Реферат: The use of common names in idiomatic expressions
FACULTY OF HUMANITIES
DEPARTMENT OF ENGLISH PHILOLOGY
the use of common names in idiomatic expressions
The Student: xxxxxxxx
1. What is an idiom?
1.1 The meaning of idioms
1.2 The structure of idioms
1.3 The categories of idioms
2. Common names
2.1 Characteristic of Proper nouns
2.2 Place names
2.3 Personal names
3. Practical Chapter. The use of proper names in idioms
3.1 The methodology of the research
3.2 Idioms with personal names
3.3 Idioms with place names
4. Groups of personal names
4.1 Idioms with place names
The theme of the paper is “The use of common names in idiomatic expressions”.
The subject of the present paper is based on the collecting common names from idiomatic expressions. The term “common names” refers to proper names. Proper names are names of persons, places or certain special things. In the English language proper names are typically capitalized nouns. They have a number of certain features as well – they are not used in the plural and are not preceded by adjectives, articles, numerals, demonstratives, or other modifiers. There are some kinds of proper nouns:
· Place names.
· Personal names.
The aim of the work is to analyze the common names of English idioms, their types, features and structure. This paper will show the origins of the proper nouns used in idiomatic expressions.
The following objectives of the research have been set:
1. To provide theoretical evidence and discuss on idiomatic English.
2. To study English idiomatic dictionaries.
3. To compare, analyze and classify idioms with personal and place names.
1. Descriptive-theoretical literary analysis provided a possibility to review numerous issues concerning features of proper nouns.
2. Contrastive linguistic analysis is also used in the work with the aim determining the frequency or intensity of common names usage in relation with idiomatic expressions.
Relevance of the work:
As noted by an increasing number of idiomatic scholars, it is clearly problematic to assume that idioms form a homogeneous class of linguistic items. Careful attention must be paid to the many syntactic, lexical, semantic and pragmatic differences that exist among words and phrases that are generally judged as idiomatic. The investigation of a wide range of idioms clearly demonstrates that many idioms are analyzable and have figurative meanings that are at least partly motivated. Many idioms have individual components that independently contribute to what these phrases figuratively mean as wholes.
The views and approaches such scholars as A. Makkai, M. Everaert, R. Moreno helped to analyze idiomatic English topic in more detailed way.
The structure of the work:
The paper consists of introduction, three chapters, conclusions, references and practical patterns.
A survey of theoretical issues necessary for the analysis is presented below.
1. What is an Idiom?
The ultimate roof of the term idiom is the Greek lexeme idioms, meaning “own, private, peculiar” (J. Strassel: 1982:13).
In different dictionaries there could be found quite a lot different explaining what an idiom is. There are some of the definitions:
1. An idiom is an expression whose meaning is not predictable from the usual meanings of its constituent elements or from the general grammatical rules of a language and that is not a constituent of a larger expression of like characteristics (Random House Dictionary: 2009. dictionary.reference.com/browde/idiom)
2. Idiom – an expression with a meaning that cannot be guessed from the meanings of the individual words. (English Dictionary for Speaker of Lithuanian, 2000).
3. An idiom typical of the natural way in which someone speaks or writes when they are using their own language. (Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English: 2003).
4. Idiom – a group of words that has a special meaning that is different from the ordinary meaning of each separate word. (Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English: 2003).
5. Idiom – a form of expression, grammatical construction, phrase, etc., peculiar to a person or language; a phrase which is understood by speakers of a particular language despite its meaning’s not being predictable from that of the separate words. (Oxford Talking Dictionary).
6. An idiomis a phrase where the words together have a meaning that is different from the dictionary definitions of the individual words, which can make idioms hard for ESL students and learners to understand (Dictionary of English idioms and idiomatic expressions: www.usingenglish.com.reference/idioms).
According to Ifill T. (2002:78) idioms are as “those that speaker cannot work out simply by knowing the grammar and the vocabulary of a language”. According to J. Saeed (2003:60) idioms are “words collocated together happen to become fossilized, becoming fixed over time”. This is the reason why idioms are set out as non-compositional.
Idioms are used in a wide variety of contexts and situations. They are often used in spoken language, in situations that range from friendly conversations to business meetings. Idioms are used in written English as well, especially in journalism where writers frequently use them to bring their stories to life.
Knowing the meaning of idioms let understand the smallest refinements of the language. However, it is quite difficult to understand the exact meaning of the idiom of the foreign language because it is related with some kind of problems that are named in the further chapter.
1.1 The meaning of idioms
An idiom is a sequence of words which has a different meaning as a group from the meaning it would have if you understood each word separately. Idioms add color to the language, helping us to emphasize meaning and to make our observations, judgments and explanations lively and interesting. They are also very useful tools for communicating a great deal of meaning in just a few words.
Knowing whether an expression receives a literal meaning or an idiomatic meaning is important for natural language processing applications that require some sort of semantic interpretation.
Idioms are pervasive in all styles of language use. The problem they present to the theoretical and computational linguist is not the fact that their meaning cannot be worked out by the usual mechanisms, for if it were not for other factors this could be overcome by treating them as ‘big’ lexical items to be looked up in a list in a fairly straightforward way.
