(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.”

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。




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”