idiom and get deeper meaning as it was with kick the bucket. Learners of foreign language have to learn idioms as a single item with their meaning. It is essential to master the rules of their use in sentences.
They are strict in their structure and they do not allow the word order to change. A learner must know how to use an idiom in the correct way. Idioms are not separate part of language, but they are very important part of lexicon. Languages contain a large number of idioms and sometimes native speakers use them in the unconscious way. There are many problems with idioms. The main problem is that it is not usually possible to translate them literally. There are exceptions, for instance, take the bull by the horns can be translated literally into Polish as wziąć byka za rogi, which has the same meaning.
Mostly, the use of normal rules in order to translate idioms will result in illogical phrases. Idioms have to be treated as single units in translation. There are idioms which are ‘frozen’. It means that an idiom appears in the same form and in the same order (e.g. for good – ‘forever’). But, there is problem with idioms which change the form of the verb, which varies according to tense, person and number.
For example, kick the bucket (‘to die’) one gets she kicks/kicked/will kick the bucket. Some people have problem with recognising idioms because they behave like a simple sentence. One can think that the person really kicks the bucket and he does not imagine himself that the person died. The interpretation of idioms for one can be surprising. It is better to recognise idioms which have ‘frozen forms’.
Idioms pragmatics and context
“Pragmatics – the study of the way in which language is used to express what somebody really means in particular situations, especially when the actual words used may appear to mean something different.” (Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary of Current English 2000:1031). Pragmatics is involved with the comprehension process. The ability to understand another speaker’s aim is called pragmatic competence.
It is a linguistic study of the way in which people use language to achieve different goals. Suppose a person wanted to ask someone else to reveal a secret. These could be achieved in the different ways. The person could simply say ‘do not tell a secret, please’ which is direct and with clear meaning. Alternatively the person could say ‘do not spill the beans’, which implies a similar meaning but is indirect and therefore requires pragmatic competence.
Idioms play very important role in those studies. Because idioms have general meaning they are rather used to express attitude then give specific information. They are used to express approval or disapproval and admiration or criticism. According to Collins Coubild Dictionary of Idioms (1995) idioms sometimes have connotations and pragmatic meaning which are not always obvious to people who do not know the meaning and then the meaning of the expression can be missed. It may happen that somebody can use an idiom and do not realize that it can be interpreted as critical or disapproving.
It can cause wrong reaction of the person they are talking to. Pragmatics is one of the most challenging aspects for language learners to comprehend, and can be learned by experience. The interpretation of what the speaker wanted to say using particular words is often influenced by factors such as listener’s assumption or the context. In pragmatics two contexts can be distinguished: linguistic context (is the set of words that surround the lexical item) and physical context (is the location of given words, the situation in which the word is used, as well as timing, all of them lead to proper understanding of the words).
1.2. Practical Value
When we use idioms?
According to Seild and McMordie (1988) one should know in which situations it is correct to use idiom and weather an idiom can be used in a formal or an informal situation. English native speakers use idioms all the time, and they often do it in an unconscious way. This means that the communication with them can be very difficult. They use idioms to express something that other words do not express as clearly or as cleverly. Of course choice of words depends on the person who is speaking, on the situation and the place. If people are friends and they are talking in private there is no reason to avoid using idioms, slang or jargon.
But, if in the same situation one of speakers is foreigner they should not use idioms until this person will master the language completely. Learning idioms cause a lot of troubles to English learners because they do not know the culture and history behind the idioms. That is way they often use idioms inappropriately. Learners use idiomatic expressions carefully because they are afraid of using them incorrectly. In formal situations, it means when one is talking with a stranger or speaks publicly than one should shun idioms. Using idioms one should know whether an idiom is appropriate in certain situation.
When idioms are used judiciously, they can even improve the atmosphere of one’s formal writing and provide more interesting descriptions. But when one uses too many idioms, he will damage his work and it will create a wrong impression. Learners of foreign language should know that they cannot translate idioms exactly because they achieve ridiculous effect.