Idiom is defined as expression that does not mean what it literally said. You cannot understand the meaning of whole idiom putting the meanings of each word from which consists idiom together. Put as simply as possible, an idiom is a fixed expression whose meaning cannot be taken as a combination of the meanings of its component parts. Thus, the common phrase kick the bucket has nothing to do with either kicking or buckets, but means simply, “to die.” Idiom has the meaning only as a unit and has lexical and grammatical stability as well. If you look at the individual words, it may not even make sense grammatically. According to M. Everaert (1995), an idiom is an institutionalized expression which overall meaning does not correspond to the combined meanings of its component parts. Many idioms are intuitively nontransparent: their meaning is hard to guess without a special context or previous exposure. In spite of that, very few idioms are fixed in forms. These features we will discussed in our following chapter.
1.2 The structure of Idioms
As it was said in our previous chapter, idioms are not mixed in form. One part of the phrase can be let out, for example,somebody has been around the block (a few minutes) can be said without the words a few times, although the meaning remains the same. This technique is also used for idioms which have become clichйs and are therefore often shortened, such as you can lead a horse to water (but you can’t make him drink). Some idioms can have any word inserted, depending on what the speaker is describing. For example, in the idiom the ____ of somebody’s dreams the underline space indicates that the range of nouns, adjectives, etc which could be inserted is unlimited.
In addition to that, the main idiom can have several less popular versions. For example, sell like hot cakes (go like hot cakes). It shows that idioms are not frozen units. In internal structure of idioms there also could be found some changes. Let us begin with the most minimal way in which an idiom can be altered from its base form: morphology:
a. I will take them to task for their indolence.
b. I am taking them to task for their indolence.
c. I took them to task for their indolence.
d. I have taken them to task for their indolence.
a. George and Simon have their ups and downs.
b. George and Simon are having their ups and downs.
c. George and Simon had their ups and downs.
In these example sets, we will analyze the idioms take NP to task and have one’s ups and downs to be the listed forms of the idioms in (1) and (2). These examples clearly show that the verb tense can be changed in the internal structure of the idiom. We can make a conclusion that those idioms which were classified as “completely frozen” exhibit this kind of behavior (trip the light fantastic vs. tripping the light fantastic vs. tripped the light fantastic ) (M. Everaert: 1995:45).
It has been widely noted that the individual words in an idiom cannot be replaced by synonyms and still retain the idiomatic reading of the phrase. This is what qualifies them as fixed forms. In most non-idiomatic discourse, a speaker can use synonymy to create a new sentence with the same semantic meaning. That means that changing a word from the idiom with its synonym we will not get the synonymic idiom. In spite of that, idioms can be synonymous among themselves. For example:
John kicked the bucket.
John kicked the pail.
One thing that is readily noticeable about idioms is that many seem to resist undergoing transformations that similar non-idiomatic constructions can readily undergo while retaining the same sense. For example:
John kicked the bucket.
The bucket was kicked by John.
In spite of that sentence is transformed its meaning remains the same.
All these changes can be found in all categories of idioms.
1.3 The categories of Idioms
Idioms have been classified into several groups. Many idioms are derived from the names of body parts and bodily functions:
· cover one's back – do something to protect yourself from criticism or future blame;
· blood, sweat, and tears – great personal effort;
· in cold blood - without feeling;
· feel (something) in one's bones – sense something, have an intuition about something.
Other big group is idioms derived from animals names:
· as weak as a kitten – weak, sickly;
· hit the bulls-eye – to reach the main point of something;
· dog-eat-dog – ready or willing to fight and hurt others to get what one wants;
· monkey see, monkey do – someone copies something that someone else does.
The third big group is idioms derived from food and preparing it:
· full of beans — to feel energetic, to be in high spirits;
· grist for the mill — something that can be used to bring advantage or profit;
· take the cake — to be the best or worst of something;
· cook (someone's) goose — to damage or ruin someone.
Those are three the most common groups of idioms in English language. All these idioms are based on daily life events. They have risen from daily routine, from following the animal’s behavior as well as the human’s body reaction to different situations. They are often used in every day’s speech and they are quite intelligible.
Other idioms are quite rare in English language. For example, politics idioms:
· body politics – A group of people organized under a single government or authority (national or regional);
· fifth columnist – a member of a subversive organization who tries to help an enemy invade;
· on the stump – politicians are campaigning for support and votes.
One rarer group is idioms based on crimes and police as well:
· behind bars – to be in prison;
· new sheriff in town – a new authority figure takes charge;
· after the fact — after something (a crime etc.) has occurred.
These expressions are quite difficult to understand. For example, idiom new sheriff in town could be understood as a fact that a town has really got a new sheriff.
The category with common names in idioms is not the smallest one but it is not the most common one. We could say with some exceptions.
For example, idioms are widely known and understandable as well as common used in English language. This category we will analyze in our work.
· Achilles heel – a person's weak spot;
· Adam’s apple – a bulge in the throat, mostly seen in men.
2. Common names
Common name – a noun that is not normally preceded by an article or other limiting modifier, as any or some, and that is arbitrary used to denote a particular person, place, thing without regard to any descriptive meaning the word or phrase may have, as Lincoln, Beth Pittsburgh. (http://dictionary.reference.com). Common names are also called proper names.
According to Valeika (2003:44), “a proper noun is the name of a particular member of a class or of a set of particular members”. Also Valeika (2003) introduces to the idea that the function of a proper noun or name is the same as definite article, because both are particularizes: Smith means the man Smith/the Smith man. Thus, the presented idea reveals the difference between the definite article and proper noun, because the addition of the proper name cause to become the common name semantically unnecessary and it is dropped in the surface structure.
