Idiom in English vocabulary
Comparison of understanding phraseology in English, American and post-Soviet vocabulary. Features classification idiomatic expressions in different languages. The analysis of idiomatic expressions denoting human appearance in the English language.
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idiomatic english language
English is the main language of popular music, advertising, home computers and video games. Most of the scientific, technological and academic information in the world is expressed in English. International communication expends very fast. People have to communicate with each other. It is very important for them to understand foreigners and be understood by them. In this case the English language comes to be one but very serious problem. A word comes to be a very powerful means of communication but also can be a cause of a great misunderstanding if it is not clearly understood by one of the speakers.
Idioms cover a lot of drawbacks of the English language and it is one-third part of the colloquial speech. That's why, being a foreigner, one should avoid using idioms without knowing its meaning properly. This may lead to some misunderstandings between communicators.
The object of the work is phraseological units describing human appearance.
The subject of the work is the analysis of idiomatic expressions denoting human appearance in the English language.
The objective of the work is an attempt to study all the aspects of idioms, the groups of their meanings according to the objects described and to analyze the usage of idioms referring to human appearance.
To achieve the set aim we determine the following tasks:
-to denote the term “ phraseological unit ”, to distinguish between English, American and post-soviet understanding of “Pharesology”;
-to classify idioms;
-to distinguish different kinds of idioms describing human appearance.
As the material for our research we used idiomatic expressions denoting human appearance taken out from dictionaries , , , , , .
For gaining the mentioned aim we used the following methods:
- description (different dictionaries: , , , , , );
- critical study of scientific literature ( such manuals as : , , , , , , , ).
Theoretical value consists in selecting and combining phraseological units, belonging to the theme “Human appearance”, into different groups accordingly to the object defined by them.
The practical value consists in the fact that the present work is a valuable manual for specialists concerned with teaching and learning English and can be used as a teaching guide for stirring up idiomatic sentences. The results of the investigation are aimed at better understanding of the language.
Year -paper consists of the introduction, two chapters, conclusions, list of literature used.
The introduction reveals the general survey of the whole work. It dwells on the subject, aim and tasks of the research and characterizes the material and methods of the investigation
The first chapter deals with the problem of definition of phrseological word-groups and different approaches to the classification of the phraseological units.
The second chapter deals with subdividing of the class of the phraseological units describing human appearance into different subclasses, according to their meaning.
Conclusion includes the summary of the research work.
Bibliography includes the list of the resources.
Chapter 1. Theoretical Prerequisites of the investigation
1.1 Phraseology. The problem of definition of phraseological word-combinations
“Phraseology is a kind of a picture gallery in which are collected vivid and amusing sketches of nation's customs, traditions and prejudices, recollections of its past history, scraps of folk songs and fairy-tails. Quotations from great poets are preserved here alongside the dubious pearls of philistine wisdom and a crude slang witticism, for phraseology is not only the most colourful but probably the most democratic area of vocabulary and draws its resources mostly from the very depths of popular speech.”(8, 272 p.).
Phraseological unit or an idiom is a phrase or expression whose total meaning differs from the meaning of the individual words. For example, to blow one's top (get angry) and behind the eight ball (in trouble) are English - language idioms. Idioms come from language and generally cannot be translated literally (word for word). Foreign language students must learn them just as they would learn vocabulary words.
An idiom is a common word or phrase with a culturally understood meaning that differs from what its composite words' denotations would suggest. For example, an English speakerwould understand the phrase "kick the bucket" to mean "to die" - as well as to actually kick a bucket. Furthermore, they would understand when each meaning is being used in context. An idiom is not to be confused with other figures of speech such as a metaphor, which invokes an image by use of implicit comparisons (e.g., "the man of steel" ); asimile, which invokes an image by use of explicit comparisons (e.g., "faster than a speeding bullet"); and hyperbole, which exaggerates an image beyond truthfulness (e.g., like"missed by a mile" ). Idioms are also not to be confused with proverbs, which are simple sayings that express a truth based on common sense or practical experience.
The origin of idioms is closely connected with people's mentality .The present day English can't be considered full of value without idiomatic usage, as the use of idioms is the first sign of a certain language's developing. Idiomatic sentences enrich a language and the knowledge of idioms signal that the speaker knows the language on the level of a native speaker. The belles-lettres investigated by us revealed a great number of idiomatic sentences used by prominent writers in their works to make their language more expressive and colourful.