The results of foreigner’s translation may be bewildering to the English native speaker. Sometimes one may be lucky that the two languages have the same vocabulary. It is connected with close relation between language and culture. Idioms can be learnt only by listening to native speakers or reading texts which contains idioms. “Mastery of idioms comes only slowly, through careful study and observation, through practice and experience.” (Seidl and McMordie 1978:8)
Idioms with a body part component
Many English idioms are related to external and internal organs of the human body. Body parts idioms contain following aspects:
● body parts which are connected with senses
● internal organs
● limbs and limbs’ elements
● other body parts
Body idioms connected with senses
Ear – is an organ of hearing. It is a part of human auditory system and it is used to listen to the sounds. Ear idioms have both positive and negative meaning. Half of them are positively loaded; the other part is negatively loaded.
Eye – is an organ of vision. According to Macmillan dictionary (2007) eye is one of two body parts used for seeing. Most of the idioms are positively loaded.
Nose – it is a part of people’s face that is used for smelling and breathing. Half of nose idioms have a positive meaning the other half have a negative meaning.
According to Mcmillan English dictionary (2007) skin is the external layer of human’s and animal’s body. Skin also enables feeling.
Body idioms connected with limbs and limbs’ elements
Arm – is an upper limb of human body with your hands at the end. Six arm idioms have a positive meaning, one is rather neutral and the others have a negative meaning.
Shoulder – it is one of two parts of the body between one’s neck and the top of one’s arms.
In dictionaries there are many different uses of word ‘hand’. As a body part ‘hand’ is at the end of each arm that people use for picking up and holding things, but it is also used for moving and touching things.
Hand provides a good source for metonymic extensions and hand-based idioms convey both positive and negative meanings. That said, a hand that takes does not give, your hand and not the charity of others, someone’s hand outruns his/her tongue (speech), someone’s hand and strike, someone with a long hand, someone’s hand on his/her heart, someone with an empty hand, someone with a loose hand, someone with a short hand, someone with a dry hand, someone dug his/her grave by hand, someone withdrew his/her hand from someone/ something, soften your hand (imperative), as left by your hand, no power in hand, putting one’s hand in another’s throat and nobody hit him/her on the hand are all instances of hand based idioms that express negative meanings.
Fingers are the long, thin parts at the end of human’s hands. Half of the finger idioms have a positive meaning and the other part is negative.
Leg – is a lower limb of human body with your foot at the end. Bigger parts of leg idioms have negative meaning (5), one is neutral and the rest are positive.
Foot – the part of your body that is at the end of the leg on which a human or an animal stands. Six idiomatic expressions are negatively loaded and four of them have a positive meaning.
Toe is the one of the individual parts at the end of human’s foot. Only one idiom (be/keep on one’s toes) have a positive meaning, one is neutral (from top to toes) and the rest are negatively loaded.
Heart is the organ in human’s chest that makes blood flow around the body. The term refers to our feelings and emotions in reference to people’s character. Heart is considered as the most important and influential part of human body. It is the place where people’s deepest emotions come from. It is believed that heart controls emotions and it is used to talk about love and happiness. This is why, the most of idioms are positively loaded. 80% of heart idioms contain the word ‘heart’ in Polish and 20% of idioms are not related to heart or feelings.
Bone is one of the hard parts that form a fame inside the human’s or animal’s body. Bone function is to move and protect the internal organs of the body. Bones create the skeleton. This is why they used to represent death. Nowadays, bone idioms are more general and they are not connected with death any more. Most of them (six) have a negative meaning, three are positively loaded and one is neutral.
Tongue is the organ in your mouth. It is a long piece of flesh fixed to the bottom of human’s or animal’s mouth. People use it for tasting and speaking. Tongue, mostly is use to talk but it also stands for a style of expression, a particular way of speaking and writing. Almost all tongue idioms have a negative meaning, which is surprising. It is the first body part which is so negatively loaded. None of idioms have a clear positive meaning. Only one is neutral: have something on the tip of one’s tongue.
Other body parts idioms
Head is the top part of human’s or animal’s body that has brain, eyes, mouth and nose. Head can also stand for mind and thought. It is often connected with reason, thoughts or memories. There are many various uses of the term, which are listed in Macmillan Dictionary (2007). Six head idioms have a positive meaning and four of them are negatively loaded. Head provides an essential source domain for characterizing people human states and behavior. The implicit meanings of head-based idioms are predominantly negative.