Another difference added by Valeika (2003) concerns the way the two modes of naming explain the problem of the uniqueness of reference: proper names are not always proper, because they may refer to more individual. As the consequence, this shows that proper names may function as common names.
Next, when proper names have no unique reference they behave like common names.
The common meaning of the word or words constituting a proper noun may be unrelated to the object to which the proper noun refers. For example, someone might be named «Tiger Smith» despite being neither a tiger nor a smith. For this reason, proper nouns are usually not translated between languages, although they may be transliterated.
For example, the German surname Knцdel becomes Knodel or Knoedel in English (not the literal Dumpling ). However, the transcription of place names and the names of monarchs, popes, and non-contemporary authors is common and sometimes universal. For example, the Portuguese word Lisboa becomes Lisbon in English; the English London becomes Londres in French; and the Greek ἉсйуфпфелЮт (Aristotelēs) becomes Aristotle in English (http://en.wikipedia.org).
2.1 Characteristic of Proper nouns
A proper noun is first of all a kind of noun. Like other nouns, a proper noun may label a person, place, or thing, and may label a concrete object or an abstraction. Most proper nouns refer to a specific person – Julius Caesar, a specific place – Istanbul, a specific institution or organization – the Red Cross, or a specific event – the Renaissance. (http://en.wiktionary.org). In English, there are a few typical characteristics which permit proper nouns to be recognized. A proper noun typically :
1. ...has its initial letter capitalized.
2. ...is not used in the plural.
3. ...is not preceded by adjectives, articles, numerals, demonstratives, or other modifiers.
A philosophical consideration of proper nouns finds three properties:
· Uniqueness of referent. According to J. S. Mill (1843), proper nouns identify a specific thing, one that is unique. The differentiation, therefore, between general names, and individual or singular names, is primal; and may be considered as the first grand division of names. A general name is closely prйcised, a name which is able of bring truly affirmed, in the same sense, of each of an indefinite number of things. An individual or singular name is a name which is only able of being truly affirmed, in the same sense, of one thing.
· Specificity of label. J. Locke (1869) noted that this property originates from the way in which proper nouns are used to separate one particular item from all other similar ones. Likewise persons, countries, cities, rivers, mountains, and other distinctions of place have usually found peculiar names, and that for the same reason; they being such as men have often an occasion to mark particularly, and, as it were, set before others in their discourses with them.
· Does not impart connotation or attributes. According to J. S. Mill (1843), proper nouns do not carry meaning other than as a label for a specific object and they are not translated. Thus, man is capable of being truly affirmed of John, Peter, George, and other persons without assignable limits: and it is affirmed of all of them in the same sense; for the word man expresses certain qualities, and when we predicate it of those persons, we categorically state that they all own those qualities. But John is only capable of being truly affirmed of one single person, at least in the same sense. For although there are many persons who bear that name, it is not conferred upon them to indicate any qualities, or anything which belongs to them in common; and cannot be said to be affirmed of them in any sense at all, consequently not in the same sense.
Proper names could be divided into several groups:
1. Place names;
2. Personal names;
In our work we will research place and personal names in the idioms.
2.2 Place names
Geographical or place names are the nouns we use to refer to specific places and geographic features. They are also called toponyms.
Toponyms can be both place names, real or imaginary, as well as names derived from places or regions. They can be found in many different arenas of industry, enterprise, culture, and current events. It is not unusual to find toponyms used for places that withdraw other places, as well as wars, treaties and agreements, bands, food, and fabric, among other items (http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-a-toponym.htm). For example, there are many places beginning with the word new that are toponyms named to recall or honor other places. In North America – New Hampshire named after Hampshire, England; New Jersey named for the Isle of Jersey in the English Channel; New Mexico, recalling the country to south; New York, after York, England; and the Canadian province Nova Scotia, which means “New Scotland. ” Toponyms can be found in almost every sphere of our life.
Some modern-day bands have toponyms for their name. Chicago (the American rock band formed) takes its name from the city of Chicago. The Manhattan Transfer (an American vocal group) has a name that is a toponym once-removed: it is named after novel Manhattan Transfer by John Dos Passos, after Manhattan Transfer train station in Harrison, New Jersey. The rock group Styx, originally called The Tradewinds, drew their toponymic second name from the river in Greek mythology. The Shangri-Las, named after the Himalayan utopia in James Hilton’s novel, Lost Horizon, was an all-girl American pop trio.
A number of fabrics have toponyms that notice their place of origin. The shirt fabric called Oxford takes its name from Oxford, England. The two thick cotton materials used for pants, denim and jean, are both place names: the first derives from the fact that it came from Nоmes, France – “de Nоmes”, Jeans comes from the French pronunciation – Gкnes – of its city of origin, Genoa .
There are toponyms of food as well. Hamburgers, named for Hamburg, Germany, and frankfurters or hotdogs, named for Frankfurt, Germany. Also, two nicknames for coffee, Java and Mocha, referencing cities in Indonesia and Yemen. Tangerines are a popular fruit named for Tangiers, Morocco, but the Barbados cherry, Natal plum, and Java plum might be less familiar. Using the name «Champagne,» a name for sparkling wine, is illegal in a number of parts of the world unless the product originates in the Champagne region of France.
