English idioms and their Russian equivalents

Contents: I. INTRODUCTION II. MAIN PART Chapter 1. The Importance of Achieving of Semantic and Stylistic Identity of Translating Idioms 2.1.1 Classification of Idioms




Chapter 1. The Importance of Achieving of Semantic and Stylistic Identity of Translating Idioms

2.1.1 Classification of Idioms

2.1.2 The Difficulties of Translation

2.1.3 Synonymous Statements and Emphasis

2.1.4 Indices for Interpretation

2.1.5 Proverbs Figurativeness and Its Means

Chapter 2. The Development of Students Language Awarenesson the Base of Using Idioms in Classes

2.2.1 Pedagogical implications

2.2.2 Focus on authentic speech and idiomatic language in classes





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.

It is generally accepted that interpreters did not know much about the laws and rules of translation at the dawn of civilization. They did not have enough scientific knowledge, and some writers maintained later that translation was a problem which could never be solved (e.g., "All translation seems to me to be simply an attempt to solve an insoluble problem." W. von Humboldt).

But life went on, and people wanted to communicate (they wanted to be good neighbours in those times, too) and — take it or leave it — they had to interpret and had to translate. But still their translations were not without shortcomings and even left much to be desired.

And now, while the British scientist Theodore Savory says, in an effort to convince his colleagues, that "...both in the original and in translation, the matter is more important than the manner,"[1] the noted Russian writer Korney Chukovsky records: "The translator's aspiration for achieving semantic and stylistic identity of translation and the original is a lasting gain of our culture."[2]

An interpreter may say that translation is a bridge for mutual understanding among nations and that one has to know the laws and rules of engineering as well as to have the proper material for its construction at hand.

The theme of the present work is “English idioms and their Russian equivalents”.

Nowadays English is worth not just knowing, but it is worth really knowing. There is a great importance to understand up-to-date English. English is the chief language of international business and academic conferences, and the leading language of international tourism. 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. The English language becomes the means of international communication, the language of trade, education, politics, and economics. 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.

The understanding of the native speakers’ language is the international problem for our students. Our secondary schools teach the students only the bases of the English language. They do not prepare them to the British streets, and accommodations.

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.

The object of the work is the process of developing language guessing skills.

The subject of the work is idioms in English and Russian languages.

The hypothesis of the work is as following:

If we develop students’ awareness of using idiomatic sentences, we are sure to bring them closer to the authentically sounding speech.

The objective of the work is an attempt to study all the aspects of idioms, the cases of their usage and to analyze the frequency of idioms usage referring to English and Russian.

To achieve the set aim we determine the following tasks:

1. to classify idioms;

2. to study the problem of the translation of idioms;

3. to understand the aim of the modern usage of idioms;

4. to distinguish different kinds of idioms;

5. to analyze the frequency of idioms' usage referring to English and Russian.

For writing the present paper a number of scientific sources devoted to the problem of idioms have been analyzed. As the material for our research we used idioms taken from dictionaries and fiction.

For gaining the mentioned aim we used the following methods:

1. description;

2. observation;

3. critical study of scientific literature and fiction;

4. comparison and contrast;

Scientific novelty is concluded in the comparison of two languages, belonging to different language families.

Theoretical value consists in revealing the fact that idioms can’t and mustn’t be translated directly as such a branch of language as idioms are inseparably connected with nation’s mentality and mode of life.

The practical value consists in the fact that the present work is a valuable manual for specialists concerned with teaching English and can be used as a teaching guide for stirring up idiomatic sentences. The results of the investigation are aimed at raising the quality of translations and preventing mistakes in comprehension.

Some parts of this qualification work have been used at the English language lessons at Gulistan State University as a means of raising students’ interest and developing investigation skills.

Structurally the presented work consists of: Introduction, two chapters, conclusion, bibliography.

The introduction reveals the general survey of the whole work and determines idioms as an essential part of the general vocabulary.

The first chapter deals with semantic and stylistic identity when translating idioms.

The second chapter deals with approaches to the developing students’ language awareness on the base of using idioms in classes.

Bibliography comprises 23 sources. Books of paramount importance are belles-letters of American and English writers, scientific research of foreign and home linguists, Internet explorations defining dictionaries, articles from methodical journals. The basic works are the following: Кузьмин C.C.“Translating Russian Idioms” Moscow Higher School 1977, Bartlett, F. C. Remembering: A Study in Experimental and Social Psychology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, The Penguin Dictionary of English Idioms, New York, 1989, ЛевицкаяТ., ФитерманА., Обновлениефразеологическихединиц, ипередачаэтогоприемавпереводе. Тетради переводчика, №5, М., 1968, Арнольд И. В. Лексикология современного английского языка. М.: 1959.[3]


Chapter 1. The Importance of Achieving of Semantic and Stylistic Identity of Translating Idioms

2.1.1 Classification of Idioms

Idioms and fixed expressions. Idioms are fixed expressions that are usually not clear or obvious. The expression to feel under the weather, which means to feel unwell is a typical idiom. The words do not tell us what it means, but the context usually helps.

There are some simple rules how to deal with idioms. At first it’s important to think of idioms as being just like single words, then we must record the whole phrase in the notebook, along with the information on grammar and collocation.

This tin - opener has seen better days. (it is rather old and broken down; usually of Things, always perfect tense form). Idioms are usually rather informal and include an element of personal comment on the situation. They are sometimes humorous or ironic. As with any informal “commenting” word. That’s why we must be careful using them. It’s not a good idea to use them just to sound “fluent” or “good at English’. In a formal situation we can’t say: “How do you do, Mrs Watson. Do take the weight off your feet. ” (sit down) instead of “Do sit down” or “Have a seat”. It is important to know that their grammar is flexible. Some are more fixed than others. For instance, Barking up the wrong tree (be mistaken) is always used in continuous, not simple form, e.g. I think you’ re Barking up the wrong tree. Generally, set expression, for example, come to the wrong shop, go the way of all flesh, make somebody’ s blood boil, are idiomatical, they are also named phraseological. Besides, there are set expression such as pay a visit, make one’ s appearance, give help. Their interpretation is disputable. Some linguists consider them to be a not idiomatical part of phraseology, which is opposed to idiomatical. If the expression is idiomatical, then we must consider its components in the aggregate, not separately.[4] Idioms are a part of our daily speech.[5] They give expressiveness and exactness to oral and written language. It’s not easy to master idioms fluently. Word - for - word translation can change the meaning of the idiom. I’ve understood, that the study of the English lexicology should necessarily include study of phraseology. So, what is an idiom and phraseology? How can we translate idioms? Is it possible to translate idioms word for word and not to change their meaning?

Classification of idioms. Term “phraseology” is defined as a section of linguistics, which studies word collocations, and, on the other hand, a set of all steady combinations of words of the language. The stock of words of the language consists not only of separate words, but also of set expressions, which alongside with separate words serve as means of expressing conceptions.[6] A set expression represents a set phrase.

Stock of words of the language
Separate words Set expressions

Phraseological fusions To make up one’s mind

To make friends

Phraseological unities He plays with fire She burst into tears Phraseological collocations From head to foot To get on like a house on fire

Charter 1. Stock of words of the language According to the Academician V. V. Vinogradov’s classification phraseological units may be classified into three groups: phraseological fusions, phraseological unities and phraseological collocations.

Phraseological fusions[7] are completely non - motivated word - groups, such as heavy father – “serious or solemn part in a theatrical play”, kick the bucket – “die”; and the like. The meaning of the components has no connection whatsoever, at least synchronically, with the meaning of the whole group. Idiomaticity is, as a rule, combined with complete stability of the lexical components and the grammatical structure of the fusion. Phraseological fusions are called “traditional”, “set expression with fixed nomination”, “combinations”, ”set expression” in works of other researchers.

Phraseological unities[8] are partially non - motivated as their meaning can usually be perceived through the metaphoric meaning of the whole phraseological unit. For example, to show one’ s teeth, to wash one’ s dirty linen in public if interpreted as semantically motivated through the combined lexical meaning of the component words would naturally lead one to understand these in their literal meaning. The metaphoric meaning of the whole unit, however, readily suggests “take a threatening tone” or “show an intention to injure” for show one’ s teeth and “discuss or make public one’ s quarrels” for wash one’ s dirty linen in public. Phraseological unities are as a rule marked by a high degree of stability of the lexical components.

Phraseological collocations are motivated but they are made up of words possessing specific lexical valency which accounts for a certain degree of stability in such word - groups. In phraseological collocations variability of member - words is strictly limited. For instance, bear a grudge May be changed into bear malice, but not into bear a fancy or liking. We can say take a liking (fancy) but not take hatred (disgust). These habitual collocations tend to become kind of clichйs where the meaning of member - words is to some extent dominated by the meaning of the whole group. Due to this, phraseological collocations are felt as possessing a certain degree of semantic inseparability.

Classification of idioms for better understanding and learning. Vocabulary. Idioms can be grouped in a variety of ways. According to “English Vocabulary in Use” there are 3 groups of idioms.[9]

Grammatical By meaning By verb or another key word
verb + object verb + preposition phrase His fingers are all thumbs [clumsy] Do you mind my smoking? [object to]
hold someone’s hand [to take care of] rise the eyebrows [to wonder]

Charter 2. Different ways of grouping idioms. I’ve found some more more or less convenient ways of grouping the idioms

Classification of phraseological units according to their structure. There are two groups of idioms: nominal a black sheep (of the family) [shame of the family], and verbal to take risks (to risk) as I’ve already told you. As one can see on the diagram, there are more verbal idioms, approximately 65 percents, than nominal ones. In both groups there turns out to be too many idioms, therefore such way is difficult for remembering.

