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CONLANG  February 2004, Week 1

CONLANG February 2004, Week 1

Subject:

Re: Common World Idioms

From:

Barbara Barrett <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Constructed Languages List <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Thu, 5 Feb 2004 12:06:29 -0000

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>Steve Said;
> Im curious about idioms, if anyone knows any good
> links that look at the very common idioms, such that
> most people in the world can understand them.
>
> By idioms, im generally thinking of ones used in
> common speech, like "caught red-handed" or "take the
> bait" etc.

Barbara Babbles;
Hmmm. As idiom is both culture and language related I'd be surprised if you
find any that all the peoples of the world have in common; very surprised
indeed.

But I do so *like* being surprised ;-)

Rahter than the idiom itself, you might find there are idioms that have the
same meaning from different languages; EG;
English: "Giving a monkey the key to the bannana plantation"
Arabic: "Sending a lion to gaurd the goats"

These have the same meaning, but are different idioms.

I think what you are more likely to find is that there are common elements
of of the human experience which many cultures have their own idiom for. But
that's not the same thing as a common idiom is it?

Have you considered that there are often several idioms with the same
meaning?
EG:
Caught with his trousers down.
Caught with his nuts in the fire.
Caught in the act.
etc etc.

Which in most english speaking locáls are understood. but not always. For
example; In Ulster the term "Red Handed" means "protestant" so "caught red
handed" could mean several things from a Protestant found out pretending to
be Catholic, or a self professed moderate loyalist caught out expousing hard
line loyalist views. Nowadays of course with exposure to national and
international TV/fims etc the idiom would be understood in its intended
meaning if spoken by a non-ulsterfolk, but if an ulsterperson used it, it
would cause confusion. Likewise how whould you interpret the ulster idiom of
someone being "very black"? and who or what is a "black bastard"?

Well, "very black" means fundamentalist protestant - from a hard line lodge
of the Orange Order who wear black sashs at their meetings and on their
marches, and a "Black Bastard" is a policeman to whom you've taken a dislike
for one reason or another - from the time when the police force in ulster
wore black uniforms (current uniforms are dark green, and have been sine the
1940s, but the idiom persists). No way could either of these be universal!

In my time I've had several books of translations of Proverbs; Arab
Proverbs, Irish Proverbs, French Proverbs, Japanese Proverbs, Native
american Proverbs; etc etc ("Proverb" seems to be the popular usage term for
"idiom" these days) and I've frequently been amazed at how many idioms from
very differnent languages and cultrues have the same meanings even although
the idioms themselves have been very different. One the other hand I've also
been delighted to discover idioms unique to the cultures that produced them
yet nevertheless illustrate a human condition that all cultures share but no
one else has a Proverb for!

perhaps you should begin your quest with books on local Proverbs, or speific
Googles, eg; "Proverbs, Indian" etc.

Barbara

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