In addition to that, the well-known names are derived from toponyms:
· Event and agreements. For example, Jackon State (Mississippi) – the Jackon Statelkilling in 1970; Maastricht (The Netherlands) – the Maastrict treaty of 1992; Potsdam (Germany) – the Potsdam Conference in 1945. (http://en.wikipedia.org/).
· Cheese: Edam after town of Edam in the Netherlands; Parmesan, from Parma Italy; Roquefort after a village in southern France. (http://en.wikipedia.org/).
· Wine: Bordeaux, Chablis, Madeira wine, a fortified wine and Plum in madeira, a dessert – Madeira islands of Portugal. (http://en.wikipedia.org/).
· Corporations: Nokia, Vaasa, Raisio – some corporations whose name is simply the same as their original location. (http://en.wikipedia.org/).
· Derivations from literary or mythical places: Eden, any paradisiacal area, named after the religious Garden of Eden; El Dorado, any area of great wealth, after the mythical city of gold; utopia, term for organized society – Utopia, fictional republic from the book of the same name. (http://en.wikipedia.org/).
2.3 Personal names
Personal names are the names given to people, but can be used as well for some animals (like race horses) and natural or man-made inanimate objects (like ships and geological formations). As proper nouns, are almost always first-letter capitalized. Exceptions are made when the given individual does not want their name to be capitalized, and the lowercase variant has received regular and established use in reliable third party sources. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Name_of_article). Personal names are transcribed into English spelling but generally not Anglicized or translated between languages; it was also mentioned in the case with place names.
Let us look at the examples:
Aleksandr Sergeyevich Pushkin (Алексбндр Серге́евич Пу́шкин ) was a …
Canute ( sometimes Cnut; Danish Knud ) is the …
Personal names are also called eponyms. An eponym is a word derived from the names of real, fictional, mythical or spurious character or person (). One who is referred to as eponymous is someone that gives their name to something, e.g. Julian, the eponymous owner of the famous restaurant Julian's Castle.
In different cultures, time periods have often been named after the person who ruled during that period:
· One of the first recorded cases of eponymy occurred in the second millennium BC, when the Assyrians named each year after a high official (limmu ).
· In Ancient Rome, one of the two formal ways of indicating a year was to mention the two annual consuls who served in that year. For example, the year we know as 59 BCE would have been described as “the consulship of Marcus Calpurnius Bibulus and Gaius Julius Caesar ”. Under the empire, the consuls would change as often as every two months, but only the two consuls at the beginning of the year would lend their names to that year.
· In the Christian era, many royal households used eponymous dating by regal years. Although The Roman Catholic Church finally used the Anno Domini dating scheme based on the birth of Christ on both the general public and royalty.
· Government administrations or political trends often become eponymous with a government leader. North American examples include the Nixon Era, Trudeaumania, Jeffersonian economics, Jacksonian democracy, McCarthyism, Thatcherism, Kennedy’s Camelot or Reaganomics .
· British monarchs have turned eponymous throughout the English speaking world for time periods, fashions, etc. For example, Elizabethan, Edwardian, Georgian and Victorian (www.wikipedia.org).
Places and towns can also be given an eponymous name through a relationship (real or imagined) to an important figure. Peloponnesus, for example, was said to derive its name from the Greek god Pelops. In historical times, new towns have often been named after their founders, discoverers, or after notable individuals. In science and technology, discoveries and innovations are often named after the discoverer (or supposed discoverer) or to honor some other influential workers. Examples are Avogadro’s number, the Diesel engine, meitnerium, Alzheimer’s disease and the Apgar score. Some books, films, video, and TV shows have one or more eponymous principal characters: Robinson Crusoe, the Harry Potter series, Seinfield and I love Lucy, for example.
There are thousands of eponyms in everyday use of English language today and study of them yields a fascinating insight into the rich heritage of the world’s most popular language and its development (http://users.tinyonline.co.uk/gswithenbank/eponyms.htm). The list of themes where eponyms can be found is very long and various:
· Albums: David Bowie :David Bowie; Cher: Cher. (www.wikipedia.org)
· Adages: Murphy’s law – ascribed to Edward A. Murphy who stated “If there's more than one way to do a job, and one of those ways will end in disaster, then someone will do it that way.” (www.wikipedia.org)
· Adjectives: parkinsonian – James Parkinson (as in parkinsonian syndrome ), Stalinist -Joseph Stalin. (www.wikipedia.org)
· Cartoon characters: Baby Face Finlayson, from The Beano comic – Baby Face Nelson, Nero, Belgian comic character by Marc Sleen is named after the Roman emperor Nero. (www.wikipedia.org)
· Chemical elements: curium (Cm, 96) – Pierre and Marrie Curie, promethium (Pm, 61) – Prometheus, a Titan from Greek mythology. (www.wikipedia.org)
· Human anatomical parts: Achilles tendom – Achilles, Greek mythological character, Adam’s apple – Adam, Biblical character. (www.wikipedia.org)
· Ideologies: Leninism – after Vladimir Lenin, Maoism – after Mao Zedong. (www.wikipedia.org)
· Inventions: Braille – Louis Braille, diesel engine – Rudolph Diesel. (www.wikipedia.org)
· Mathematical theorems: Ptolemaios theorem (geometry), Atkinson’s theorem (operator theory). (www.wikipedia.org)
· Prizes, awards and medals: Nobel Prize – Albert Nobel, O. Henry Awards – O. Henry. (www.wikipedia.org)
3. Practical Chapter. The use of proper names in idioms
3.1 The methodology of the Research
The aim of the research work is to analyze the use of proper names in English idioms and to identify origins of these names. Idioms were classified into two groups: with personal names and with place names. The definitions of the collocated idioms were presented as well and they were illustrated with examples. The scope of the work is 97 idioms which were selected from the following sources:
· Longman Idioms Dictionary (1999).