“The idea that phraseology has the right to exist as a separate linguistic discipline was first put forward by Kunin. He also introduced the term phraseological stylistics to denote the study of stylistic properties of phraseological units. He viewed phraseological stylistics as a part of both general stylistics and phraseology. He developed his ideas of stylistic use of phraseological units in his works.” (7, 20 p.). The word phraseology has very different meaning in post-soviet countries, in Great Britain and, for example, in the United States. So, different researches assign different terms. That's why arouses the problem of definition of phraseological word-groups. In modern linguistics, there is a considerable confusion about the terminology associated with these word-groups. “Phraseology itself means a branch of linguistics which studies different types of set expressions, which like words name various objects and phenomena.” (2, 98p.). Such set expressions exist in the language as ready-made units. The very term “phraseological unit” was introduced by acad. Vinogradov V.V.,“who attempted to work out a reliable criterion to distinguish free word-groups from set expressions.”(3, 98). Most Russian and Ukrainian scholars use this term. English and American linguists often use the term “idiom”. In such case “the term idiom may denote:
- a mode of expression;
- structural form peculiar to a given language;
- “idiom” may be synonymous to the words “language” or “dialect” denoting a form of expression peculiar to a people, a country, a district, or to an individual.”(3, 98p.).
“The term idiom widely used by western scholars has comparatively recently found its way into Russian phraseology but is applied mostly to only a certain type of phraseological unit. There are some other terms denoting more or less the same linguistic phenomenon : set-expressions, set phrases, phrases, fixed word-groups, collocations, etc. The term set phrase implies that the basic criterion of differentiation is stability, of the lexical components and grammatical structure of word-groups. The term idiom generally implies that the essential feature of the linguistic units is idiomaticity or lack of motivation. The term word-equivalent stresses not only semantic but also functional inseparability of certain word-groups, their aptness to function in speech as single words.”(8, 272-273p.) The problem of definition is also researched by foreign scholars: “It is a challenge to write on phraseology since it is an area with a confusing range of terminology and different approaches. I fully agree with Cowie that a lack of standartised terminology exists (Cowie : 4, 225p.). Three decades have passed and the situation is not much better. Idiom is the most common term among the terminology used. Other terms also exist, such as:
- multiword lexical unit (Cowie 1992);
- fixed phrase (Verstraten 1992);
- fixed expression (Moon 1992;Svensson 2008);
- phraseme (Sabban 1999, 2009;Burger 2007);
- phrasal lexical items (Kuiper 2009) and many others”(7, 18p.).
Anita Naciscione, also has a peculiar thought about mostly Russian term “phraseological unit”, here it is : “In parallel (to the term idiom), the term phraseological unit has in increasingly been used in phraseological research (for example, Fedulenkova 2003; Arsentyeva 2005; Mena Martinez 2006; Fiedler 2007; Szerszunowisz 2008).The term phraseologism is mostly used in research written in German (for example, Dobrovol'skiy 1980, Bass 2003).Both terms have been widely used by phraseologists in Eastern Europe for more than half a century. I would argue for the term phraseological unit, and here I would like to make it clear that I do not consider that idioms form a subset of phraseological units. According to Kunin, “a phraseological unit is a stable combination of words with a fully or partially figurative meaning”…Kunin's definition includes two inherent properties of phraseological units: stability and figurative meaning, which differentiate these units from free word combinations and set expressions, which are stable word combinations of non-phraseological character (Kunin, 1996). Kunin's understanding of phraseological units also embraces proverbs. I follow Kunin in including proverbs in the phraseological stock of language. Indeed, the study of proverbs has established itself into a separate discipline - paremiology. As a scholarly subject, paremiology has a far longer tradition in comparison with phraseology. However, I would argue that from the linguistic point of view proverbs belong to phraseology for the following reasons. Semantically, they comply with the two main categorical requirements : stability and figuration. Syntactically, they feature sentence structure and they never exceed sentence boundaries in their base form. Stylistically, the functioning of proverbs presents a great variety of patterns of stylistic use, the same as in other types of phraseological units. ”(7, 19-20p.).
“The confusion in the terminology reflects insufficiency of positive or wholly reliable criteria by which phraseological units can be distinguished from the word-groups. It should be pointed out that the freedom of the free word-groups is relative and arbitrary. Nothing is entirely free in speech as its linear relationships are governed, restricted and regulated, on the one hand, by requirements of logic and common sense and, on the other, by the rules of grammar and combinability. One can speak of a black-eyed girl but not of a black-eyed table. Also, to say the child was glad is quite correct, but a glad child is wrong because in Modern English glad is attributively used only with a very limited number of nouns (e.g. glad news), and names of persons are not among them. ”(8, 273p.).
The Russian scholars use the term “Phraseology” to describe a special branch of linguistics. But in English and American linguistics no special branch of study exists, and the term phraseology has a stylistic meaning. “Traditionally phraseological units are defined as non-motivated word-groups that cannot be freely made up in speech, but are reproduced as ready-made units. It is a group of words whose meaning cannot be deduced by examining the meanings of the constituents” (3, 99p.). “The essential features of phraseological units are:
a) lack of semantic motivation;
b) lexical and grammatical stability.
As far as semantic motivation is concerned phraseological units vary from motivated (by simple addition of denotational meaning ) like a sight of sore eyes and to know the ropes, to partially motivated (when only one of the words is used in figurative meaning) or to demotivated ( completely non-motivated) like tit for tat, red tape.
Phraseological stability is based upon:
1.The stability of use;
2.The stability of meaning;
5.Rhythmic characteristics, rhyme and imagery (8, 272-274p.).