This being the case, someone’s head getting big – which is equivalent to the English swollen-headed – is used rhetorically as a metonymy to stand for someone who is arrogant, whereas someone with a big head refers metonymically to any knowledgeable person (scientist, engineer or professor) who is most appreciated by others, or to any person in power (minister, prime minister, or university president) who has mastery over issues others do not. Someone with a heavy head, which is equivalent to the English sleepy head, symbolizes a person who is less likely to wake up early and almost misses the clock alarm.
Other idioms which also implicate negative meanings include someone’s got dry or solid head, which is a metonymy for the attribute of stubbornness and which is parallel to the English hard-headed, and someone’s head and pillow, which symbolizes loneliness (unmarried or friendless person) and metonymically stands for anybody who need not look after anyone except him/herself. When someone constructed roads in my head – which is equivalent to the English drilling a hole in someone’s head – is said by someone, then the speaker is complaining that he/she is tormented by someone pertinacious, one who is persistently nagging and over-enquiring about something in a very unpleasant manner.
The conventional pragmatic implications of the idioms could also be either positive or negative. Instances of metonymic face-based idioms of negative implications which are of frequent use include someone has been eating my face, someone should not be given face, someone with a bloodless face, someone slept on his/her face = someone slept on belly, and someone’s face stops the livelihood. Someone has been eating my face is a metonymic expression used to stand for someone who relentlessly asks about something and insists on his request. This idiom is also used to stand for creditors who insist on their request and seek to recover debt from debtors. Someone should not be given face is also a metonymy for a meddling person and this idiom is used as advice not to establish a relationship with any such type of people.
There are some people who are intrusive overbearing in a very intolerable way, and if someone shows them a good welcome and smile in their faces once, they are encouraged to come back and hope to get more and more, and ask someone at every opportunity to give them what they want. If someone forgives and disregards an intrusive person’s mistakes, then the apologizer might go too far and keep insulting and hurting the apologize unless the apologizer is stopped from doing so. Further, there are some disturbing people who overstay their welcomes, in that if respected and welcomed in someone’s home or workplace, they come to visit someone every day in order for the host to undertake the duty of hospitality.
For all these possible reasons, some people might use the metonymical idiom of someone should not be given face. Someone with a bloodless face is a metonymic expression that symbolizes rude and shameless people who are likely to speak in a way that may be hurtful and offensive to others; people who do not care whether they are right or not due to over brazenness and lack of modesty and understanding. The metonymical idiom of someone slept on his/her face is normally used to describe someone who slept worried or slept because of the severity of fatigue.
Finally, the expression someone’s face stops the livelihood is used to describe pessimistic people who are likely to get someone down. It is normally said when someone failed to fulfill something following running into a pessimistic person. Metonymical face-based idioms of positive implications are relatively few and they include you can see your face in it and your face and not the moonlight.
The former is used as a metonymy to signify anything tremendously clean such as car, door, floor, etc. It is so clean that one can see one’s face in it as if it were a mirror. The latter is said while addressing the beloved person and used to express the longing and welcome to the beloved person after a long absence. Also, someone with white face is a metonymy for a peaceful person who is innocent of some charges blamed on him/her accidently.
Back is the body part that is opposite side to people’s chest, it is between the neck and the top of legs. Half of back idioms are positive and the other half has a negative meaning.
Idioms are one of the most difficult parts of the vocabulary of any language because they have unpredictable meanings or collocations and grammar. One of the main difficulties for learners is deciding in which situation it is correct to use an idiom, i.e. the level of style (neutral, informal, slang, taboo, etc. idioms). Learners of English may also have difficulty deciding whether an idiom is natural or appropriate in a certain situation. It is extremely unwise to translate idioms into or from one’s native language. One may be lucky that the two languages have the same form and vocabulary, but in most cases the result will be utterly bewildering to the English native speaker – and possibly highly amusing. (Seidl 1988)
Today’s English has a general tendency towards a more idiomatic usage. Even educated usage has become more tolerant, so the use of idiomatic expressions increased in frequency. Idioms are, in a very broad sense, metaphorical rather than literal: they are effectively metaphors that have become ‘fixed’ in language. In some cases, it is fairly easy to see how the idiomatic meaning relates to the literal meaning, in other cases, the literal meaning may make no sense at all. The primary goal of this study was to investigate the positive and negative pragmatic implications of body-based idioms that are enhanced by metonymy.