Academician V. V. Vinogradov’s classification. There are three groups of idioms according to this classification. The problem is the same as in the previous case. It’s not easy to remember all of these phraseological units.

Classification of phraseological units according to the parts of speech.[10] There are four groups: nominal phrases: hard luck [misfortune]; adjective phraseological units: all fingers and thumbs [clumsy]; verbal: to get on like a house on fire [to make progress]; adverbial: vice versa [conversely]. At last I tried to divide idioms into several groups, as it’s written in “English Vocabulary in Use”. I also added some more of them. According to this classification idioms can be divided into following groups. As everyday spoken language is full of fixed expressions that are not necessarily difficult to understand (their meaning May be quite’ transparent’) but which have a fixed form which does not change the first group is everyday expressions. These have to be learnt as whole expressions. These expressions are often hard to find in dictionaries. For example as I was saying (it takes the conversation back to an earlier point). This group includes three sub - groups.

Conversation - building expressions – these are some common expressions that help to modify or organize what we are saying. There are many expressions like these. For example: as I was saying (it takes the conversation back to an earlier point). Some everyday expressions can be grouped around key words. The preposition “in” for example, occurs in several expressions: in fact (really), in practice (actually). Common expressions for modifying statements are also a part of this group. For example: as far as I’m concerned (from my point of view). As... as... similes and expressions with ’like’ are easy to understand. If you see the phrase as dead as a doornail, you Don’ T need to know what a doornail is, simply that the whole phrase means “totally dead”. But it’s important to remember that fixed similes are not “neutral”; they are usually informal or colloquial and often humorous.

Idioms describing people[11] can be divided into two sub-groups:

Idioms connected with positive and negative qualities, for example: His fingers are all thumbs (he’s clumsy) or She has iron nerves (she’s composed). How people relate to the social norm, for example: I think Mary has a secret to hide (She keeps something from us). I have divided idioms describing feelings or mood into three sub - groups. They are positive and negative feelings, moods and states. For example: to get on someone’s nerves (to exasperate), to have a horror of (to disgust), to be as happy as the day is long (extremely content). Physical feelings and states. For example: to burst into tears (to cry). And people’s fear or fright. For example: She was scared stiff, (very scared). Next group is idioms connected with problematic situations. The first sub - group is problems and difficulties. For example: a hard luck (failure). The second sub - group is idioms related to situations based on get. For example: to get frustrated (defeat). The third sub - group is changes and staves in situations. For example: to change one’s mind (think better of it). At last idioms connected with easing the situation. For example: to do well (recover), to get off lightly (escape). Idioms connected with praise and criticism, for example: to go on at someone (criticize). Idioms connected with using language and communication. Idioms connected with communication problems. For example: to have a row with somebody (to quarrel). Good and bad talk. For example: stream of consciousness (flow of words). Talk in discussions, meetings, etc. For example: to strike up (a conversation) (to start a conversation). Idioms – miscellaneous. Idioms connected with paying, buying and selling. For example: to save up for (put by). Idioms based on names of the parts of the body. For example: to lend an ear (to listen to). Idioms connected with daily routine. For example: to do up (tidy up). There are also single idioms which cannot be included into described above groups. For example to run out (to come to an end) and some special groups of expressions in “Blueprint” such as all along (always), all in all (as a result), all of a sudden (unexpectedly). The last group of idioms is proverbs. For example: “Out of the frying Pan and into the fire” (from one disaster into another).

Differences in Idioms Usage in American English and British English

The background and etymological origins of most idioms is at best obscure. This is the reason why a study of differences between the idioms of American and British English is somewhat difficult. But it also makes the cases, where background, etymology and history are known, even more interesting. Some idioms of the "worldwide English" have first been seen in the works of writers like Shakespeare, Sir Walter Scott, Lewis Carroll or even in the paperbacks of contemporary novelists. An example of Shakespearian quotation can be found in the following sentence: "As a social worker, you certainly see the seamy side of life." Biblical references are also the source of many idioms. Sports terms, technical terms, legal terms, military slang and even nautical expressions have found their way to the everyday use of English language. Following are some examples of these, some used in either American or British English and some used in both:

"Having won the first two Tests, Australia is now almost certain to retain the Ashes." (Ashes is a British English idiom that is nowadays a well-established cricket term.)

"In his case the exception proves the rule." (A legal maxim -- in full: "the exception proves the rule in cases not excepted". Widely used in both American English and British English.)

"To have the edge on/over someone." (This is originally American English idiom, now established in almost every other form of English, including British English.)

"A happy hunting ground." (Place where one often goes to obtain something or to make money. Originally American English idiom from the Red Indians' Paradise.)

In the old days English idioms rarely originated from any other form of English than British English. (French was also a popular source of idioms.) Nowadays American English is in this position. It is hard to find an American English idiom that has not established itself in "worldwide English" (usually British English). This is not the case with British English idioms which are not as widespread. It has to be remembered that it is hard to say which idioms are actively used in English and which are dying out or have already died. Idioms are constantly dying and new-ones are born.

Some idioms may have gone through radical changes in meaning. The phrase - There is no love lost between them - nowadays means that some people dislike one another. Originally, when there was only the British English form, it meant exactly the opposite. The shift in meaning is yet unexplained. All dialects of English have different sets of idioms and situations where a given idiom can be used. American English and British English may not, in this respect, be the best possible pair to compare because they both have been developing into the same direction, at least where written language is concerned, since the Second World War. The reason that there is so much American influence in British English is the result of the following:

Magnitude of publishing industry in the U.S.

Magnitude of mass media influence on a worldwide scale

Appeal of American popular culture on language and habits worldwide

International political and economic position of the U.S.

All these facts lead to the conclusion that new idioms usually originate in the U.S. and then become popular in so-called "worldwide English". This new situation is completely different from the birth of American English as a "variant" of British English. When America was still under the rule of the Crown, most idioms originated from British English sources. Of course there were American English expressions and idioms too, before American English could be defined as dialect of English. Some examples of these early American English idioms follow:

"To bark up the wrong tree." (Originally from raccoon-hunting in which dogs were used to locate raccoons up in trees.)

"Paddle one's own canoe." (This is an American English idiom of the late 18th Century and early 19th Century.)

Some of these early American idioms and expressions were derived from the speech of the American natives like the phrase that "someone speaks with a forked tongue" and the "happy hunting ground" above. These idioms have filtered to British English through centuries through books, newspapers and most recently through powerful mediums like radio, TV and movies.

Where was the turning point? When did American culture take the leading role and start shaping the English language and especially idiomatic expressions? There is a lot of argument on this subject. Most claim that the real turning point was the Second World War. This could be the case. During the War English-speaking nations were united against a common enemy and the U.S. took the leading role. In these few years and a decade after the War American popular culture first established itself in British English. Again new idioms were created and old ones faded away. The Second World War was the turning point in many areas in life. This may also be the case in the development of the English language.

In the old days the written language (novels, poems, plays and the Bible) was the source from which idioms were extracted. This was the case up until WWII. After the war new mediums had established themselves in English-speaking society, there was a channel for the American way of life and the popular culture of the U.S. TV, movies and nowadays the interactive medium have changed the English language more to the American English direction. Some people in the Europe speak the Mid-Atlantic English, halfway from the British English to American English.

The influence of American English can even be seen in other European languages. In Finland, we are adopting and translating American English proverbs, idioms and expressions. It can be said that the spoken language has taken the leading role over the written and the only reason for this is TV and radio. Most proverbs and idioms that have been adopted to British English from American English are of spoken origin. This is a definite shift from the days before WWII. What will this development do to the English language? Will it decrease its value? This could be argued, but the answer would still be no. Languages develop and change. So is the case with English language and idioms.

How then does American English differ from British English in the use of idioms? There are no radical differences in actual use. The main differences are in the situations where idiomatic expressions are used. There have been many studies recently on this subject. American English adopts and creates new idioms at a much faster rate compared to British English. Also the idioms of American English origin tend to spread faster and further. After it has first been established in the U.S., an American idiom may soon be found in other "variants" and dialects of English. Nowadays new British idioms tend to stay on the British Isles and are rarely encountered in the U.S. British idioms are actually more familiar to other Europeans or to the people of the British Commonwealth than to Americans, even though the language is same. The reason for all these facts is that Britain is not the world power it used to be and it must be said that the U.S. has taken the role of the leading nation in the development of language, media and popular culture. Britain just doesn't have the magnitude of media influence that the United States controls.

The future of idiomatic expressions in the English language seems certain. They are more and more based on American English. This development will continue through new mediums like the Internet and interactive mediums. It is hard to say what this will do to idioms and what kind of new idioms are created. This will be an interesting development to follow, and by no means does it lessen the humor, variety and color of English language.

2.1.2 The Difficulties of Translation

Some say, translation is art based on knowledge. Of course, an interpreter must have a good knowledge of the idioms of the two languages as well as take decisions to the best of his (her) knowledge and taste.

Suppose one has to interpret the idiom "метатьгромыимолнии (вчей-л. адрес)" which is rather frequently used in the Russian press. The interpreter who wants to make his translation idiomatic has to look up a dictionary of Russian idioms to be sure of the idiom's meaning,and then to find in a dictionary of English idioms an adequate English idiom. This process seems to be ideal but our interpreter soon realizes that translation begins where dictionaries end.

