Idioms: Piece of Cake or Hard Nut to Crack?
A language is a living substance, which evolves under the
influence of different factors. Being very flexible English
language constantly enriches its vocabulary with the words
invented by the language speakers, making it more colorful with
new idiomatic expressions, and at times refills its stocks with
the borrowings and neologisms. English just amazes by its
extraordinary linguistic diversity.
It is a language rich in exceptions and spelling traps, where
almost every rule is valid 90% of the time. English is a
language with a vast idiomatic basis, which makes its learning
very exciting and intriguing. There are about 4,000 idioms used
in the American English. Wikipedia suggests that "to even
explain what they mean needs about 2000 words of the vocabulary.
Idioms derived from the culture of the nation and from
day-to-day life. In real context idioms explain themselves: 9
times out of 10 times, idioms carry their own explanation. The
main function of idioms is to paraphrase what is going on, and
what is being said.
Idiomatic expressions pervade English with a peculiar flavor and
give it astounding variety, bright character and color. They
help language learners understand English culture, penetrate
into customs and lifestyle of English people, and make a deeper
insight into English history.
Idiom is defined as an expression that does not mean what it
literally says. Hence, its meaning is often quite different from
the word-for-word translation.
The meaning idioms convey is non-compositional. It implies that
you cannot understand the meaning of the whole phrase putting
the meanings of each word together. If you look at the
individual words, it may not even make sense grammatically.
Idiom has the meaning only as a unit.
Professor Koonin defined idiom "as a stable combination of words
with a fully or partially figurative meaning." This definition
emphasizes two inherent and very important features of the
Idioms have lexical and grammatical stability. It implies that
they are fixed in their form, hence any substitutions and
rearranging in their structure can lead to complete loss of
their primary meaning.
Idiomatic expressions are integral units. It literally means
that idioms possess indivisible completeness, so all the
components are bound within one idiom.
Idioms are used in both spoken and written English, and often
appear in newspaper articles. They are frequently utilized by
native speakers, who feel the language at inborn genetic level.
One of the approaches to defining this linguistic phenomena
stresses that an idiom is a manner of speaking that is natural
to native speakers of the language. It proves that only people
who are very good at speaking English can adequately and to the
point use idiomatic expressions in their speech.
Though, learning idioms present a host of difficulties to
English learners, primarily because they don't know the culture
and history behind English idioms. That's why they often use
idioms incongruous with the situation. Indeed, English learners
utilize idiomatic expressions very carefully, being afraid of
using them incorrectly and being misunderstood. They find idioms
very problematic to both understand and memorize.
Whilst, the majority of native language speakers can not always
know the origin of idioms they use, though as long as they
utilize them in every day communication, they know its meaning
and feel where it is appropriate to use this or that idiom.
Undoubtedly, the correct usage of English idioms is finesse,
which makes the language of the speaker more vivid and exciting.