So, to use phraseological units properly we should study its characteristics carefully. It is especially important in the research because it is impossible to work with different resources without knowing the difference between various approaches to the definition of the phraseological unit in different countries and their linguistics. The proper definition gives the way to the proper research.
1.2 Different approaches to the classification of phraseological units
“A phraseological unit is a complex phenomenon with a number of important features, which can therefore be approached from different points of view. Hence, there exist a considerable number of different classification systems devised by different scholars and based on different principles. Semantic approach stresses the importance of idiomaticity, functional - syntactic inseparability, contextual - stability of context combined with idiomaticity.”(8, 280p.) “The traditional and oldest principle for classifying phraseological units is based on their original content and might be alluded to as "thematic" (although the term is not universally accepted). The approach is widely used in numerous English and American guides to idiom, phrase books, etc. On this principle, idioms are classified according to their sources of origin, "source" referring to the particular sphere of human activity, of life of nature, of natural phenomena, etc. So, L. P. Smith gives in his classification groups of idioms used by sailors, fishermen, soldiers, hunters and associated with the realia, phenomena and conditions of their occupations. In Smith's classification we also find groups of idioms associated with domestic and wild animals and birds, agriculture and cooking. There are also numerous idioms drawn from sports, arts, etc. This principle of classification is sometimes called "etymological". The term does not seem appropriate since we usually mean something different when we speak of the etymology of a word or word-group: whether the word (or word-group) is native or borrowed, and, if the latter, what is the source of borrowing. It is true that Smith makes a special study of idioms borrowed from other languages, but that is only a relatively small part of his classification system. The general principle is not etymological.
Smith points out that word-groups associated with the sea and the life of seamen are especially numerous in English vocabulary. Most of them have long since developed metaphorical meanings which have no longer any association with the sea or sailors. Here are some examples.
To be all at sea -- to be unable to understand; to be in a state of ignorance or bewilderment about something (e. g. How can I be a judge in a situation in which I am all at sea? I'm afraid I'm all at sea in this problem). V. H. Collins remarks that the metaphor is that of a boat tossed about, out of control, with its occupants not knowing where they are.
To sink or swim -- to fail or succeed (e. g. It is a case of sink or swim. All depends on his own effort.)
In deep water -- in trouble or danger.
In low water, on the rocks -- in strained financial circumstances.
To be in the same boat with somebody -- to be in a situation in which people share the same difficulties and dangers (e. g. I don't like you much, but seeing that we're in the same boat I'll back you all I can). The metaphor is that of passengers in the life-boat of a sunken ship.
To sail under false colours -- to pretend to be what one is not; sometimes, to pose as a friend and, at the same time, have hostile intentions. The metaphor is that of an enemy ship that approaches its intended prey showing at the mast the flag ("colours") of a pretended friendly nation.
To show one's colours -- to betray one's real character or intentions. The allusion is, once more, to a ship showing the flag of its country at the mast.
To strike one's colours -- to surrender, give in, admit one is beaten. The metaphor refers to a ship's hauling down its flag (sign of surrender).
To weather (to ride out) the storm -- to overcome difficulties; to have courageously stood against misfortunes.
To bow to the storm -- to give in, to acknowledge one's defeat.
Three sheets in (to) the wind (sl.) -- very drunk.
Half seas over (sl.) -- drunk.
It is true, though, that a foreigner is more apt to be struck by the colourfulness of the direct meaning of an idiom where a native speaker sees only it's transferred meaning, the original associations being almost fully forgotten.
“The thematic principle of classifying phraseological units has real merit but it does not take into consideration the linguistic characteristic features of the phraseological units”(1, 243-245p.).
“The classification system of phraseological units devised by a prominent scholar acad. V.V.Vinogradov is considered by some linguists of today to be outdated, and yet its value is beyond doubt because it was the first classification system which was based on the semantic principle”(8, 278p.).
“In this classification he developed some points first advanced by Swiss scientist Charles Bally. He described phraseological units as lexical complexes which cannot be freely made up in speech, but are reproduced as ready-made units. The meaning of such expressions as distinguished from the meaning of free combinations is idiomatic. The classification is based on the motivation of the unit. ”(3, 100p.).
It means that this classification concerns the relationship existing between the meaning of the whole and the meaning of its component parts.
“The degree of motivation is correlated with the rigidity, indivisibility and semantic unity of the expression, i.e. with the possibility of changing the form or the order of the components, and of substituting the whole by a single word. Units with a partially transferred meaning show the weakest cohesion between their components, The more distant the meaning of a phraseological unit from the current meaning of its constituent parts, the greater is its degree of semantic cohesion.”(8,278p.).
According to the degree of idiomatic meaning of various groups of phraseological units, V.V. Vinogradov classified them as follows:
-phraseological fusions are units “whose meaning cannot be deduced from the meanings of their component parts, the meaning of phraseological fusions is unmotivated at the present stage of language development.”(3, 100p.). “Such word-groups represent the highest stage of blending together. The meaning of components is completely absorbed by the meaning of the whole, by its expressiveness and emotional properties.”(8, 279p.).