The distribution of all taken examples is shown in figure No. 1.
Figure No.1 Kinds of idioms
Research methods employed in the work are as follow:
· Descriptive-theoretical literary analysis provided a possibility to review numerous issues concerning features of proper nouns.
· Statistical method – was salutary for the processing of the results of the empirical part of the research.
The English language has quite a long list of idioms. Idioms with personal and place names among all the idioms are not the prevailing ones. To compare both idioms with personal and place names researched in our work we can draw a conclusion than idioms with personal names are used more frequently in the English language. In our sources we have found only 24 ones with place names and even 73 idioms with personal names, in percent style, accordingly 25 % and 75 %. For example:
· Be robbing Peter to pay Paul – to take money from one part of a system or organization that needs it and use it for another part of the system or organization, so that you deal with one difficulty but still have problems. (Longman Idiom Dictionary:1999:261). Idiom with personal names.
· New York minute – (USA) if something happens in a New York minute, it happens very fast. (www.usingenglish.com). Idiom with place name.
3.2 Idioms with personal names
We have analyzed 73 idioms with personal names and while analyzing the idiom we have noticed that they could be divided into groups according to their origins. We distinguished the following groups:
1. Names derived from mythology.
2. Names derived from religion.
3. Names based on characters of the books, films, cartoons etc.
4. Names derived from folk mythology.
5. Names of the real persons.
Results of this analysis are shown in figure № 2.
Figure № 2.Origin of personal names in idioms
According to the results we made conclusions that religion and mass media influence people’s language the most. Idioms with these names are quite popular and very often used in spoken language. For example, idioms based on religion characters:
1. Raise Cain – to complain a lot about something in an angry or noisy way because you are determined to get what you want (www.usingenglish.com).
2. Put the fear of God into somebody – to make someone feel frightened of doing something wrong by making them realize the bad things that could happen if they do it (Longman Idioms Dictionary: 1999:139).
3. Adam's apple – the Adam's apple is a bulge in the throat, mostly seen in men (www.usingenglish.com).
Let us see the origin of the name Cain – this personwas the first murderer according to scriptural accounts in the Bible – Genesis 4 and in the Qur'an – 5:27-32. The biblical account, from the King James' Version, tells us how Cain and Abel, the two sons of Adam and Eve, bring offerings to God, but only Abel's is accepted. Cain kills Abel in anger and is cursed by God ().
The next big group is idioms with personal names which are taken from famous books, songs, cartoons. For example:
1. Rip van Winkle – Rip van Winkle is a character in a story that slept for twenty years, so if someone is a Rip van Winkle, they are behind the times and out of touch with what is happening now (www.usingenglish.com).
2. Mickey Mouse – something that is intellectually trivial or not of a very high standard (www.usingenglish.com).
3. Live a life of Riley – used in order to say that someone has a very comfortable, easy life without having to work hard or worry about money (Longman Idioms Dictionary: 1999:210).
Let us look at the origin of the name Riley – this phrase originated in a popular song of the 1880s, “Is That Mr. Reilly?” by Pat Rooney, which described, what its hero would do if he suddenly came into a fortune (http://www.answers.com/topic/life-of-riley).
Idioms with personal names that are related to real persons are also often used in the English language. We have found 13 idioms of this kind. For example:
1. Bob’s your uncle – said after you tell someone how to do something, in order to emphasize that it will be simple and will definitely achieve the result they want (Longman Idioms Dictionary: 1999:33).
2. Look a right Charlie – to look very strange or stupid, so that people laugh at you, or feel that people are going to laugh at you (Longman Idioms Dictionary: 1999:58).
3. 50 million Elvis fans can’t be wrong – used to say that something must be true because so many people think so (Longman Idioms Dictionary: 1999:103).
Two well-known persons in our examples are Elvis Presley and Charlie Chaplin. Let us look at the example Bob’s your uncle. It is a catchphrase dating back to 1887, when British Prime Minister Lord Salisbury decided to appoint a certain Arthur Balfour to the prestigious and sensitive post of Chief Secretary for Ireland. Not lost on the British public was the fact that Lord Salisbury just happened to be better known to Arthur Balfour as “Uncle Bob”. In the resulting furor over what was seen as an act of blatant nepotism, “Bob's your uncle” became a popular sarcastic comment applied to any situation where the outcome was preordained by favoritism (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bob's_your_uncle).
The smallest group found in our research was idioms with personal names originated from mythology. In spite of that, we could not say that those idioms are unknown or used very rarely. We have selected 10 idioms of this kind. Let us look at the examples:
1. Achilles' heel – a weakness of someone’s character that causes them problems, or the weak part of a place, system, argument where it can easily be attacked or criticized (www.usingenglish.com).
2. Midas touch – the ability to earn money very easily (www.usingenglish.com).
3. A sword of Damocles – something bad that may affect your situation at any time and make it much worse (Longman Idioms Dictionary: 1999:335).