The interpreter would realize that the idiom "метатьгромыимолнии" may mean three things in one: (1) бытьвстрашномгневе, (2) выкрикиватьбранныесловаи (3) чтоподобныедействия — "гнев" и "крик"— делонапрасноеилинеразумное.

So, it seems impossible to find a single English equivalent for all contexts. At first glance, however, it appears quite possible to find several English idioms and translate the Russian idiomatically 'by parts', that is,

(1) "бытьвстрашномгневе" may be expressed by 'to be beside oneself with rage' or 'to go up into the air' (i.e. explode with rage) or 'to fly off the handle' (which may, sometimes, correspond to the Russian "онсловносцеписорвался");

(2) "выкрикиватьбранныеслова" can be idiomatically expressed by 'to jump down smb.'s throat' (i.e. shout angry words at smb. though (3) it is needless and/or unwise to do) or by 'to go off the deep end' (i.e. speak with unduly anger). However, the resulting combination of an idiom of 'rage' and of that 'of needless shouting' appears to be too long in time to suit interpretation purposes, e.g., 'Beside herself with rage, she was jumping down his throat' or even 'She went up into the air and off the deep end about it'. The latter— we may note— sounds particularly funny due to the zeugma's effect. (Recall Ch. Dickens' zeugma: 'She fell into a chair and a fainting fit simultaneously'.)

On the other hand, the shortest way of translating the idiom "метатьгромыимолнии" may well be 'to hurl thunderbolts at smb.', that is, by means of a metaphor devised by experienced translators. This metaphor does not exist in the English language but is well understood when the context helps. We realize, at the same time, that the latter part of our combined equivalents, that is, 'to jump down smb.'s throat' and 'to go off the deep end' seem to be satisfactory for the purpose because their usage cannot be imagined beyond the scope of anger.

As one can see now, interpreters are not able to deal, in their work, only with the idioms (e.g., "Привычка—втораянатура") that may have, in English, their ready-made equivalents (e.g., 'Custom is second nature'). Interpreters have to be ready to create what we might call 'contextual equivalents' which do not exist in dictionaries.

And it is not at all enough to know the existing types of translation, that is, for example, to know that Russian idiomatic phrases can be translated by means of

(1) an English absolute monoequivalent ("складыватьоружие" - 'to lay down one's arms'),

(2) or by a relative equivalent ("встречатьчто-либовштыки" - 'to meet smth. at dagger-point'),

(3) or by a selected synonym ("метатьгромыимолнии" might, depending on a context, be translated either as 'to jump down smb.'s throat' or 'to go off the deep end' or 'to go up into the air', etc., etc., etc.),

(4) or metaphorically ("метатьгромыимолнии"- ‘tо hurl thunder bolts at smb.'),

(5) or, the last and the least, by a description ("встречатьчто-либовштыки"- ‘tо give smth. a hostile reception' or 'to meet smth. With resistance', or the like).

It is only natural that this very classification[12] (as any other) can and does show the result of the translation, whereas the process of translation is really quite different.

The choice of a particular type of translation is secondary and subordinate to the requirements that our translation should be (a) adequate and (b) idiomatic. Besides, the choice also depends on (c) the circumstantial factors of the language.

NOTE: The use of a descriptive translation may be justified, for one, if a certain idiom is repeated twice in the same paragraph. To avoid tautо1оgу and present a better style of narration, it is acceptable to translate one of the phrases descriptively.

One must learn how to translate an idiom by an idiom (e.g., "встречатьвштыки" by 'to meet at dagger-point') because descriptive translations (e.g., 'to meet with resistance') almost always happen to be not only emotively blank but also unable to serve as a basis for our applicating, in the process of translation, such important and necessary stylistic means as puns (e.g., "Онавстретилапредложениевштыки, ноштыкиееоказалисьтупыми".) or anti-idiomatic additions (e.g., "Онивстретилинашепредложениебуквальновштыки".) and many others to be thoroughly considered by us in this book later on.

Here are just the three idioms: "разводитьруками", "ахиллесовапята" and "метатьгромыимолнии". They deserve to be considered separately.


We see that, firstly, the phrase "разводитьруками" can be taken for a free word-combination and it would be an error, to do so. Secondly, I he idiom is in common with the language of gestures. And "Онразвелруками" is often translated as 'He shrugged his shoulders', for the Russian gesture is rarely employed in the English 'language of gestures'. And, thirdly, it is common knowledge that this and any gesture can mean different things and, thus, is to be understood accordingly. For instance, one may shrug one's shoulders as a sign of regret, astonishment, lack of understanding or information. And this is why this Russian phrase sometimes complicates the translators' life, and one would especially appreciate knowing that this phrase is frequently used both in the press and in colloquial speech. See how it is translated by our brothers-in-arms. Twoexamples:

(1) Папа-краб ходил, жаловатьcя капитану, тот только развел руками: «Жалуйтесь на них в Марселе, если угодно...» (А. Толcтой)

Papa crab went to complain to the captain but the latter only shrugged his shoulders: "You may complain about them in Marseilles if you wish..."

(2) Очень много богатства и очень мало настоящего искусства. В общем это то, что французскиехудожники, безнадежно разводя руками, называют «стиль Триумф». (И. Ильф, Е. Петров)

There was much wealth but little real art. As a whole, it was what French artists, helplessly shrugging their shoulders, called "style triumphe."

Thus, one can see that the nut is not so hard to crack. It is most often enough to 'shrug one's shoulders' and add the words 'in bewilderment' or 'helplessly', or anything that the gesture may mean.


The phrase "ахиллесовапята" (tr.: 'the Achilles' heel') is easier to dial with, for it exists only as an idiom. The phrase means: 'The weak or vulnerable spot in a man's character or a state's (company's, etc.) affairs.' (According to the legend, Achilles, with the exception of one heel, was protected against every weapon his enemies might use.) And 'the Achilles' heel' as a phrase has the definite article and the apostrophy to be observed and not to be 'bruised'. Example:

Но увы! и у него была ахиллесова пята, и он имел слабости... Подсохин любил писать. (И. Ламечников)

But alas! He had the Achilles' heel, too. Yes, he also had his own weakness... Podsokhin was fond of writing.


The phrase "метатьгромыимолнии" exists only as an idiom but its happens to be misleading. This phrase does not necessarily mean 'to frighten smb.' as one might wrongly guess. It means 'to be furious at smb.'

One can try and select a synonym (like 'to go off the deep end about smth.') out of the group of English synonyms but... the Russian context may oppose it, for these English phrases may turn out to be too colloquial to be used, say, in the translation of a newspaper text.

It seems, therefore, that in most of the cases we may safely use the method of translating this Russian phrase, 'literally and metaphorically', for a metaphor itself shows its colouring and intention in a flexible way: it is understood from the context, and the stronger the language of the context is the stronger the metaphor will sound. And the suggested metaphor is 'to hurl thunderbolts at smb. (or smth.)'.

This metaphor seems sufficient but it requires a material object for the action, that is, for 'hurling thunderbolts' at something worth 'hurling thunderbolts' at. In other words, one cannot 'hurl thunderbolts', say, at a 'fact' or an 'idea'. One can always do so at a 'person' as well as at something which is a 'state', 'company', 'newspaper' or the like. And in such cases as when there is no material object for our metaphorical action, one may resort-to the idiom 'to blow one's top' and say, for example, 'He blew his top... at the fact that...' or '...when he heard that...', which would mean just 'to be fuming'. The phrase 'to blow one's top' is used in the English press and is not very negative though it is quite expressive.

2.1.3 Synonymous Statements and Emphasis

The translation of the Russian idiomatic phrase "взять (брать) себявруки" (or: "держатьсебявруках") depends on the context, that is, on what the author means:

(a) "Взятьсебявруки" when one is under a moment's strain usually means 'to pull oneself together' and... stop crying or being panicky, or the like. Example:

...Клавдия, не приготовившая сложения и вычитания, громко заплакала посреди урока арифметики. Катя постучала карандашом о кафедру:

- Возьми сейчас же себя в руки, Клавдия. (А. Толстой)

...Klavdia, who had not done her addition and subtraction, burst out into loud sobs during the lesson, Katya knocked her pencil on the teacher's desk:

"Pull yourself together this moment, Klavdia."

(b) "ВЗЯТЬсебявруки" when someone is under a more or less permanent strain and is worrying about something usually means 'to take oneself in hand'. Example:

- Вообще-то надо тебе взять себя в руки,— порекомендовал Женя.— Если по-дружески, как мужчина мужчине, то ты, разумеется, способнее меня, но разбрасываешься, дружок. (Ю. Герман)

"By and large, I'd say take your- self in hand," Yevgeny said. "To be quite honest, as man to man, you're a lot cleverer than I am, but you can't stick to one thing at a time."

However, in the following extract, the man in love seems to believe t hat his nervous strain has a permanent nature though his friends who think the opposite advise him that he rather 'pull himself together' and not 'take himself in hand':

...Я, говорит, в своих чувствах не волен, моя любовь сильнее меня. Мы, конечно, с Сергеем Андреевичем рекомендовали ему в руки себя взять — куда там! Унего, видители, сдерживающиецентрыотказали. (Ю. Герман)

..."I can't help my feelings," he said, "my love is stronger than my will." Sergei Andreyevich and I naturally advised him to pull him- Self together—but he wouldn't listen. He said his control centres had snapped! How d'you like that?

(с) "Держатьсебявруках" and never show signs of fear or other emotions usually means 'to hold (or: keep) oneself in hand'. However, we must admit that this expression does not point to the amount of will power or, say, extreme efforts taken by the person in question for keeping control of himself. But precisely this can be conveyed by the phrase 'to keep a (tight) hold on oneself'. For instance, chain smokers and drunkards who try to abstain would undoubtedly say that they 'keep a tight hold on themselves'.