Phraseological fusions are specific for every language and do not lend themselves to literal translation into other languages:
To come a cropper - to come to disaster;
Neck and crop - entirely, altogether;
At sixes and sevens - in confusion or in disagreement;
To leave smb. In the lurch - to abandon a friend when he is in trouble;
To dance attendance on smb. - to try and please or attract smb.
-phraseological unities are expressions “ the meaning of which can be deduced from the meaning of their components; the meaning of the whole is based on the transferred meanings of the components”(3,100-101p.). “Are much more numerous. They are clearly motivated. The emotional quality is based upon the image created by the whole.” (8, 278p.). For example :
to show one's teeth - to be unfriendly;
to sit on the fence - in discussion, politics, etc. refrain from committing oneself to either side;
to lose one's head - to be at a loss what to do;
to lose one's heart to smb. - to fall in love;
a big bug - a person of importance;
a fish out of water - a person situated uncomfortably outside his usual or proper environment.
-phraseological collocations (combinations) are traditional word-groups. “Word combinations are combined with their original meaning. The components are limited in the ability to combine with each other by some linguistic factors.” (3, 101p.). “They are partially motivated. They contain one component used in its direct meaning while the other is used figuratively.” (8, 278p.). For example: meet the demand, meet the necessity, to be good at something, to be a good hand at something, to have a bite, to take something for granted, to stick to one's word, gospel truth, bosom friends, to break news.
It is obvious that this classification system does not take into account the structural characteristics of phraseological units. On the other hand, the border-line separating unities from fusions is vague and even subjective. One and the same phraseological unit may appear motivated to one person (and therefore be labelled as a unity) and demotivated to another (and be regarded as a fusion). The more profound one's command of the language and one's knowledge of its history, the fewer fusions one is likely to discover in it.
Prof. Smirnitsky A.I., who worked out the structural classification of phraseological units , described them as highly idiomatic set expressions functioning as word equivalents, and characterized by their semantic and grammatical unity. “The structural principle of classifying phraseological units is based on their ability to perform the same syntactical functions as words.”(8,279p.). “Prof. Smirnitsky suggested three classes of stereotyped phrases:
-traditional phrases(nice distinction, rough sketch);
-phraseological combinations (to fall in love, to get up);
-idioms (to wash one's dirty linen in public), but only the second group is given a detailed analysis”(3,101p.)
“Professor Smirnitsky offered a classification system for English phraseological units which is interesting as an attempt to combine the structural and the semantic principles. Phraseological units in this classification system are grouped according to the number and semantic significance of their constituent parts. Accordingly two large groups are established:
A. one-summit units, which have one meaningful constituent (e. g. to give up, to make out, to pull out, to be tired, to be surprised);
B. two-summit and multi-summit units which have two or more meaningful constituents (e. g. black art, first night, common sense, to fish in troubled waters).
Within each of these large groups the phraseological units are classified according to the category of parts of speech of the summit constituent. So, one-summit units are subdivided into: a) verbal-adverbial units equivalent to verbs in which the semantic and the grammatical centres coincide in the first constituent (e. g. to give up); b) units equivalent to verbs which have their semantic centre in the second constituent and their grammatical centre in the first (e. g. to be tired); c) prepositional-substantive units equivalent either to adverbs or to copulas and having their semantic centre in the substantive constituent and no grammatical centre (e. g. by heart, by means of).
Two-summit and multi-summit phraseological units are classified into: a) attributive-substantive two-summit units equivalent to nouns (e. g. black art), b) verbal-substantive two-summit units equivalent to verbs (e. g. to take the floor), c) phraseological repetitions equivalent to adverbs (e. g. now or never); d) adverbial multi-summit units (e. g. every other day).
Professor Smirnitsky also distinguishes proper phraseological units which, in his classification system, are units with non-figurative meanings, and idioms, that is, units with transferred meanings based on a metaphor”(1,248-250p.).
Professor Kunin, the leading Russian authority on English phraseology, pointed out certain inconsistencies in this classification system. First of all, the subdivision into phraseological units (as non-idiomatic units) and idioms contradicts the leading criterion of a phraseological unit suggested by Professor Smirnitsky: it should be idiomatic.
Professor Kunin also objects to the inclusion of such word-groups as black art, best man, first night in phraseology (in Professor Smirnitsky's classification system, the two-summit phraseological units) as all these word-groups are not characterised by a transferred meaning. It is also pointed out that verbs with post-positions (e. g. give up) are included in the classification but their status as phraseological units is not supported by any convincing argument.
“Functional classification suggested by prof. Arnold I.V., is based on the grammatical unity typical of all Pus and on their functioning in the language as word equivalents. Pus are subdivided into:
1)noun equivalents-maiden name, cat's paw, green room
2)verb equivalents-take advantage, to give up, pick and choose
3)adjective equivalents-as old as the hills
4)adverb equivalents-tooth and nail, by heart
5) Pus functioning like interjections: Take your time! My eye!”(3,102).