All these persons are well-known from Greek mythology. The death of Achilles was not mentioned in Homer’s Iliad, but appeared in later Greek and Roman poetry and drama concerning events after the Iliad, later in the Trojan War. According to a myth arising later, his mother, Thetis, had dipped the infant Achilles in the river Styx, holding onto him by his heel, and he became invulnerable where the waters touched him — that is, everywhere but the areas covered by her thumb and forefinger – implying that only a heel wound could have been his downfall.
3.3 Idioms with place names
Analyzing the idioms with proper names we have found 23 idioms with place names. That is 25 % of all researched idioms. We have discovered that all the place names mentioned in idioms were real. In spite of that some of them were mentioned in the Bible, for example, Road to Damascus – if someone has a great and sudden change in their ideas or beliefs, then this is a road to Damascus change, after the conversion of Saint Paul to Christianity while heading to Damascus to persecute Christians, place Damascus is real. The most common place name used in idioms is Rome. For example:
· All roads lead to Rome – This means that there can be many different ways of doing something (www.usingenglish.com).
· Fiddle while Rome burns – used when you disapprove because someone is spending too much time or attention on unimportant matters instead of trying to solve bigger and more important problems (Longman Idioms Dictionary: 1999:288).
· Rome was not built in a day – this idiom means that many things cannot be done instantly, and require time and patience (www.usingenglish.com).
Idioms with personal names are more frequently used than idioms with place names.
4. Groups of the personal names
In our research we have distinguished 6 main groups of the origin of the personal names used in idioms. The distinguished groups are the following ones:
Names derived from mythology:
1. A sword of Damocles – something bad that may affect your situation at any time and make it much worse (Longman Idioms Dictionary: 1999:335).
2. A Pyrrich victory – used about a situation in which you are successful, but you suffer so much that it was not worth winning(Longman Idioms Dictionary:1999:368).
3. Achilles' heel – a weakness of someone’s character that causes them problems, or the weak part of a place, system, argument where it can easily be attacked or criticized (www.usingengllish.com).
4. Before you can say Jack Robinson – used in order to say that something happens very quickly (www.usingenglish.com).
5. Between Scylla and Charybdis – in a situation in which there two possible choices or actions both of which are equally bad (Longman Idioms Dictionary: 1999:297).
6. Cut the Gordian cut – to solve a very complex problem in a simple way (www.dictionary.com).
7. Davey Jones' locker – Davey Jones' locker is the bottom of the sea or resting place of drowned sailors (www.usingenglish.com).
8. Midas touch – the ability to earn money very easily (www.usingenglish.com).
9. Pandora's box – If you open a Pandora's Box, something you do causes all sorts of trouble that you hadn't anticipated (www.dictionary.com).
10. Peeping Tom – A peeping Tom is someone who tries to look through other people's windows without being seen in order to spy on people in their homes (www.usingenglish.com).
Names derived from religion:
1. Not know somebody from Adam – used in order to say that you do not know someone at all, or have never seen them before (Longman Idioms Dictionary: 1999:2).
2. Adam's apple – the Adam's apple is a bulge in the throat, mostly seen in men (www.usingenglish.com).
3. Be hand of God – very good luck, or a bit of cheating that helps someone to succeed, especially in a game of football (www.dictionary.com).
4. For Pete's sake– this is used as an exclamation to show exasperation or irritation (www.usingenglish.com).
5. God willing and the creek don’t rise – a humorous expression used in order to say that you hope you will not have problems doing something (Longman Idioms Dictionary: 1999:139).
6. God’s gift to – if someone thinks they are God’s gift to a group of people or an activity, they behave in an annoying way that shows they think they are more important to that group or activity than they really are (Longman Idioms Dictionary: 1999:139).
7. Is Saul also among the prophets? – It's a biblical idiom used when somebody known for something bad appears all of a sudden to be doing something very good (www.usingenglish.com).
8. Jumping Judas! – An expression of surprise or shock (www.usingenglish.com).
9. Mohammed must go to the mountain – used in order to say that if someone you want to see, especially someone important, will not or can not come to you, you have to make effort to see them, even if it is difficult (Longman Idioms Dictionary: 1999:236).
10.Painted Jezebel – a scheming woman (www.usingenglish.com).
11.Patience of Job – If something requires the patience of Job, it requires great patience (www.dictionary.com).
12.Put the fear of God into somebody – to make someone feel frightened of doing something wrong by making them realize the bad things that could happen if they do (www.dictionary.com).
13.Raise Cain – to complain a lot about something in an angry or noisy way because are determined to get what you want (www.usingenglish.com).
14.So help me God – used in order to emphasize that you really mean what you are saying or promising (Longman Idioms Dictionary: 1999:139).
15.Work all the hours God sends – used in order to say that someone spends all their time working very hard (Longman Idioms Dictionary: 1999:139).
Names derived from real persons :
1. 50 million Elvis fans can’t be wrong – used to say that something must be true because so many people think so (Longman Idioms Dictionary: 1999:103).
2. Bob’s your uncle – said after you tell someone how to do something, in order to emphasize that it will be simple and will definitely achieve the result they want (Longman Idioms Dictionary: 1999:33).
3. Freudian Slip – if someone makes a Freudian slip, they accidentally use the wrong word, but in doing so reveal what they are really thinking rather than what they think the other person wants to hear (www.usingenglish.com).
4. Happy as Larry – very happy (www.dictionary.com).
5. Heath Robinson – used to say about a system, machine etc that does something ordinary in a way that is very complicated and not at all practical (www.dictioanry.com).