We have seen above that the phrase 'держатьсебявруках' can be expressed by several English phrases in different contexts. Why is it so?

We know, for instance, that one Russian word may correspond to two or more English words (e.g., "Нога" - 'leg' or 'foot', "палец'' - 'finger', 'thumb' or 'toe'). We would translate "Ондержалврукахкнигу" as 'He held a book in his hands' but "Онадержалаврукахребенка" as 'She held a baby in her arms'. Firstly, one language makes it possible not to express the difference between certain notions whereas the other language makes it obligatory to express it. In other words, the difference between languages lies in not what they can express (any thought can be expressed in any language) but in what they cannot help expressing.[13] Secondly, one can see that the words "hands" and "arms" have their own (different) meaning. But they perform the same function in the action "держатьвруках". Their meaning in this action comes to us from their function. The function (cause) is primary. The meaning (effect) is secondary. Thus, it is the function that has to be translated first thing and never mind by what means. Here, ends justify the means (lexical, grammatical, etc.).

Let us consider now some of the possible contextual functions of the phrase "смотретьсквозьпальцы" and how each particular function can be translated into English:

(а) "Смотретьсквозьпальцы" and 'to turn a blind eye (to smth.)' may perform one and the same function of 'ignoring on purpose',

(b) The function of 'pretending not to see smth. embarrassing or ;ht with danger' may be expressed by both "смотретьсквозьпальцы" and 'to shut one's eyes (to smth.)'.

(c) When a person who "закрываетглаза (начто-л.)" is criticized for it because he is believed 'to be irresponsible enough to overlook someone’s grave misconduct', one can say that the irresponsible person simply ‘turned a blind eye (to it)', which is, in fact, negative attitude in criticism in.

(d) The phrases "смотретьсквозьпальцы" and 'to look through one's fingers' (or. 'to wink at smth.') may be used in the function of 'to pretend (for some reason) not to see an error, piece of misconduct, etc'.

(e) And finally, "смотретьсквозьпальцы" may have the function of 'neglecting as being indifferent', that is, of 'not caring a damn (about smth.)' or simply 'not troubling'.

Thus, we can see that two phrases (in two different languages) that minim the same functions[14] can meet each other, shake hands and lake a junction as allies and brothers-in-arms.

Let us see now whether this rule is also good for sуnоnуms we to deal with.

It is common knowledge that two or more phrases are synonymous if and when some of their functions coincide. For instance, the Russian phrases "смотретьсквозьпальцы" and "закрыватьглаза (начто-л.)" are synonyms, for they may perform the same functions, namely, functions "b" and "c". And consequently, it means that both of the phrases performing function "b" can be translated by the English phrase 'to shut one's eyes' as well as bоth of them performing function "c" can be translated by means of 'to turn a blind eye'.

The Russian language has a tendency of not letting a thought be expressed somewhat partially, for it hates preservations and hints. It prefers to dot the "i's" and cross the "i's". For instance, a Russian speaker would seldom use an idiom (e.g., "уменязубназубнепопадает") without adding anything more specific (e.g., "яоченьпродрог") which is to explain what the speaker exactly means. If, on the other hand, the Russian speaker says "яоченьпродрог", he is often inclined to add "зубназубнепопадает" in order to draw the listener's attention to the significance of the fact.

The English language, on the contrary, has quite an opposite tendency. Just see the following example:

"Evidently," Mason said, "your detective is somewhat green at the game." (E. S, Gardner)

One can see that the English language does not insist that the speaker (Mr. Mason) should give an explanation of his idiom and say something like '[because] your detective doesn't know his work well.’

Conclusion: It is true that interpreters are normally expected to translate the information in detail. However they may, in cases of sуnonуmоus statements, translate only the idiomatic part of a pair of statements under the condition that the idea expressed in the idiom is 100% intelligible to the listener and the 'explanation' does not contain new information. Such a way of translation will suit the said requirements of the English language and, besides, will enable you to condense the-translated information in case you are interpreting it simultaneously.

2.1.4 Indices for Interpretation

Indices for interpretation: meaning and usage. Image as selected designation. Beware translating designations.

In physics, mathematics and other exact sciences, two or more phenomena are considered equivalent when they have authentic indices, that is, when all their indices coincide.

The same cam be said about two (Russian and English) idioms, except that interpreters are never able to deal only with absolute equivalents like "Привычка— втораянатура" = 'Custom is second nature'. We have to deal with relative equivalents whose indices, not all, but at least the main ones do coincide.

Idiomatic phrases have four main indices to their equivalency which are, to us, indiсеs for interpretation (переводческиепоказатели). They are: meaning (mng), conditions of usage (use), emotive overtones (o-t) and style (sty).

You can see that meaning, as an index for interpretation, describes the essence of the action (or event) whereas usage shows the conditions under which a given idiom may be used altogether, that is, the forms of the action, its aims, etc. For instance, in the phrase 'to pull the wool over smb.'s eyes' (mng: to deceive, to fool; use: when a person wants to do it by not letting smb. know smth.) the obligatory condition under which the phrase may be altogether used by a speaker, is 'by not letting smb. know smth.' (the form of the action).

If one takes, say, a number of synonyms (e.g., 'to throw dust in smb.'s eyes', 'to draw a red herring', 'to pull smb.'s leg', etc.) whose meaning is, naturally, the same (e.g., to deceive, to fool), one can see that most of them, if not all, differ by conditions of their usage. It is, then, the condition of the usage, the core of the idiom,[15] that may and, often, should be considered first.

Case 1

The easiest case is when an interpreter who deals with an idiom like “сводитьконцысконцами” finds, among its English synonyms (e.g., 'to live from hand to mouth', 'to keep the wolf from the door', 'to make both ends meet', etc.), one (e.g., 'to make both ends meet') whose main indices coincide with those of the Russian phrase. The job is done, then. The required English idiom is in the bag. Translation begins.

Case 2

In case both of the usage indices (the cores of the idioms!) coincide and meanings do not, one may try to alter the image of the English phrase and adjust its meaning to the requirements of the Russian meaning. Thus, "He такстрашенчерт, какегомалюют" becomes practically equivalent to 'The devil is not as terrible (instead of 'so black') as he is painted'.

In case meaning indices coincide and usage indices do not, the job of the interpreter is not a bed of roses. One is expected to know the items (i.e., every condition) of the Russian phrase's usage and be prepared to translate them idiomatically. Then, a descriptive translation of the idiom's meaning can be added to our idiomatic translation of the usage and placed after it as an 'explanation' of the English idiom (like 'explanation' in a pair of cause-and-effect relation statements) if the meaning is not clear from the context itself.

For instance, the phrase "пускатьпыльвглаза" (mng: to deceive, to hoodwink) has at least three permanent items of its usage.

We have not been able to avail ourselves, in this case, of the English phrase 'to throw dust in smb.'s eyes' though its dust-in-the-eyes image is similar to the "пыльвглаза" image of the Russian phrase. The usage of this English phrase differs from that of the Russian idiom:

'to throw dust in smb.'s eyes'

use: to deceive by preventing a person from seeing the true state of affairs (as if by impairing a person's vision so that he cannot see things clearly).

Had one translated the phrase "пускатьпыльвглаза" by means of ‘to throw dust in smb.'s eyes' (tr.: сбиватького-л. столку) it would have been an error which can be generally considered typical of inexperienced interpreters and translators.

2.1.5 Proverbs Figurativeness and Its Means

Translators are faced with formidable problems. Many writers and poets thought it necessary to voice their opinion of how one should approach proverbs. V. A. Zhukovsky[16] stressed that translators "should produce the effect of the original." Not a few writers likewise opposed literal, word-for-word translations of proverbs (and we know this to be true), the question however remains: how should they be translated? V. G. Belinsky said that "the internal life of the translated expression should correspond to the internal life of the original."[17] This is true again. It seems therefore that we should do this, that and the other. We agree to do this, that and the other... But, apparently, we must focus our attention on figurativeness when translating proverbs.[18] Thus, our translation of a proverb must either be, in fact, an English proverb or an idiomatic sounding metaphor. And this seems to be the right answer to the question of what we must do above all, especially because "The corresponding image as well as the corresponding phrase do not always present a visible adequacy of words."

The translation difficulties usually arise in cases when (a) there happens to be no corresponding English proverb that we can use for our translation or (b) when the existing "ready-made" equivalent (e.g., an English proverb) cannot be used as it is because, for example, the Russian proverb is innovated in speeсh and, thus, may convey a specific additional meaning.

An analysis of translators' work shows that we may have the following means at our disposal in order to overcome these difficulties and to ensure the figurativeness of our translation: (1) use of rhymed and/or rhythmically arranged metaphors, (2) use of English phrases, proverbs and their components as a basis of one's translation, (3) utilization of the structures of English proverbs, (4) use of innovation as a means of adequacy, (5) use of colloquialisms and special introductions , etc. It is the соmplex use of these means which could guarantee the desired result.

Rhymed Metaphors

A rhyme alone is a supplementary means. For instance, the rhymed words "Winston tastes good like a cigarette should" have a meaning which is in no way metaphorical. These cigarettes are real, and one cannot say the same of the words "Либодождик, либоснег—либобудет, либонет". Both "дождик" and "снег" are metaphorical. This Russian saying was once translated as "Who knows — maybe rain and maybe snow, maybe yes and maybe no."

And a rhymed metaphor made this sound proverbial.