Contextual classification was suggested by prof. Amosova N.N.. She considers PUs to be units of fixed context. “Fixed context is characterised by a specific and unchanging sequence of definite lexical components and peculiar relationship between them. Units of fixed context are subdivided into two types: phrasemes and idioms.
Phrasemes are two-member groups in which one of the members has a particular meaning dependent on the second components it is found only inn the given context, e.g. in small hours - the second component (hours) serves as the only clue to this particular meaning of the first component. Phrasemes are always binary, e.g. in small talk, husband's tea, one of the components has a phraseologically bound meaning, the other serves a s a distinguishing context.
Idioms are distinguished from phrasemes by the idiomaticity of the whole word-group. They are semantically and grammatically inseparable units, e.g. red tape - “bureaucratic methods”.The meaning of the ididom is created by the unit as a whole: to let the cat out of the bag-to divulge a secret.
The difference between phrasemes and idioms is based on semantic relationship without accepting the structural approach, and the demarcation line between the two groups seems rather subjective”(3, 102-103p.).
We may see that the approaches to the classification of phraseological units differ from native linguists to foreign linguists. This fact should be included while studying of the critical literature and manuals. The proper understanding gives the better result of the research work and helps in searching of the idioms concerning the subject.
1.3 Ways of forming phraseological units
Phraseological units can be also classified according to the way they are formed. A.V. Kunin pointed out primary and secondary ways of forming phraseological units.
Primary ways of forming phraseological units are those when a unit is formed on the basis of a free word-group:
a) the most productive in Modern English is the formation of phraseological units by means of transferring the meaning of terminological word-groups, e.g. launching pad in its terminological meaning is « стартова площадка » , in its transferred meaning - « відправний пункт » , to link up - “ стикуватися ” , in its tranformed meaning it means - « знайомитися »;
b) a large group of phraseological units was formed by transforming the meaning of free word groups , e.g. granny farm - « пансионат для старих людей », Trojan horse - «a person or thing used secretly to cause the ruin of an enemy»;
c) phraseological units can be formed by means of alliteration , e.g. a sad sack - « нещасний випадок », culture vulture - « людина , яка цікавиться мистецтвом », fudge and nudge - « ухильність ;.
d) phraseological units can be formed by means of expressiveness , especially it is characteristic of forming interjections, e.g. My aunt!, Hear, hear! etc;
e) phraseological units can be formed by means of distorting a word group , e.g. odds and ends was formed from «odd ends»;
f) phraseological units can be formed by using archaisms , e.g. in brown study means «in gloomy meditation» where both components preserve their archaic meanings;
g) phraseological units can be formed by using a phrase in a different sphere of life , e.g. that cock won't fight can be used as a free word-group when it is used in sports (cock fighting); it becomes a phraseological unit when it is used in everyday life, as it is used metaphorically;
h) phraseological units can be formed by the use of some unreal image , e.g. to have butterflies in the stomach - « відчувати хвилюваня » etc;
i ) phraseological units can be formed by using expressions of writers or polititians in everyday life , e.g. « corridors of power»(Snow), «American dream» (Alby ), «locust years» ( Churchil ) , «the winds of change» (Mc Millan ) etc.
Secondary ways of forming phraseological units are those when a phraseological unit is formed on the basis of another phraseological unit; they are:
a) conversion , e.g. to vote with one's feet was converted into vote with one's feet;
b) changing the grammar form , e.g. Make hay while the sun shines is transferred into a verbal phrase - to make hay while the sun shines;
c) analogy , e.g. Curiosity killed the cat was transferred into Care killed the cat;
d) contrast , e.g. cold surgery - «a planned before operation» was formed by contrasting it with acute surger н , thin cat - «a poor person» was formed by contrasting it with fat cat;
e) shortening of proverbs or sayings , e.g. the phraseological unit to make a sow's ear with the meaning « помилятись » was formed from the proverb You can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear by means of clipping the middle of it;
f) borrowing phraseological units from other languages , either as translation loans, e.g. living space (German), to take the bull by the horns (Latin), or by means of phonetic borrowings, e.g. meche blanche (French), corpse d'elite (French), sotto voce(Italian) etc. (8, 280-284p.)
We may see how phraseological units are formed. Trying to select phraseological units from the great variety of them this knowledge helps to shortcut the list and to find certain idioms faster.
This chapter concerns the main linguistic problems on which we come across during the work on this paper. Different views on the problems and approaches give the better understanding of what the phraseological unit is, or if there is any difference between phraseological unit and an idiom. We should also note the differentiations between phraseological units and free word-groups or set expressions. All these views from different angles give the whole picture of the idiom, which is the analized subject.
Chapter 2. Phraseological Units Describing Human Appearance
The English language is one of the vastest and most vivid languages in the world. It is made up of over 1.5 million words. Over and above that, the same word can have a variety of different meanings depending on the context it is put in; two (or more) words can have the exact same spelling but are pronounced differently, depending on their meanings.