It was found that metonymical idioms that include lexis for head, face, eye, hand, tongue, and leg predominantly implicate negative meanings. Also, whereas metonymy-enhanced idioms that include body parts such as hair, nose, tongue, teeth, back, skin and blood were found to be expressing positive and negative meanings almost equally, metonymical idioms that are based on mouth and neck were found to be conveying positive meaning only.
It might be possible to argue that the use of the majority of body-based idioms is enhanced by the need to be polite. Having said that, we could say that the use to which these idioms are established and maintained is to protect the speaker’s and/or the addressee’s face. Idioms in general and those examined in this study in particular are all examples of indirect communication of opinions, human states and behaviour.
Almost every body idiom is related to human being, to its behaviour, qualities and everyday life. Understanding of the metaphorical meaning of idiomatic phrases is related to everyday experience and the world around us. It causes that metaphors are very important in people’s lives. This is whyone should know idioms especially when he is learning language. Metaphors are part of the language. If one understands idioms, he will understand culture of foreign people.
3. Some Examples
If you are all ears, you are very interested and ready to listen to what another person wants to tell you. Tell me what happened – I’m all ears.
All in your head
If something is all in your head, you have imagined it and it is not real. Stop thinking that everybody hates you. It’s all in your head.
Cost somebody an arm and a leg
If something costs an arm and a leg, it is very expensive.
This television set cost me an arm and leg. It wasn’t cheap at all.
Armed to the teeth
A person who is armed to the teeth is using or carrying a lot of weapons. The enemy soldiers were armed to the teeth. It was impossible to defeat them.
At each other’s throats
If two people are at each other’s throats, they are arguing in an angry way. It looks like they are at each other’s throatsagain. They just can’t agree on anything.
Have the guts
If you have the guts to do something, you are brave enough to do it. He has the guts to express his opinions in public.
Hit a nerve
If you hit a nerve, you upset someone by talking about an uncomfortable topic. I think you really hit a nerve when you mentioned her divorce.
Pain in the neck
If someone or something is a pain in the neck, he/she/it is very annoying. Angela is a real pain in the neck. She annoys just about everyone she meets.
Pick someone’s brains
If you pick someone’s brains, you ask the person for advice, suggestions and information. I need some ideas. Can I pick your brains?
Play it by ear
If you play something by ear, you deal with a situation as it develops rather than according to any plan. We don’t have a plan. We’ll just have to play it by ear.
Pull someone’s leg
If you pull someone’s leg, you make someone believe something that is not true, usually as a joke. Don’t take her seriously. She’s just pulling your leg.
Put your foot down
If you put your foot down, you stop something from happening by using your authority. She was out of control but her parents finally decided to put their foot down.
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4. Gibbs, Raymond W., Lima, Paula & Francuzo, Edson (2004): Metaphor is grounded in embodied experience. Journal of Pragmatics 36,
5. Gibbs, Raymond W. & Wilson, Nicole L. (2002): Bodily Action and Metaphorical Meaning. 6. Goossens, Louis (1990): Metaphtonymy: The interaction of metaphor and metonymy in 7. expressions for linguistic action. Cognitive Linguistics1, 8. Halliday, Michael A.K. (1985): An Introduction to Functional Grammar. London: Edward Arnold. 9. Hansen, Gyde (2005): Experience and Emotion in Empirical Translation Research with 10. Think-Aloud and Retrospection. Meta 50,
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Dictionary of English Idioms, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1994; 16. ***, The COBUILD Dictionary of Idioms, London, Harper Collins Publishers, 1995 17. ***, The Longman Dictionary of English Idioms, Longman Group UK Ltd., 1979; 18. ***, The Oxford Dictionary of Idioms, New York, Oxford University Press Inc., 1999; 19. ***, The Penguin Dictionary of English Idioms, Penguin Books Ltd., 1994; 20. ***, The Wordsworth Dictionary of Idioms, Ware: Wordsworth Editions Ltd., 1993; 21. ***, The Wordsworth Dictionary of Phrase & Fable, Hertfordshire: Wordsworth Editions Ltd., 1993.
University/College: University of California
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 20 February 2017
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