6. Hobson's choice – a situation in which there is only one thing you can possibly do, unless you do nothing (www.usingenglish.com).
7. In like Flynn – refers to Errol Flynn's popularity with women in the 40's. His ability to attract women was well known throughout the world (www.usingenglish.com).
8. Look a right Charlie – to look very strange or stupid, so that people laugh at you, or feel that people are going to laugh at you (www.dictionary.com).
9. Murphy’s law – used to say that the worst possible thing always seems to happen at a time when it is most annoying, preventing you from doing what you are trying to do (Longman Idioms Dictioanry:1999:58).
10. Real McCoy – used in order to say that something is real, and not a copy. (www.usingenglish.com).
11. Rich as Croesus – very rich (www.usingenglish.com).
12. Rube Goldberg – used about a system, machine etc that does something ordinary in a way that is very complicated and not at all practical (Longman Idioms Dictionary: 1999:291).
13. Smart Alec – A smart Alec is a conceited person who likes to show off how clever and knowledgeable they are (www.usingenglish.com).
Names derived from folk etymology:
1. Any Tom, Dick or Harry – an expression meaning everyone, used especially when you disapprove because there is no limit on who can do a particular activity (www.usingenglish.com).
2. Be robbing Peter to pay Paul – to take money from one part of a system or organization that needs it and use it for another part of the system or organization, so that you deal with one difficulty but still have problems (Longman Idioms Dictionary: 1999:261).
3. Benjamin of the family – the Benjamin of the family is the youngest child (www.usingenglish.com). .
4. For the love of Pete – usually used in exasperation, as in 'Oh, for the love of Pete!' (www.usingenglish.com).
5. Great Scott – an exclamation of surprise (www.usingenglish.com).
6. Home, James – (UK) this is a clichйd way of telling the driver of a vehicle to start driving (www.usingenglish.com). .
7. Jack-of-all-trades – -trades is someone that can do many different jobs (www.usingenglish.com).
8. Jane Doe – Jane Doe is a name given to an unidentified female who may be party to legal proceedings, or to an unidentified person in hospital, or dead. John Doe is the male equivalent (www.usingenglish.com).
9. Joe Bloggs – a name used to represent all ordinary people and their thoughts, feelings and situation (www.dictionary.com)
10. Johnny on the spot – A person who is always available; ready, willing, and able to do what needs to be done (www.usingenglish.com). .
11.Uncle Sam – the government of the USA (www.usingenglish.com).
Names based on characters of the books, films, cartoons:
1. An Aladdin’s cave of something – a place where a lot of particular type of thing can be found, especially something interesting or unusual (Longman Idioms Dictionary: 1999:56).
2. Aunt Sally – used about someone or something that is often blamed or criticized by a particular group of people, even when there is no reason (Longman Idioms Dictionary: 1999:10).
3. Be like Darby and Joan – used to talk about old husband and wife who live very happily together (Longman Idioms Dictionary: 1999:78).
4. Brahms and Liszt – drunk (Longman Idioms Dictionary: 1999:40).
5. Do a Lord Lucan – (UK) if someone disappears without a trace or runs off (Lord Lucan disappeared after a murder) (www.usingenglish.com).
6. Even Steven s – if everything is equal between people, they are even Stevens (www.usingenglish.com).
7. I’m all right Jack – used in order to show disapproval when someone’s attitude shows that they do not care about a problem that other people are having, because it does not affect them (www.dictionary.com).
8. Jekyll and Hyde – used about someone who has two totally different parts to their character, one very good and the other bad (www.usingenglish.com).
9. Keep up with Joneses – to try to have all the things that your friends and neighbors have, and do all the things that they do (www.dictionary.com).
10.Live a life of Riley – used in order to say that someone has a very comfortable, easy life without having to work hard or worry about money (Longman Idioms Dictionary: 1999:210).
11.Mickey Mouse – something that is intellectually trivial or not of a very high standard (www.usingenglish.com).
12.Rip van Winkle – Rip van Winkle is a character in a story who slept for twenty years, so if someone is a Rip van Winkle, they are behind the times and out of touch with what's happening now (www.usingenglish.com).
13.Smile like a Cheshire cat – to have a big smile on your face, so that you look silly or too pleased with yourself (www.dictionary.com)
14.Take the Mickey – to you tease someone (www.usingenglish.com).
15.Vicar of Bray – (UK) A person who changes their beliefs and principles to stay popular with people above them (www.usingenglish.com).
1. A doubting Thomas – used about someone who does not believe that something is true, or says that it has not been proved to them (Longman Idioms Dictionary: 1999:347).
2. Barkus is willing – this idiom means that someone is willing to get married (www.usingenglish.com).
3. Be whistling Dixie – to be saying that something is untrue (www.dictionary.com)
4. Buggles' turn – when someone gets promotion through length of service rather than ability, especially in the British civil service (www.usingenglish.com).
5. Clever Dick – used about someone who is annoying because they are always right or always think they are right (www.dictionary.com).
6. Going Jesse – (USA) if something is a going Jesse, it's a viable, successful project or enterprise (www.usingenglish.com).
7. Jack the Lad – A confident and not very serious young man who behaves as he wants to without thinking about other people is a Jack the Lad (www. usingenglish.com).