Idioms come to be a very numerous part of English. Idioms cover a lot of drawbacks of the English language and it is one-third part of the colloquial speech.
Phraseological units describing human appearence are usually based on a joke or irony. But sometimes such units may be offensive. Most of phraseological units were created by people of a particular nation.
Idioms describing people can be divided into two sub-groups:connected with positive and negative qualities, for example: His fingers are all thumbs (he's clumsy) or good as a pie (surprisingly kind and friendly). How people relate to the social norm, for example: all brawn and no brain ( someone who is physically very strong but not very intelligent).
The class of phraseological units describing human appearance may be divided into several subclasses, according to the object which is described. It comes as follows:
1. Facial features, beauty - one may be attractive or ugly. One's face may express different emotions, such as anger, happiness etc.
- face like a bulldog chewing a wasp - To say that someone has a face like a bulldog chewing a waspmeans that you find them very unattractive because they have a screwed-up ugly expression on their face.
Not only was he rude but he had a face like a bulldog chewing a wasp!
- face like thunder - somebody looks very angry.
When Dad is really angry, he has a face like thunder!
- face like a wet week-end - If someone has a face like a wet week-end, they look sad and miserable.
What's wrong with Pete? He's got a face like a wet week-end!
- face only a mother could love - This is a humoristic way of saying that someone is ugly or unattractive.
The poor guy has a face only a mother could love.
- chubby cheeks - refer to full or fat cheeks. Admittedly, on the right person, they can be cute.
That small child has cute chubby cheeks.
- face that would stop a clock - Someone who has a face that would stop a clock has a shockingly unattractive face.
You'll recognize him - he's tall and thin, with a face that would stop a clock!
- poker face - an expressionless face that shows no emotion or reaction at all.
He sat with a poker face all through the show, revealing nothing of his thoughts.
- fresh as a daisy - lively and attractive, in a clean and fresh way.
I met Molly the other day. She looked as fresh as a daisy.
- good as a pie - surprisingly kind and friendly.
After our argument, she was as good as a pie!
- as cold as ice - This idiom can be used to describe a person who does not show any emotion.
I couldn't understand his emotions, he was as cold as ice.
- average Joe - an average Joe is an ordinary person without anything exceptional about them.
He was just an average Joe and nothing more.
- Plain Jane - A plain Jane is a woman who isn't particularly attractive.
How could she win the beauty contest? - She is just a plain Jane.
- graceful as a swan - very graceful.
Jane is graceful as a swan
- fair as a lily - is a very beautiful woman
Her daughter is fair as a lily.
- face is made of a fiddle - means that somebody has attractive appearance
His face is made of a fiddle that's why many people adore him.
- look the picture - if someone looks the picture, they look very pretty.
The little girl looked the picture in her new dress.
- ill looks - having a bad look; threatening; ugly
His ill looks impressed me that day.
- good looks - the attractive appearance of someone's face
He was trying to hide his natural good looks.
- pudding face - a large fat human face
The old man had an impressive pudding face.
- as ugly as sin - is used to refer to people or things that are considered to be very unattractive.
Have you seen the new neighbour? He's as ugly as sin!
- as white as a ghost - looks very pale and frightened.
She went as white as a ghost when she saw the gun.
- be as cute as a button - to be very attractive
At 14, she was as cute as a button and the boys were starting to notice her.
2. Eyes - one's eyes may have different shape or express different emotions.
- pie-eyed - completely drunk.
He had never taken an alcoholic drink so after one beer the boy was pie-eyed.
- eyes like saucers - eyes opened widely as in amazement.
Our eyes were like saucers as we witnessed another display of the manager's temper.
- saucer eyes - having large round wide-open eyes
She had saucer eyes when she's got the present.
- starry eyes - having a naively enthusiastic, overoptimistic, or romantic view; unrealistic
Jimmy has starry eyes what concerns the world.
- eyes flash fire - somebody looks at someone angrily
He was looking at me angrily, his eyes flashing fire.
- stare like a stuck pig - The stuck pig is the pig in the act of being killed, that's why it means that someone looks at somebody like the pig at that moment.
When I produced concrete proof of his guilt, he stared at me like a stuck pig.
3. Nose - one's nose may be big or small, hooked or straight.
- aquiline nose - (also called Roman nose, hook nose / hooknose or beak nose) is a human nose with a prominent bridge, giving it the appearance of being curved or slightly bent. The word aquiline comes from the Latin word aquilinus ("eagle-like"), a reference to the curved beak of an eagle.
He was a wealthy man with an aquiline nose and a beard.
- snub nose - a small nose that curves up at the end
Jane's face is really beautiful with full lips and a snub nose.
- nose to light candles at - red nose
After playing snowballs our noses were to light candles at.
- button nose - a small, curved upwards nose. They are thought to be cute, appealing and highly desirable by certain individuals.
You know, children always have those button noses.
4. Hair - one may have hair or not, or lose hair. Different hair-does may be dscribed.
- thin on the top - If someone, usually a man, is thin on the top, they are losing their hair or going bald.