Of course, it is hardly possible to make a satisfactory rhymed metaphor in the process of interpretation (not translation). However, it is good to know a number of rhymed metaphors by heart so that they could be used as "ready-made" equivalents of some of the 'difficult' and frequently used Russian proverbs.

Naturally translators must often translate Russian proverbs that do not have their "ready-made" English equivalents. Translations show that some of our colleagues seem to think that one should try to convey only the meaning of such proverbs. Thus, the proverb "Делонемедведь, влеснеубежит" was once translated as 'Business is no bear, to run away to the forest'. (And Prof. M. M. Morozov praised this particular translation.[19] ) Yet, the process of this translation was actually terminated at the stage of 'transposition'. It could have been continued: "Делонемедведь, влеснеубежит" -»- (Transposition:) 'Business is no bear, to run away to the forest' (Idiomatization by way of making the metaphor rhymed and by means of grammatical restructuring:) 'Business is no bear, it won't go nowhere'. One can see that we have excluded the word 'forest' as an obviously redundant detail, and used the grammatical colloquialism "won't go nowhere" (double negation).

Suppose we have to construct a pun. As soon as our translation is figurative (i.e. has an idiomatic background), we would have no problem at all in making a play on any of the metaphor's components. Example:

Это неправильно говорится: «Дело — не медведь, в лес не уйдет». Дело и есть медведь, уходить ему незачем, оно облапило и держит. Делочеловеку- барин. (Горький, ДелоАртамоновых)

It is not true that 'Business is no bear, it won't go nowhere.' Business is a bear, and there's no reason for it to go. It's got too good a hold on us. Man is a slave of his business!

Use of Proverbs' Structures

Here is an example of an attempt to translate the English proverb "Make hay while the sun shines". This proverb was used in speech being innovated grammatically and lexically: 'to make hell while the sun shines'. The lexical innovation ('hell' instead of 'hay') presents a problem in translation. And life shows[20] that the translation practice does not exclude the following way of solving this problem. Example:

I positively refuse to understand those who anywhere and everywhere wish "to make hell while the sun shines."

Я решительно отказываюсь понимать людей, которые везде и повсюду стремятся к тому, чтобы, "пользуясь благоприятны» ми обстоятельствами, натворить как можно больше бед".

True enough, the translator cannot use here the Russian proverb "Куйжелезопокагорячо" but... we can use its structure to make the 'transposed' translation figurative, that is, to make a solid metaphor out of it.

The Russian proverb consists of two parts: "(1) Куйжелезо (2) покагорячо". The 'transposed' translation also consists of two parts: (1) пользуясьблагоприятнымиобстоятельствами (2) натворитькакможнобольшебед.

The process of our translation would be as follows: 'to make hell while the sun shines' (Transposition:) → "пользуясьблагоприятнымиобстоятельстваминатворитькакможнобольшебед" → (Restructuring by means of using the Russian proverb's structure:) "коватьжелезопокагорячо" → "делатьчто-л. покавозможно" → "творитькакможнобольшебедпокавозможно" → (Idiomatization by way of making a rhymed metaphor:) "вредитьбезбожнопокавозможно". Thus:

I positively refuse to understand those who anywhere and everywhere wish "to make hell while the sun shines."

Я решительно отказываюсь понимать людей, которые везде и повсюду стремятся к тому, чтобы "вредить безбожно пока возможно."

The conclusion is that one should better not stop at the stage of 'transposition'. One should move farther, till the end of the translation process. As a poet said, "The inn that shelters for the night is not the journey's end."

See the following example of a translation from Russian into English, which is based on an American proverb's structure:

У русских есть такая поговорка: «Всяк кулик свое болото хвалит».

We Russians have a proverb which says that every snipe praises its own bog.

It is easy to see that the translation process was as follows: "Всяккуликсвоеболотохвалит" -> (Transposition:) 'Everybody speaks well of one's own home [or the like]' -> (Restructuring and idiomatization by way of using the structure of the proverb 'Every cook praises his own broth') 'Every smb (smth) praises his (its) own smth' -> 'Every snipe praises its own bog.'

Metaphors Based on Phrases

The method of making a metaphor based on a "ready-made" phrase (or two), is both productive and substantial. It is substantial to the extent that it does not necessarily need rhyming a metaphor based on an English phrase. For instance, Y. Katzer and A. Kunin made it a point in their book on translation[21] that the Russian proverb "Москванесразустроилась" could be translated as 'Moscow was not built in a day', that is, they say, it could be constructed "according to the pattern" of the English proverb 'Rome was not built in a day'. In fact, they pointed to the method of making the proverb's translation based on an English saying (i.e., "Москванесразустроилась" → 'Rome was not built in a day' → 'Moscow was not built in a day').

Some translators might say that to convey the subject-logical content of the information is what we should really want. And some others might say that we can consequently translate, for example, the proverb "Little pitchers have long ears" as "Детилюбятслушатьразговорывзрослых". However, the emotive-and evaluating content of the information must not be ignored and should be translated. And one can see that "Детилюбятслушатьразговорывзрослых" does not convey any emotive evaluation. Besides, this translation does not sound proverbial.

The question is what would you feel if you happen to hear the statement "Детилюбятразговорывзрослых"? 'So what?' would be your most probable reaction.

Let us make this translation figurative and evaluating: 'Little pitchers have long ears' → (Transposition:) "Детилюбятслушатьразговорывзрослых" → (Idiomatization on the basis of Russian phrases:) "У [этих] детокслишкомдлинныеуши" or: "Бойтесьдетей → унихнамакушкелюбопытныеушки". Thus, we have based our first translation on the Russian phrase "укого-л. слишкомдлинныеуши" for the purpose of conveying negative overtones? And we based our second translation (a) on the Russian phrase "y кого-л. ушкинамакушке", (b) we also added "Бойтесьдетей" as a resume and a negative exaggeration bringing positive reaction, (c) and we used the internal addition "любопытные" (which is particularly used in the Russian phrase "ЛюбопытнойВарваре HOC оторвали"). As a result, we have got "Бойтесьдетей — унихнамакушкелюбопытныеушки" which is a cause-and-effect relation statement : "Бойтесьдетей [because] унихнамакушкелюбопытныеушки". (This can be compared with the metaphor 'Who knows — maybe rain and'maybe snow, maybe yes and maybe no' which is also a cause-and-effect relation statement.) And now one can make an experiment and check one's possible emotive reaction while comparing the following:

Original: Little pitchers have long ears.

Translation variants:

(1) Дети любят слушать разговоры взрослых. (2) Бойтесь детей — у них на макушке любопытные ушки. (3) У [этих] детокслишкомдлинныеуши.

Here is an example of a good and illustrative translation from Russian into English. The translator (Olga Shartse) had managed to make the proverb's translation figurative (by means of utilizing the English phrases 'to be brave as a lion' and 'to be like a lamb') which served, then, as a solid basis for her making a pun (and for conveying irony):

— Люблю парня за ухватку. Сразу видно, что молодец среди овец. (Ю. Герман, Я отвечаю за все)

"I like a good chap for his brave ways'. I can tell right away that you'd be brave as a lion with a lamb."[22]

Use of Colloquialisms

The linguistic means to be used in the metaphorical translation of proverbs are lexical and grammatical colloquialisms.

I. K. Sazonova[23] suggested the following examples of the different kinds of "stylistic colouring" which are (a) neutral, (b) bookish and (c) colloquial:

K- Sazonova's examples:

(a) Чтобы не было недоразумений, пойди, пожалуйста, туда и узнай, в чем дело.

(b) Во избежание недоразумений пойди, пожалуйста, туда и выясни, в чем дело.

(c) Сбегай туда и узнай, пожалуйста, что там, а то как бы чего не вышло.


(a) Would you please go -and see what is wrong there before something happens.

(b) In order to avoid misunderstanding, would you please be so kind as to clarify the situation there.

(c) Go find out what's wrong, or there may be trouble.

The Russian colloquial-style example presents the said means (lexical: the verb "сбегать", the phrase "какбычегоневышло"; grammatical: the subordinate clause "чтотам"). The translation of this example contains English colloquial means (lexical: 'trouble'; grammatical: 'go find out-', 'what's', 'or there may be').

Let us compare now the stylistic colouring of the two translations (given earlier); "пользуясьблагоприятнымиобстоятельствами, натворитькакможнобольшебед" and "вредитьбезбожнопокавозможно". One can see that their stylistic colouring differs. On the one hand, the words "пользуясьобстоятельствами" sound bookish. On the other hand, the word "безбожно" is a colloquialism and so is the word "пока" (compare: "Косикосапокароса", "Куйжелезопокагорячо").

We may also compare the two translations (see this Task): "Business is no bear, to run away to the forest" and "Business is no bear, it won't go nowhere". The first translation has no colloquialisms and its stylistic colouring is neutral. The second translation employs them and all of them are grammatical: "won't" is used instead of the neutral "will not", to say nothing1 of the double negation "won't go nowhere".

Incidentally, there is a very interesting and instructive story of how one translation by M. Lozinsky was once criticized by I. Kashkin as being "stylistically artificial".[24] Here is M. Lozinsky's translation (of a Roman proverb used by Prosper Merimee in his "Carmen"):

En vetudi panda nasti abela macha. En close bouche n'entre point mouche.

В рот, закрытый глухо, не залетит муха.

