View previous topic | View next topic

Idioms

Page 1 of 4
Goto page 1, 2, 3, 4  Next

hmobius
846191.  Tue Sep 13, 2011 3:44 pm Reply with quote

Right then - idioms.
(Latin: idioma, "special property", f. Greek: ἰδίωμα – idiōma, "special feature, special phrasing", f. Greek: ἴδιος – idios, "one’s own")

Idioms don't translate very often - that's what makes watching the Eurovision Song contest subtitles very funny from time to time. I thought I'd start this thread to discuss any idioms you might have a particular issue or query about. Or perhaps when slang terms are idiomatic and when they aren't.

I'd like to start with "This music is very cheesy". More slang than idiom I know but very interesting in that the term cheesy is both subjective and time-sensitive in this context. One man's Britney Spears is another's Abba. I was asked once by a German friend what "cheesy music" was and I ended up with "the music you loved to dislike in your school disco".

Are there any other slang terms or idioms that are both subjective and time-sensitive?

 
Posital
846235.  Tue Sep 13, 2011 5:52 pm Reply with quote

Just wondering why "idioma" means language in spanish - and idiotismo becomes idiom... can't get to my dictionario atm...

 
bobwilson
846251.  Tue Sep 13, 2011 6:42 pm Reply with quote

Opening up a can of worms - what exactly would be the problem with opening a can of (presumably dead) worms?

 
suze
846254.  Tue Sep 13, 2011 6:46 pm Reply with quote

As I'm sure you know, in a great many languages the word for "language" is in some way connected with the tongue. But not in Spanish, where the word is idioma. (Lengua and lenguaje both also exist, but are not the most common words to mean "language".)

It's from Greek (ιδίωμα = a thing peculiar to oneself) via Latin (a peculiarity), but quite why that become the main Spanish word for "language" I know not.

What was also puzzling to me is that idioma is a masculine noun, when the vast majority of Spanish nouns in -a are feminine. But this is because it's from Greek via Latin - and Spanish nouns with that history have mostly preserved their original Greek genders. (Or become masculine if they were neuter in Greek, as indeed was ιδίωμα.)

 
Spud McLaren
846255.  Tue Sep 13, 2011 6:50 pm Reply with quote

"The best thing since sliced bread" - I have often wondered why sliced bread is held up as such a paragon of virtue.

"Cheap at half the price" - well, yes, it would be!

 
bobwilson
846257.  Tue Sep 13, 2011 6:58 pm Reply with quote

Quote:
"Cheap at half the price" - well, yes, it would be!


Be fair - that's always used ironically.

 
Spud McLaren
846264.  Tue Sep 13, 2011 7:01 pm Reply with quote

It ought to be. But some folks don't seem to have "got" it...

 
Posital
846543.  Wed Sep 14, 2011 3:49 pm Reply with quote

And whoever says "cheap as chips" ought to pop down their chippy sometime...

 
Spoilt Victorian
846545.  Wed Sep 14, 2011 4:05 pm Reply with quote

"Bob's your uncle"

...no he isn't

 
hmobius
846603.  Thu Sep 15, 2011 1:17 am Reply with quote

Spoilt Victorian wrote:
"Bob's your uncle"

...no he isn't


... "and Fanny's your aunt".

Again, no

 
Spoilt Victorian
846684.  Thu Sep 15, 2011 4:34 am Reply with quote

"Snip, snip an' Bob's yer auntie"

Again, no he/she isn't, never was and never shall be.

~ V

 
mckeonj
846736.  Thu Sep 15, 2011 7:20 am Reply with quote

Not half

 
suze
846825.  Thu Sep 15, 2011 10:52 am Reply with quote

Spoilt Victorian wrote:
"Bob's your uncle"


The usual explanation of this one is that it's to do with the 1st Earl Roberts, who led British troops in Afghanistan in the 1870s. Despite his first name actually having been Frederick, Earl Roberts was known to the troops as "Uncle Bob", and the story goes that briefings would end with "And Bob's your uncle".

The other main theory is to do with a young Arthur Balfour being created Chief Secretary for Ireland in 1887, when many of his peers felt that he was unready for the job. There were allegations of nepotism, because Balfour's uncle - who just happened to be Prime Minister at the time - was the 3rd Marquess of Salisbury. And was called Bob.

Both explanations struggle a little though, because the expression "Bob's your uncle" is not noted before 1932.

Posital wrote:
cheap as chips


I'll go with David Dickinson on Bargain Hunt, circa 2000. Was the expression in general use before that? (Since taking over from Mr Dickinson, Tim Wonnacott refuses to use it and refers instead to "inexpensive fried potatoes".)

 
mckeonj
846896.  Thu Sep 15, 2011 2:10 pm Reply with quote

suze wrote:
Spoilt Victorian wrote:
"Bob's your uncle"


The usual explanation of this one is that it's to do with the 1st Earl Roberts, who led British troops in Afghanistan in the 1870s. Despite his first name actually having been Frederick, Earl Roberts was known to the troops as "Uncle Bob", and the story goes that briefings would end with "And Bob's your uncle".

The other main theory is to do with a young Arthur Balfour being created Chief Secretary for Ireland in 1887, when many of his peers felt that he was unready for the job. There were allegations of nepotism, because Balfour's uncle - who just happened to be Prime Minister at the time - was the 3rd Marquess of Salisbury. And was called Bob.

Both explanations struggle a little though, because the expression "Bob's your uncle" is not noted before 1932.

Posital wrote:
cheap as chips


I'll go with David Dickinson on Bargain Hunt, circa 2000. Was the expression in general use before that? (Since taking over from Mr Dickinson, Tim Wonnacott refuses to use it and refers instead to "inexpensive fried potatoes".)

Strange echoes here: my dad (1890-1975), who was a pedant, and a geek before that word was invented (he built the first valve radio in Bournemouth, and got 2LO); anyway, he often *said "And Robert is your avuncular relative." The parent expression dated from his schooldays (Parkstone 1899-1913).

*I do realise that 'what my dad said' is not a valid source of reference, being of the same water as 'what the man in the pub said'.

 
suze
846913.  Thu Sep 15, 2011 3:48 pm Reply with quote

Au contraire. If the expression was current in your dad's schooldays in the early years of the twentieth century, that's worth knowing.

It's well understood that idiomatic expressions are usually current in speech before they are found in print, but it's unusual for the gap to be the thirty or so years which this suggests. To my mind, that means that there must be print citations earlier than 1932. There's a guy in North Carolina who has spent quite a while failing to find them, but it's perfectly possible that he's been looking in the wrong places.

The earliest citation known at present is from The Observer of 19 Jun 1932. It's in a book review which doesn't care for the style of the book under review, and notes that the reader may not be "temperamentally akin to a writer who exclaims 'Bob's your uncle!' and 'Aha says I!'."

 

Page 1 of 4
Goto page 1, 2, 3, 4  Next

All times are GMT - 5 Hours


Display posts from previous:   

Search Search Forums

Powered by phpBB © 2001, 2002 phpBB Group