Dad's gone a bit thin on the top in the last few years.
- bald as a coot - a person who is completely bald is as bald as a coot.
My grandfather is bald as a coot.
- hell of hair - used to tell that somebodie's hair is untidy and scruffy
Albert Einstein usually had a hell of hair on his head.
- crow's lick - sleek hair
He was very shy and had a crow's lick on his head.
5. Beard - PUs are used to describe the shape of it.
- Vandyke beard - is a style of facial hair named after 17th century Flemish painter Anthony van Dyck
A young gentleman with a Vandyke beard was talking loudly.
6. Body shape - one may be fat or thin.
- a muffin top - a protruding roll of fat that spills out over the waistline of a skirt, pants or jeans. This fat looks like the top of a muffin.
Today's low-cut jeans, unfortunately, don't do anything to minimize a muffin top - in fact, they can even emphasize it.
- saddle bags - were bags used to transport goods on horseback. The bags would hang on both sides of the horse. In terms of the human body - in particular, the female body - this idiom refers to an extra storage of fat on the outer upper thighs. As the idiom implies, this fat looks like saddle bags.
She was extremely fat with big saddle bags on her thighs.
- bat wings / bingo wings - bat wings and bingo wings refer to the sagging skin and fat that hangs down on the underside of the upper arms.
He has got bat wings after he had lost 50 kilograms.
- middle-aged spread - refers to the increase in fat in the waist and buttocks area that typically occurs around the time of middle age.
I was very upset to find out that I had a middle-age spread.
- spare tyre - refers to an extra layer of fat that is wrapped around the waist area
Have you seen her spare tyre?
- stovepipe legs - this idiom refers to fat legs that, in terms of their form, look much like “pipes” - in particular the large pipes that are used to connect stoves to chimneys.
She was a very tall woman, with stovepipe legs.
- a beer belly - is said to be due to the consumption of too much beer, eating too many delicious fattening meals and Christmas sweets is likely to produce a similar effect in the long-run.
You can see Santa's post-Christmas beer belly at the top of this page.
- turkey neck - refers to what is otherwise called a “double chin”. It's an extra fold of fatty, loose skin that hangs under the chin. It is said to look similar to the neck of a turkey.
You should exercise your body otherwise you will have a turkey neck.
- pot belly - is simply another term for a fat belly
Santa has a pot belly!
- mountain of flesh - very high and clumsy person
John, a mountain of flesh, was the biggest man in the village.
- all brawn and no brain - Someone who is physically very strong but not very intelligent
He's an impressive player to watch, but he's all brawn and no brain.
- straight as a ramrod - a person who keeps a straight back and looks very serious.
When my grandfather invited us for dinner, he used to sit straight as a ramrod at the head of the table.
- fat as a pig - exceptionally fat; grotesquely fat
If I don't stop eating this cake, I'll be fat as a pig!
- fat as butter - somebody is extremely fat
I saw the woman as fat as butter.
- round as a barrel - very big around
He ate till he was as big around as a barrel.
- bag of bones [skin and bone] - If someone is all skin and bone, they are very thin or too thin.
After trekking in the Himalayas, he was all skin and bone.
- be a shadow of one's former self (to be reduced to a shadow (to skeleton)) - someone or something that is not as strong, healthy, full, or lively as before
The sick man was a shadow of his former self.
- pale and wan - become pale and sick
She still looks pale and wan after her illness.
- wear oneself to a shadow - made thin and weary through eg hard work.
She was worn to a shadow after months of nursing her sick husband.
- gaunt as a grey-hound - to be as thin as a aspecial breed of a dog (Any of a breed of tall slender dog, having a smooth coat, a narrow head, and long legs and capable of running swiftly).
She was gaunt as a grey-hound after her diet.
- gaunt as bone - thin and bony
Your girlfriend is as gaunt as a bone.
- thin as a lath - having little fat on one's body
He was tall and thin as a lath, with short brown hair.
- as fit as a fiddle- in an excellent state of health or physical condition.
My grandfather is nearly ninety but he's as fit as a fiddle.
7. Height - one may be tall or short.
- head and shoulders above - very tall or having far superior to
He looked like a leader, head and shoulders above.
- mushroom growth (grow up like a mushroom) - to grow rapidly
My son grew up like mushroom.
- vertically challenged - This term is a humoristic way of referring to someone who is not very tall.
High shelves are difficult for vertically challenged shoppers.
8. Age - one may be young or old.
- old head on young shoulders - his expression refers to a child or young person who thinks and expresses themselves like an older more-experienced person.
When she heard Emily warning her brother to stay out of trouble, her mother thought : "That's an old head on young shoulders."
- be too long in the tooth - a bit too old to do something.
She's a bit long in the tooth for a cabaret dancer, isn't she?
- old as a Methuselah - very old (A biblical patriarch said to have lived 969 years)
His grandfather was old like a Methuselah.
- polar beaver - an old man, with long white beard
Dambldore was a polar beaver in Hogwarts.
- go down the years - to become older
We are constantly going down the years.