What do we find in this translation? The phrase "(туда) и муха не залетит" is colloquial. But this colloquialism is literally depressed by the bookish grammatical means (причастныйоборот) "закрытыйглухо". Besides, M. Lozinsky did not observe the requirements of proper collocation of words: Russian people never "закрываютротглухо", they "закрываютротплотно", if any. The "artificial" way of saying so also makes a bookish effect. (Where neutral-style means may pass being in one sentence with colloquialisms, the bookish-style words or expressions must never be used in a proverb's translation, for they would easily spoil the whole broth). And this is why, it seems, I. A. Kashkin had to suggest his own translation of that proverb:

"В закрытый рот и муха не попадет".

One can see that this translation employs the colloquial phrase "(туда) имуханепопадет" whereas other linguistic means are neutral there.

It is common knowledge that English (and Russian) proverbs may be not only rhymed:

Birds of a feather flock together. (Рыбак рыбака видит издалека.)

Well begun is half done. (Доброе начало полдела откачало.)

but also arranged rhythmically:

God helps those who help themselves. (На бога надейся, а сам не плошай.)

Once bitten twice shy. (Пуганая ворона куста боится.)

Making our proverbs' translations arranged rhythmically or/and rhymed is also a productive method. Example:

— И какая странная идея пришла в голову этому Привалову... Вот уж чего никак не ожидал. Какая-то филантропия...

— Это нам на руку: чем бы дитя ни тешилось, лишь бы не плакало. (Мамин-Сибиряк)

"Besides, what has gotten into Privalov? Who would think of it? Philanthropy!"

"He" s playing into our hands. As the saying goes, whatever toy or play makes the baby gay..."

And such translations as "Leave the child its toy — as long as it's amused" or "It does not matter what you do to humour your child as long as it does not cry" (etc.) speak for themselves. They do not sound proverbial.

The analysis of translators' works shows that this method is frequently neglected by or remains unknown to a number of translators. Here is just one example of how such 'difficult' proverbs happen to be translated. Let us see some of the published translations of the proverb "Это—цветочки, ягодкивпереди":

(i) It was only the beginning, the rest was still to come.[25]

(ii) That is mere blossoms, we'd like to show you the fruit and how it grows.[26]

(iii) This is only child's play to what is ahead of us.[27]

We have to say (in all fairness) that the last (iii) translation compensates the lack of rhythm (and rhyme) in it considerably by using two English expressions: (1) "to be child's play" and (2) "to be (or: lie) ahead (of smb)". The phrase 'to be ahead' has a neutral colouring. Its synonym 'to be in store (for smb)' is a bit more idiomatic to suit our aims:

"This is only child's play to what is in store for us."

Now, if we ensure proper rhythm in it, the translation may sound proverbial:

"It's child's play to what's in store."

This translation seems almost satisfactory. Yet, we can do more. We can try to make it rhymed:

"It is child's play: it's not as bad compared to what lies ahead."

Stop! That won't do. The words 'compared to' are bookish. They spoil the beans. Let us make another try:

"It's child's play: it's not as bad as what lies ahead."

The stylistic means are correct here. But the rhythm leaves much to be desired, to put it mildly. Besides the translation is too long. Let us make still another try:

"It's-only child's play to what is on the way."

Now, we can call it a day. The translation is all right. In other words, we have managed to arrange rhythm and rhyme.

We wouldn't say that these translation variants are absolutely tiptop. Yet, they are better than those quoted above. And they can be an example of several methods of translating used in complex: rhythm and/or rhyme, colloquialisms and English phrases. All of these taken together help to provide our translation with the necessary idiomatic background, that is, to make it figurative.

A rhythmically arranged translation of a proverb might be still in need of a preliminary 'introduction' like "as the saying goes", "as we in Russia say", etc. (Such an 'introduction' is, in fact, an "appeal" to the listener or reader: "Please understand that this is said figuratively!"). And a rhymed translation may nоt need this at all.

Epigrams and translation.

"Аларчикпростооткрывался" (which is a quotation from the fable "Ларчик" И. А. Крылова) is a stylistic device termed an epigram. Such quotations from writers' works have become proverbs. Consequently, this permits us to treat epigrams as proverbs in the process of translation.

This means 1hat our translations of epigrams should be rhymed and have rhythm as proverbs often should (and be brief as proverbs should, too, because proverbs are used mostly in monologues and dialogues and not in author's narration). And this is why we have to foresee the possibility of translating epigrams in the form of two-line rhymed verses.

For instance, the translation

Нельзя ли для таких прогулок Подальше выбрать закоулок?

Could you not choose, When forth you sally, Some more remote And proper alley?

...is the translation of the epigram made as a verse and not proverb-like. (It is too long in space to be used in one's interpreting, say, a conversation or speech without difficulty.) We have to make it sound brief and, thus, proverbial. For instance, the variant:

"It's no place for your parades. It's no place for promenades."

...may satisfy us because the epigram really means "Never choose this place for your promenades" or "It's net a proper place for your promenades," or the like. However, this epigram sounds sarcastic ("Нельзяли...") and this effect should be reproduced in our translation:

"It's no place for your parades, nor for Sunday promenades."

Another specific point in translating epigrams is that 'transposition' itself may not convey the idea of the epigram in full for the reason that a Russian listener takes in not merely what an epigram says but what is behind it, what it means being a small part of a bigger context.

One of K. S. Stanislavsky's ideas was that an actor (i.e. a translator, in our case) should know well not only the words he had to say (i.e. the meaning of the epigram's components,, in our case) but also what events had taken place behind the stage (i.e. the situation that had given life to the epigram) prior to the moment he started acting accordingly. And this may be applicable to our translating epigrams more often than not.

Hence, our proverb-like translation should better convey the highlights of the general situation in which the epigram gets its specific meaning. For instance, life shows that one might translate the epigram:

"Раззудись, плечо! Размахнись, рука!"

...as (a) "Don't hustle, don't bustle, But strain every muscle!"

This is sure to convey the idea of the epigram's components, of the words ("Strain every muscle") neglecting the situation of 'cutting hay' as is actually described in the whole verse (and which the English listener, unlike the Russian one, will never presuppose nor understand upon hearing the epigram's words only). This is why we suggest the variant:

(b) "Swing and sway — Cut the hay!"

We could not ignore the bigger context ('hay-cutting') which is always presupposed by the Russian people when they use this epigram.

Classification of translations

As far as the results of our translation process are concerned, they can be classified as follows.

(1) Translation by an English absolute monoequivalent.[28]


время — деньги - time's money

(2) Translation by an English relative equivalent.


семьбед — одинответ - we might as well be hanged for a sheep as a lamb

(3) Translation by a synonymous equivalent.

In the original: выноситьсоризизбы.

In translation: to tell tales out of school;

(4) Translation by a translator's equivalent.

(a) being an innovated English proverb, example:


It's easy to open this poke and see the pig.

(b) based on English phrases or/and their components; example:

— Молодец! — сказал Цветков.— Люблю парня за ухватку. Сразу видно, что молодец среди овец. (Ю. Герман, Я отвечаю за все)

"Good chap," Tsvetkov said. "I like a good chap for his brave ways. I can tell right away that you'd be brave as a lion with a lamb."

(c) based on an English proverb's structure; example:"

Всяк кулик свое болото хвалит.

Every snipe praises its own bog.

(d) arranged rhythmically or/and rhymed; example:

На войне, чтобы обмануть врага, чтобы нанести ему неожиданный удар, придется совершать марши подлиннее и потяжелее, чем этот. Это — цветочки, а ягодки будут впереди. (А. Бек, Волоколамское шоссе)

In war, to surprise the enemy, and to deal him a blow from an unexpected quarter, we will have to make much longer and more difficult marches than this one. It's only child's play to what is on the way.

(e) by metaphorical explanation; example:

Вот уж воистину голодной лисе всё куры снятся!

This is really a case оf a hungry fox dreaming about chickens.

Translating by English equivalents

Translating by English equivalents (being relative more often than riot) seems to be the most productive way of making our proverbs' translations figurative.

When using this method, translators and interpreters have to observe that an equivalent is properly selected from the dictionary, that is, the chosen equivalent:

(a) should be able to convey the Russian proverb's indices for interpretation: meaning, usage, overtones and style;

(b) it should particularly answer the obligatory requirement that its meaning could be understood even by those who hear the English proverb for the first time.

(c) Besides, it is preferable that the equivalent itself should not be archaic,

(d) and its image should be as close to that of the Russian proverb as possible.

(e) The equivalent should not have undesirable connotations.

Chapter 2. The Development of Students Language Awareness on the Base of Using Idioms in Classes

2.2.1 Pedagogical implications

This paper offers some suggestions (including sample exercises) for the teaching of idiomatic language. First, the relation between non-idiomatic and erroneous language in foreign language learning is examined, and it is concluded that non-idiomatic sentences do not so much break categorical rules as venture into the grey area of weak combinatorial probabilities between linguistic items. Idiomaticity is thus seen as a scale, but less idiomatic is not necessarily to be equated with less acceptable, since both conventionalised and original language have their place in discourse. Crucial is the issue of appropriateness in context. Full-blown idioms represent firm collocations whose meaning is conventionalised and metaphorical. Where this meaning takes on an aphoristic quality we have proverbs. The underlying principle of metaphor provides a structural systematicity to the lexis, which extends far beyond full idioms into all but the most core uses of lexical items. It is suggested that exercises of a problem-solving nature will help learners to unearth these pervasive metaphors in idiomatic language, and some exercises are presented.

