(3.1) Idiomatic English -- Idioms

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Aug 6, 2017 02:32
2) Copious use of idioms

Idiomatic English, of course, involves using idioms. According to the American Heritage Dictionary, an idiom is “a speech form or an expression of a given language that is peculiar to itself grammatically or cannot be understood from the individual meanings of its elements, as in ‘keep tabs on’.” Since we cannot get the meanings simply from the components, many idioms are difficult for most non-native speakers, who learn English by studying word lists, to understand.

As a native speaker, you may not realize how important idioms are in the English language and that you use them a lot in your daily life. On either TV shows or online forums, idioms are extensively used. From my observations, in many online posts, say, on Reddit, nearly every one or two sentences contains an idiom or more. I guess that’s because many idioms are used to intensify or exaggerate the speaker's meanings. I once thought idioms are by and large informal, but my later experiences of reading British and American newspapers ran counter to this notion. It turned out that idioms are also an indispensable part of formal writing and idioms don’t equal slang.

In order to study idioms, I bought a dictionary published by Oxford University Press that explained over 10,000 frequently-used idioms. After finishing two thirds of it, I began to feel bored and then stopped studying it. I found it quite inefficient to memorize this dictionary because I still didn’t know how to use idioms properly. However, after studying it, I’ve gained general knowledge of English idioms, which is very interesting.

For instance, a few idioms are easy to learn for us Chinese because:

1) They are almost the same as their Chinese counterparts, such as “guinea pigs,” “the tip of the iceberg,” and “a double-edged sword.” I guess that these idioms have been directly borrowed into Chinese. Amusingly, I even found a few Chinese idioms such as “纸老虎/a paper tiger” have been accepted in English.

2) The way we describe some certain things is similar, such as “the casting couch” and “make your presence felt.”
2)大量使用习语。

说到Idiomatic English,那肯定是要大量使用习语了。根据美国传统英语大辞典AHD,习语的释义为:因语法结构特殊或无法拆开,且无法依据其组成成份来解释的语言形式,或某种固定的语言表达方法,例如“keep tabs on”聚精会神 。既然不能简单地靠成分来分析,对于大多数非母语者而言,习语是很难学的,因为学生们一般是背词汇表来学习英语。

作为母语者,你可能不知道习语在英语中的地位有多重要,也可能没意识到你生活中多么地频繁使用习语。不管是电视节目,还是网络论坛,人们都大量使用习语。据我观察,在一些网上的贴子中(比如Reddit),几乎每一句话,或每两句话中,就会有习语出现(我觉得可能是因为很多习语可以用来加强语气)。我曾经以为习语是不正式的表达,但后来看了一些英美报纸,发现正式文体中同样大量使用,是一个不可或缺的重要部分。

为了学习习语,我买了一本《牛津英语习语词典》,这本词典收录了一万多条常用的习语。学了三分之二后,我实在受不了了,觉得太无聊了,于是放弃。其实,我主要是发现这样学习效率不高,而且我仍然不知道如何地得当地使用它们。不过,有了这段经历,我学到了英语习语方面的综合知识,有些方面很有趣。

比如说,一些习语对我们中国人而言比较容易学,因为

1) 在中文中完全有对应的习语。比如 “guinea pigs 小白鼠” “the tip of the iceberg冰山一角” and “a double-edged sword双刃剑。” 有意思的是,我发现中文的“纸老虎 a paper tiger“ 已经完全被英语吸收了。

2) 我们描述一些事情的方式很相似,比如“the casting couch潜规则” and “make your presence felt.寻求/刷 存在感”
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