- advanced in years - old; elderly.
My uncle is up in years and can't hear too well.
- bear ones age well - when someone looks younger than their age
Though an old man, he bears his age wonderfully well.
- get on in years - Someone who is getting on in years is growing old.
My grandmother is getting on in years. She needs help nowadays.
9. Clothes, tidiness - clothes may be tidy or untidy, fit well, be fashionable etc.
- be a bad fit - when something doesn't suit someone
Her new dress was a bad fit.
- down at heel - A person who is down-at-heel is someone whose appearance is untidy or neglected because of lack of money.
The down-at-heel student I first met became a successful writer.
- like something the cat dragged in - If you compare a person or thing to something the cat dragged in, you think they they look dirty, untidy or generally unappealing.
My teenage son often looks like something the cat dragged in.
- dressed up to the nines - wearing very smart or glamorous clothes.
Caroline must be going to a party - she's dressed up to the nines.
- to look a sight - If a person looks a sight, their appearance is awful, unsuitable or very untidy.
She looks a sight in that dress!
- cut a dash - If a person cuts a dash, they make a striking impression by their appearance and attractive clothes.
Wearing his uniform, my grandfather cut a dash on his wedding day.
- mutton dressed as lamb - This expression refers to a middle-aged woman who tries to look younger by dressing in clothes designed for younger people.
The style doesn't suit her - it has a mutton-dressed-as-lamb effect on her!
- Birthday suit - If you are in your birthday suit, you are naked.
She was standing in her Birthday suit.
- fit like a glove - If something fits like a glove, it is suitable or the right size.
Your coat fits like a glove.
- be all of a muck - to be dirty with or as if with muck (A moist sticky mixture, especially of mud and filth)
Children were all of a muck after playing in the garden.
- hog in armour - one feels self-conscious or ill at ease in fine clothes
Wearing that suit he felt hog in armour.
- not to have a rag to one's back - to have poor clothes, because you have no money
That old man doesn't have a rag to his back.
- just out of a bandbox - elaborately dressed
His look was just like out of a bandbox.
- dressed to kill - When someone, especially a woman, is dressed to kill, they are wearing very fashionable or glamorous clothes intended to attract attention.
She arrived at the reception dressed to kill.
- not a hair out of place - If someone does not have a hair out of place, their appearance is perfect.
Angela is always impeccably dressed - never a hair out of place.
10. Health - state of one's health.
- like death warmed up - you look very ill or tired.
My boss told me to go home. He said I looked like death warmed up.
- full of beans - active and healthy.
He may be getting old but he's still full of beans.
- full of piss and vinegar- very lively, healthy, boisterous or full of youthful vitality.
I had to look after a group of kids full of piss and vinegar.
- hale and hearty - Someone, especially an old person, who is hale and hearty is in excellent health.
My grandmother is still hale and hearty at the age of ninety.
- look the picture of health - to look extremely healthy.
Nice to see you again Mr. Brown. I must say you look the picture of health.
- in rude health - If someone's in rude health, they are very healthy and look it.
That sportsman is in rude health.
11. Dead or alive
- dead as a doornail - is used to stress that a person or thing is very definitely dead.
He was dead as a doornail at that time.
12. Similarity and difference
- as different as chalk and cheese - completely different from each other.
- like two peas in a pod - very similar in appearance.
The two brothers are very alike - they're like two peas in a pod!
- much of a muchness - 'very similar' or 'almost alike'.
It's hard to choose between the two - they're much of a muchness really.
- chip off the old block - A person who is a chip off the old block resembles one of their parents in appearance, character or behaviour.
James is a chip off the old block - he reacts the same way as his father
- spitting image - If one person is the spitting image of another, they look exactly like each other.
Sarah is the spitting image of her mother.
So, idioms are integral part of language which make our speech more colourful and authentically native.Idioms can be quite clear (in general; come out; at first; the root of all evil) or pretty unclear (on end; pack it in; high and low; hard cash). Some idioms have proper names in them (a Jack of all trades; Uncle Sam); some other idioms are comparisons (as clear as a bell; as the crow flies).
One should use idioms carefully,when you are sure that you are using them correctly. Idioms, like slang and swear words, are among the hardest parts of a language because your use must be exactly correct. You may use an idiom that is not right for the situation, and if you use an idiom wrongly, it sounds rather strange. You may use an idiom that means something different to your intended use.In order not to offend somebody try to omit idioms meanings of which are not clear for you.
To sum up, appearance of people plays a great role in creating idioms. On the contrary to the classical dictionaries, where phraseological units are combined accordingly to the word used in the construction of it, but not due to the object described, here you may find phraseological units describing human appearance selected especially for the topic. Such approach may be very useful while studing the theme “human appearance”. Because idioms which include, for example, a word denoting the part of the body not always describes the human appearance but even has absolutely different meaning : a pain in the neck - you can say someone is a pain in the neck if they annoy you, or something is a pain in the neck if you don't like doing it; a head start - If you have a head start, you start something ahead of others or with an advantage over others.
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