This has important pedagogical implications. Bartlett[29] (1932) established in a whole series of experiments in which subjects were presented with incomplete or inconclusive drawings or narratives that subjects sought to impose meaning on the item by fitting it into their own meaning structures. Thus, stories which contained references to unfamiliar cultural practices were modified in memory so as to fit in with subjects' own cultural expectations. Bartlett called this essential characteristic of human cognitive processing "effort after meaning". The very fact that idiomatic language and proverbs are so semantically opaque makes them excellently suited to a problem-solving approach in teaching which can exploit learners' innate cognitive drive to make sense out of their environment. The exercises presented below are intended to be purely indicative of the approach I am advocating, rather than being a recipe for success. There is nothing cut and dried about them. Rather, they are intended merely as guidelines whereby the teacher can stimulate cognitive activity. They are intended to be used not as a testing instrument but as a teaching aid to provoke discussion and brain-storming. Comparisons with the L1 should be encouraged so that learners become aware in which respects their language resembles English in the underlying conceptual metaphors it employs and where it differs. In multi-cultural classes interesting patterns of similarity and difference emerge here, and clearly this is a field which has been hardly researched. Students will become highly motivated to translate their language's metaphor into English so as to impart to the class their own culture's method of metaphorical encoding. Sometimes reasons for similarities and differences among languages can be adduced from obvious cultural differences (e.g. metaphors deriving from the Bible in Christian cultures, or differences concerning gastronomy, climate, geography), but some- times differences are not explicable. I have also found that students react evaluatively to different metaphors in different languages, such as English a bull in a china shop compared to German an elephant in a china shop. One can debate which the «better» metaphor is.

Sample Exercises: A

Task: 1) Try to work out the meaning of these idioms.

2) Do you have idioms in your language which have the same meaning as some of these?

a storm in a teacup

to have your heart in your mouth

to have a bone to pick with someone

to cut off your nose to spite your face

to drink like a fish

to kill two birds with one stone

to be like a cat on hot bricks

to make a mountain out of a molehill

to pull someone's leg

once bitten twice shy

Comment: This exercise should be done in groups. The teacher should
first make sure that the literal meaning of each lexical item is known to the class. (Dictionaries should not be used). Otherwise students are not in a position to employ inferencing strategies. Often L1 idioms will help students to arrive at the solution. Sometimes there will be false friends, however. This is all to the good, since when the teacher goes through the solutions, it is the incorrect guesses which will be focused on so as to aid retention in memory of the correct solution, which the teacher will first try to coax from students and, if all fails, will explain.

In the above form the exercise is suitable for advanced students. Much interesting discussion and exchange of information will arise from inter-lingual comparisons in a multilingual class, as students work hard to literally translate their own L1 equivalent idiom. This promotes the sort of cognitive analytic activity which will help to build a separate store of L2 idioms linked by meaning associations to the much richer L1 store. All students will benefit from the realisation that different languages may use different conceptual metaphors.

For less advanced classes the task can be facilitated by means of line drawings of the idioms' underlying metaphor which students first have to match to the appropriate idiom. Next, they may match idiom and drawing to a jumbled list of definitions which the teacher has prepared.

For even weaker classes some vestige of cognitive activity can still be maintained while employing a rather spoon-feeding method of presentation. Exercise B is an example of this (using different idioms). Here, students do not even have to match idioms to a jumbled list of definitions. The idiom is followed by its definition, but a key word is missing. Key words are presented separately in jumbled order and the exercise operates on a cloze principle. This exercise is suitable for individual work. Experience has shown me that the idioms are better retained in this way than if they had merely been presented with definitions already complete.

Exercise B

Task: 1. Complete the blanks below with the correct word. Use each word only once.

2. Do you have equivalent idioms in your language for any of these meanings? "Translate" your native idioms into English. See if the person next to you understands.

Don't count your chickens before they are hatched.

This means: DON'T BE OVER- -----

He is like a bull in a china shop.

This means: HE IS VERY- -----

His bark is worse than his bite

This means HE IS ----- THAN HE LOOKS.

Every cloud has a silver lining.


Hold your horses.

This means: ----- A MOMENT.

She is down in the dumps.

This means: SHE IS -----

He couldn't keep a straight face.

This means: HE COULDN'T KEEP HIS FACE -----

WORDS: good, clumsy, kinder, optimistic, serious, depressed, wait.

Comment: Task 1 is best done individually. In Task 2 the opportunity is
provided for pair work in the multilingual class. Afterwards results can be compared in plenum concerning those idioms, which are comprehensible when "translated" into English from various.

Exercise C

Task: Express the underlined sections of the following text with
language which expresses the same meaning more or less.

Example: I was feeling a bit down in the dumps - I was feeling a bit depressed

I was feeling a bit down in the dumps because it was raining cats and dogs, so I went to see Bill. Bill drinks like a fish because his work drives him up the wall. He is an EFL teacher. But he would never leave you in the lurch. Today I found him like a cat on hot bricks because he was bored. We decided to kill two birds with one stone by going to the pub and the launderette. We had a bone to pick with the barman in any case because he had forgotten to reserve the dartboard for us the previous day. We decided that not to go to the pub in protest would be just cutting off our noses to spite our faces. We did not want to make a mountain out of a molehill either.

Comment: This exercise is best done in groups. Learners should be encouraged to use the context for meaning clues rather than puzzling over the surface meaning of the idiomatic units devoid of context. The passage has been deliberately contrived to provide lots of semantic clues: for example, if it is raining one tends to feel depressed rather than elated, and one is more likely to feel depressed if it is raining heavily rather than lightly. Again, the "two" birds with one stone are picked up by the two nouns "pub" and "launderette". For this reason, another approach to the exercise would be for the teacher to take the class through the reasoning processes by which meaning may be inferred from context by paying attention to anaphoric, cataphoric and exophoric reference.

Exercise D

Task 1): Arrange these proverbial expressions into pairs of opposite (or at least "near opposite"!) meaning:

1) No man is an island

2) Necessity is the mother of invention

3) Spend and God will send

4) The more, the merrier

5) We are ships that pass by night

6) He who hesitates is lost

7) You can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear

8) Many hands make light work

9) Too many cooks spoil the broth

10) Fools seldom differ

11) Where ignorance is bliss, 'tis folly to be wise

12) A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush

13) Look before you leap

14) Great minds think alike

15) Two's company, three's a crowd

16) A man's reach should exceed his grasp

17) Look after the pennies and the pounds will take care of themselves

18) We can't go through life with our heads buried in the sand

(Answers are: 1 & 5, 2 & 7, 3 & 17, 4 & 15, 6 & 13, 8 & 9, 10 & 14, 11 & 18, 12 & 16)

Task 2): For each of the following two proverbs find a proverb in the
above list which is very similar to it in meaning?

19) Faint heart never won fair maid

20) Fools rush in where angels fear to tread

(Answers are: 19 & 16, 20 & 13)

Comment: This exercise is again best done in small groups or pairs. Learners should be encouraged to look for "easy" pairs first, rather than going through the list one by one. Sometimes the lexical items are clues to the contrasting pairs (e.g. 1 & 5, where "ship" and "island" function as mutual clues and cues). The exercise can be made less demanding by the teacher prompting and helping the learners in this way. Sometimes the lexical link is not quite so obvious, but nevertheless can be uncovered (e.g. 4 & 15, where "two, three" cue "more"). Note, how "fools" in 10 contrasts with "great minds" in 14, whereas within 20 the contrast is between "fools" and "angels", a contrast which may not be at all obvious to all learners, involving as it does what Leech calls "historical meaning" of the word "angel". Learners should be encouraged to puzzle over this and access their world knowledge, but the teacher must ultimately be prepared to provide elucidation. It is less important how many of the pairs learners get right than that they get to grips with the detailed semantics of these proverbial expressions, becoming conscious of both literal surface meaning of the individual parts and the total metaphorical meaning of the expression. In this respect reference to how L1 expresses the same ideas may be helpful. A tolerant attitude to some "second best solutions" should be adopted by the teacher. For instance, 1 and 18 could also go together as opposites, and this solution is rejected only because 11 and 5 form a poor pair of opposites. This exercise can be used as a point of departure for discussion in various directions, and has certainly been far from exhausted when the tasks listed above have been done. The exercise thus provides a lead-in to these literary texts, excerpts from which could be read to show how the expression was first used. Experience proves that if such expressions are not to go in one ear and out the other, then intensive work of this nature is necessary. It is interesting to uncover the basic image underlying these expressions which in some cases is not obvious, for example, the ostrich in 18, the metaphorical force of "mother" and the sense of "invention" (i.e. "initiative", "inventiveness") in 2.

I would like to offer one final exercise to show how the metaphor approach towards idiomatic language may be extended to teaching vocabulary more generally, not only to firmly fixed idioms. The point I wish to make is that certain lexical fields can be applied to various contexts in a way which is not always realised. It is in this way that words acquire a range of meaning, even if the proficient language user is not aware of this, precisely because the given non-linguistic context already delimits his or her meaning expectations for various lexical items. Situational and communicative approaches to language teaching often stop short of showing how vocabulary learned for a particular context can be reapplied in others, although this is what is continually being done in language use, for example, as mentioned above, when the economy is discussed in terms of the lexis of sickness and health.

The following example exercise would be intended as a follow-up to a comprehension passage done in the previous lesson and seeks to activate the slumbering vocabulary recently encountered. It takes the vocabulary of emotion as used in a passage from a novel dealing with the death of a young boy, and places it in a very different context, namely a football match. Cognitive effort is thus required by the learners to lift vocabulary out of one context, perceive its semantic characteristics and apply it appropriately in another context. Below is a condensed version of the comprehension passage.

