idiomatic adj : of or relating to or conforming to idiom; "idiomatic English" [syn: idiomatical]
- /ˌɪdiəˈmætɪk/, /Idi@"m
An idiom is a term or phrase whose meaning cannot be deduced from the literal definitions and the arrangement of its parts, but refers instead to a figurative meaning that is known only through common use. In linguistics, idioms are widely assumed to be figures of speech that contradict the principle of compositionality; however, this has shown to be a subject of debate. It may be better to refer to idioms as John Saeed does: words collocated together happen to become fossilized, becoming fixed over time. This collocation -- words commonly used in a group -- changes the definition of each of the words that exist. As an expression, the word-group becomes a team, so to speak. That is, the collocated words develop a specialized meaning as a whole and an idiom is born e.g. He really threw me a curve when on our first date he asked if I could pay for the dinner. Note, in some cultures, when a man and a woman are courting each other, the male is traditionally the one who takes up the bill or pays the bill; however, times change and in many modern societies, a lot of couples go Dutch (yet another idiom).
In the English expression to kick the bucket, for example, a listener knowing only the meaning of kick and bucket would be unable to deduce the expression's actual meaning, which is to die. Although it can refer literally to the act of striking a specific bucket with a foot, native speakers rarely use it that way. It cannot be directly translated to other languages – for example, the same expression in Polish is kopnąć w kalendarz (to kick the calendar), with the calendar being as detached from its usual meaning as the bucket in the English phrase is. The same expression in Dutch is het loodje leggen (to lay the piece of lead), which is entirely different from the English expression, too. Other expressions include break a leg and fit as a fiddle. It is estimated that William Shakespeare coined over 9,000 idioms still in use today.
Idioms hence tend to confuse those not already familiar with them; students of a new language must learn its idiomatic expressions the way they learn its other vocabulary. Many natural language words have idiomatic origins, but have been sufficiently assimilated so that their figurative senses have been lost.
Idioms and cultureAn idiom is generally a colloquial metaphor — a term which requires some foundational knowledge, information, or experience, to use only within a culture where parties must have common reference. Idioms are therefore not considered a part of the language, but rather a part of the culture. As cultures are typically localized, idioms are more often not useful for outside of that local context. However some idioms can be more universally used than others, and they can be easily translated, metaphorical meaning can be more easily deduced.
The most common idioms can have deep roots, date back many centuries, and be traceable across many languages. Many have translations in other languages, and tend to become international.
While many idioms are clearly based in conceptual metaphors such as "time as a substance", "time as a path", "love as war" or "up is more", the idioms themselves are often not particularly essential, even when the metaphors themselves are. For example, "spend time", "battle of the sexes", and "back in the day" are idiomatic and based in essential metaphors. These "deep metaphors" and their relationship to human cognition are discussed by George Lakoff and Mark Johnson in their 1980 book Metaphors We Live By.
In forms like "profits are up", the metaphor is carried by "up" itself. The phrase "profits are up" is not itself an idiom. Practically anything measurable can be used in place of "profits": "crime is up", "satisfaction is up", "complaints are up" etc. Truly essential idioms generally involve prepositions, for example "out of" or "turn into".
Interestingly, many Chinese characters are likewise idiomatic constructs, as their meanings are more often not traceable to a literal (i.e. pictographic) meaning of their assembled parts, or radicals. Because all characters are composed from a relatively small base of about 214 radicals, their assembled meanings follow several different modes of interpretation - from the pictographic to the metaphorical to those whose original meaning has been lost in history. It may be a feature that helps everyday life.
Second language's English—using idiom to refer to language.
"Idiom" can also refer to the characteristic manner of speaking in a language, also called its parlance. An utterance consistent with a language's parlance is described as idiomatic. For example, "I have hunger" is idiomatic in several European languages if translated literally (e.g. Dutch ik heb honger, German ich habe Hunger; French j'ai faim; Spanish tengo hambre; Italian ho fame), but the usual English idiom is "I am hungry".
This sense is also carried over to programming languages, where the former sense does not apply, as an expression or statement in a programming language can generally have only one meaning. For example, in Haskell, it is possible to apply a function to all members of a list using recursion, but it is more idiomatic to use the higher-order function map.
In computer science, an idiom is a low-level pattern that addresses a problem common in a particular programming language. An idiom describes how to implement particular aspects of components or the relationships between them using the features of the given language.
For instance, in C source code one might see while(*a++ = *b++);, which copies characters from b to a until the null character ('\0') is encountered. This is an idiom in that a C programmer on seeing it does not need to mentally parse what it might mean, although in this case the effect of the code can be deduced from the literal syntax and C's order of operations.
- Dictionary of English Idioms & Idiomatic Expressions
- More than 8000 American idiomatic expressions with examples
- Foreign Wife-isms How one man's foreign bride comically jumbles American idioms
- Self-study Idiom Quizzes by The Internet TEAL Journal
- Figures of Speech by Rob Bradshaw Examples of how the Bible uses idioms.
- Phrase Finder
idiomatic in Danish: Idiom
idiomatic in German: Redensart
idiomatic in Spanish: Idiotismo
idiomatic in Esperanto: Idiotismo
idiomatic in French: Idiotisme
idiomatic in Hindi: मुहावरा
idiomatic in Indonesian: Idiom
idiomatic in Hebrew: ניב (ביטוי)
idiomatic in Dutch: Idioom
idiomatic in Japanese: 慣用句
idiomatic in Polish: Idiom
idiomatic in Kölsch: Idėomatische Ußdrock
idiomatic in Russian: Фразеологизм
idiomatic in Simple English: Idiom
idiomatic in Serbian: Идиом
idiomatic in Sundanese: Babasan
idiomatic in Swedish: Idiom (språk)
idiomatic in Turkish: Deyim
idiomatic in Ukrainian: Ідіома
idiomatic in Yiddish: אידיאם
idiomatic in Chinese: 熟语