8. John Q Public – (USA) John Q Public is the typical, average person (www.usingenglish.com).
9. Nervous Nellie – Someone excessively worried or apprehensive is a nervous Nellie (or Nelly) (www.usingenglish.com).
10. Not known whether you are Arthur or Martha -to feel very confused, especially because you have too much to do (www.dictionary.com).
4.1 Idioms with place names
1. All roads lead to Rome – This means that there can be many different ways of doing something (www.usingenglish.com).
2. Big Easy – (USA) The Big Easy is New Orleans, Louisiana (www. usingenglish.com).
3. Coals to Newcastle – (UK) Taking, bringing, or carrying coals to Newcastle is doing something that is completely unnecessary (www.usingenglish.com).
4. Crossing the Rubicon – When you are crossing the Rubicon, you are passing a point of no return. After you do this thing, there is no way of turning around. The only way left is forward (www.usingenglish.com).
5. Dunkirk spirit – (UK) Dunkirk spirit is when people pull together to get through a very difficult time (www.dictionary.com).
6. Fiddle while Rome burns – used when you disapprove because someone is spending too much time or attention on unimportant matters instead of trying to solve bigger and more important problems (Longman Idioms Dictionary: 1999:288).
7. From Missouri – (USA) If someone is from Missouri, then they require clear proof before they will believe something (www.usingenglish.com).
8. Himalayan blunder – a Himalayan blunder is a very serious mistake or error (www.usingenglish.com).
9. Lie back and think of England – a humorous expression used when someone has sex without wanting it or enjoying it, and often used when someone has to do another activity or job that they do not want to (Longman Idioms Dictionary:1999:106).
10. Man on the Clapham omnibus – (UK) The man on the Clapham omnibus is the ordinary person in the street (www.usingenglish.com).
11. More front than Brighton – (UK) If you have more front than Brighton, you are very self-confident, possibly excessively so (www.usingenglish.com).
12. New York minute – (USA) If something happens in a New York minute, it happens very fast (www.usingenglish.com).
13. Not for all tea in China – used in order to emphasize that you do not want to do something, and no reward would be big enough to make you to do i (Longman Idioms Dictionary: 1999:340).
14. On Carey Street – (UK) If someone is on Carey Street, they are heavily in debt or have gone bankrupt (www.usingenglish.com).
15. Road to Damascus – If someone has a great and sudden change in their ideas or beliefs, then this is a road to Damascus change, after the conversion of Saint Paul to Christianity while heading to Damascus to persecute Christians (www.usingenglish.com).
16. Rome was not built in a day – This idiom means that many things cannot be done instantly, and require time and patience (www.usingenglish.com).
17. Saigon moment – (USA) A Saigon moment is when people realize that something has gone wrong and that they will lose or fail (www.usingenglish.com).
18. Somebody met his/her Waterloo – used in order to say that someone has finally met a person or thing that can defeat them (Longman Idioms Dictionary: 1999:373).
19. Send someone to Coventry – (UK) If you send someone to Coventry, you refuse to talk to them or co-operate with them (www.usingenglish.com).
20. Set the Thames on fire – If you do something remarkable, you set the Thames on fire, though this expression is used in the negative; someone who is dull or undistinguished will never set the Thames on fire (www.usingenglish.com).
21. Shipshape and Bristol fashion – If things are shipshape and Bristol fashion, they are in perfect working order (www.dictionary.com).
22. The black hole of Calcutta – used about a place that is very dark and very hot and too full of people or things (www.dictionary.com).
23. When in Rome, do as the Romans do – This idiom means that when you are visiting a different place or culture, you should try to follow their customs and practices (www.usingenglish.com).
24. _____ for England – a humorous way of saying that someone does a lot or too much of a particular activity (Longman Idioms Dictionary: 1999:106).
The analyses presented in this study are an answer that proper names are quite often used in English idioms. We have analyzed 97 idioms: 73 with personal names and 24 with place names. The origin of personal and place names in English idioms are of different types. In spite of this we identified the following six groups of the origin of personal names:
· Derived from religion
· Based on characters of the films, books, cartoons.
· The real persons.
· Folk etymology.
The analysis showed that idioms with personal names are used in English language more frequently that idioms with place names.
Almost all the place names are authentic, not made-up. Among personal names the most frequent were names derived from religion and characters of books, films etc. Number of idioms with personal names that derived from mythology was the smallest one.
1. English Dictionary for Speakers of Lithuania. (2000).
2. Everaert M. (1995). Idioms. Structural and psychological perspectives. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
3. Ifill T. (2002) Seeking the Nature of Idioms: A Study in Idiomatic Structure. Haverford College.
4. Locke J. (1869) An Essay Concerning Humane Understanding.
5. Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English (2003).
6. Longman idioms dictionary (1999). Longman.
7. Makkai, A. (1972). Idiom Structure in English. The Hague: Mouton.
8. Mill J. S. (1843) A System of Logic .
9. Moreno R. Relevance Theory and the construction of idiom meaning ()
10. Oxford Talking Dictionary.
11. Pulman S. (1986) The recognition and interpretation of idioms. University of Cambridge Computer Laboratory.
12. Saeed, J. I. (2003), Semantics. Oxford: Blackwell.
13. Strдssler J. (1982). Idioms in English – a pragmatic analysis. Gunter Narr Verlag.
14. Valeika L. (2003) Introductory course in theoretical English grammar. Vilnius pedagogical university.
16. www.dictionary.com (Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2009.)