Comprehension Passage to precede Exercise E

It was about three weeks after my little brother had died. Barely were we all sitting together in the living room when my mother and aunts began talking about Edward. At first their voices were subdued, but gradually they rose as the women became more and more excited, and the words came flooding out. "Yes," cried my Aunt Lucy and my mother in chorus. He was too good to stay with us, too good. He was a saint!" Carried away by their own emotion, they became almost ecstatic in their exaggerated utterances. I sat there very quiet and afraid, I too was carried away by the emotion; I felt feverish and my eyes grew moist. My father was perfectly still. Once in a while I glanced at him. He looked very upset and he didn’t join in the conversation. I knew there was going to be an incident. The tension mounted. Suddenly he rose to his feet. His eyes flashed violently.

"Stop it," he said, and real anger was in his voice. "Stop talking about him like that. He wasn't a saint; he was just an ordinary boy, guilty of wrong like anyone else, and I won't have you talk about him like that." The underlined words represent those that will be required in the following exercise. To what extent the teacher would single these out for pupils and focus attention on them is up to him or her and the level and ability of the class in question. Of course, there are other vocabulary items pertaining to emotion in the passage (e.g. "moist", "flashed", which it has not been possible to incorporate into the exercise. This is in the nature of things if the following contrived passage is to be both short and reasonably natural.

Exercise E

Task 1): Fill in the blanks in the passage below with the underlined words and phrases from the passage above. Use each word or phrase once only. You may change the morphological form of words (e.g. tense and aspect of verbs, number of nouns) or the grammatical class (e.g. you may make a noun from a verb or an adjective from an adverb etc.).

(The passage is presented below with the blanks completed)

Once in a while I go to see a football match. Last Saturday I joined the thousands of fans flooding into St. James's Park to watch Newcastle United play Leeds United. I arrived two minutes before kick-off, so I was barely in time. The first few minutes of play were rather subdued, but then the tension mounted, the crowd cried out in chorus, and, carried away by the emotion, I joined in. Soon Newcastle was feverishly attacking the Leeds goal. The Newcastle fans became almost ecstatic when their team scored. However, the goal was disallowed. This upset the Newcastle fans, who believed the referee had been guilty of showing favoritism, and there were some violent crowd incidents as angry fans ran onto the pitch.

Comment: As a further exercise for an advanced class learners could be asked to continue the football passage for themselves, trying to use some more vocabulary items from the original passage.

Alternatively they could be asked to paraphrase the vocabulary items used for both passages as follows: half the class would paraphrase the vocabulary as used in the original comprehension passage, and half as used in the football passage. This will underline for learners how the same words actually mean very different things in the two passages, but that there is a unifying common thread of meaning between them in the two contexts; For example, "upset" in the original passage means something like "deeply grieved", "near to tears with grief", "sad and angry". In the football passage it means (as a verb) "to annoy", "to irritate", "to exasperate". Note also the difference between "to feverishly attack a goal" and "to feel feverish", between a "violent incident" and "eyes flashed violently". Learners should be alerted to the processes of metaphor and metonymy at work here, for these are the processes by means of which the proficient language user finds words
for thought, and which we as teachers usually expect our learners.


Using the list of idiomatic expressions given below

a) make up a story;

b) make up dialogs.

Try to use as much idiomatic expressions as possible.

to be in a bind box;

to keep one’s eyes peeled;

to go at it hammer and tongues;

to lose one’s temper;

to take it on the chin;

to turn thumbs down;

to paddle one’s own canoe;

big frog in a small pond;

by word of mouth;

to burn the midnight oil;

bent out of shape;

to bite off more then one can chew;

to jump all over someone;

until you are blue in the face;

to be all ears.

The next task is to render the poem using the idioms under study.

They walked in the lane together,

The sky was covered with stars.

They reached the gate in the silence,

He lifted down the bars.

She neither smiled nor thanked him

Because she knew not how:

For he was just a farmer’s boy

And she the farmers cow.

To broaden the students’ language awareness of idioms we can suggest the following exercises:

I. Insert the missing element; use each idiom in a sentence.

shoot ... one's mouth make ... one's mind

fly ... one's handle prick ... one's ears

go ... one's head turn ... one's nose

II. Supply the necessary words.

play ... /действовать наверняка/ keep ... /скрывать/

drop ... /упасть замертво/ go ... /спятить/

take .../застать врасплох/ go ... /умереть/

think ... /хорошенько подумать/ make ... /удостовериться

make ... /быть высокого мнения/

III. Give Russian equivalents for:

back and forth once and for all

up and down on and off

to and fro then and there

through and through one and all

over and above all and sundry

now and again first and foremost

IV. Think of fifteen idioms that initiate with the preposition in

V. Insert articles if necessary.

take ... dislike to produce ... impression on

take ... liking to keep ... secret from

take ... fancy to cast ... glance on

make ... fuss about make ... attempt at

lend ... hand to pay ... visit to

VI. Analyse the structure of the idioms; compare the three groups from the viewpoint of grammar.

gain ground take an interest take the trouble

give way run a risk get the hang

get wind take a chance have the cheek

leave effect win a victory have the guts

take heed make a stand spill the beans

do good stretch a point know the ropes

mean harm lend a hand take the lead

eat dirt produce an effect take the starch

take action keep a secret tell the truth

lose interest make a crack blow the gab

give consent lift a finger save the day

make pretence cast a glance

VII. Define the meaning of each idiom; use thorn in a story.

take pains take chances

make friends make arrangements

speak volumes take steps

take decisions make plans

VIII. Arrange the following into groups of semantically related idioms.

at best at least at first

at last at worst at latest

at most at farthest at nearest

IX. Reproduce an episode from the book you are reading; employ the given idioms.

come to a head take into account

arrive at a decision come into existence

fly into a passion come into sight

X. Recall some more idioms of a similar structure: Verb + Preposition + Noun.

fall in love take by surprise

keep in check keep in mind

take in tow roll in money

XI. Give an idiom for each number.

1. pass away 5. fall for

2. take to 6. see through

3. make out 7. chime in

4. give in 8. pass on

XII. Group the idioms according to their structure.

in any case, in a whisper, in full cry, at all costs, on no account, in bad shape, at any rate, into the bargain, in deep water, at the same time, under the weather, in the long run, in a tight corner, at a moment's notice, in no time, by no means, on excellent terms, in a bad way, in a flash, in good humour, at arm's length, in the end, At close quarters, on a high horse, with breakneck pace.

Puzzle - making

The next task for students is to work out the puzzle by marching the idioms and their definitions. First, put puzzle-pieces on the desk with the word facing up Take one and match the idiom to the definition. Having done that, place the puzzle-piece, word-side-up, in the chosen rectangle. When you have used up all the pieces, turn them over. If they form a picture of a landscape, the choices are correct If not, rearrange the picture and check the idiom-definition correspondences.

The game objectives. To work out the puzzle, students had to match idioms with their definitions. The objective of the game was for each pair to cooperate in completing the activity successfully in order to expand their vocabulary with, in this case, colloquial expressions.

All students were active and enjoyed the activity. Some of their comments were as follows: "Very interesting and motivating" "Learning can be a lot of fun" etc.

Students also had to find the appropriate matches in the shortest time possible to beat other participating groups. The element of competition among the groups made them concentrate and think intensively.

Translation activity. The other group of students had to work out the meanings of the idioms by means of translation. Unlike the previously described group, they did not know the definitions. The expressions were listed on the board, and students tried to guess their proper meanings giving different options. My role was to direct them to those that were appropriate. Students translated the idioms into Russian and endeavoured to find similar or corresponding expressions in their mother tongue. Unlike the game used for the purpose of idiom introduction, this activity did not require the preparation of any aids. Fewer learners participated actively or enthusiastically in this lesson and most did not show great interest in the activity.

Administering the test. In order to find out which group acquired new vocabulary better, I designed a short test, for both groups containing a translation into English and a game. This allowed learners to activate their memory with the type of activity they had been exposed to in the presentation. The test checking the acquisition of newly-introduced reading vocabulary I. Match the definitions of the idioms with the pictures and write which idiom is depicted and described:

to he inexperienced

to listen very attentively

to be terrified

to be dominated by someone

to be attentive

to be insincere, dishonest

The proper answers are the following:

d., to be wet behind the ears

a., to be all ears

e., to have one's hair stand on end

f., to be led by the nose

b., to be all eyes

с., to be two-faced.

II Translate into English (the translated sentences should be the following):

He is soft in the head.

She is two-faced, always criticizes me behind my back.

Mark has a sweet tooth, so he is not too slim.

Will you hold your tongue if I tell you something?

Why are you such a loose mouth?

Don't be nosy! This is none of your business.

Description of vocabulary picture puzzle

To prepare the puzzle. I cut two equal-sized pieces of cardboard paper into rectangles. The selected idioms were written onto the rectangles in the puzzle-pieces board and their definitions on the game board. On the reverse side of the puzzle-pieces board. 1 glued colourful photographs of landscapes and then cut the puzzle-pieces board into individual pieces, each with an idiom on it. The important thing was the distribution of the idioms and their definitions on the boards. The definitions were placed in the same horizontal row opposite to the idioms so that when put together face to face each idiom faced its definition.

Puzzle Pieces Board

The idioms and their definitions were the following[30] :

to be soft in the head: foolish, not very intelligent;

to have one's hair stand on end: to be terrified;

to be two-faced: to agree with a person to his face but disagree with him behind his back;

to make a face: to make a grimace which may express disgust, anger;

to be all eyes: to be very attentive;

to be an eye-opener: to be a revelation;

to be nosy: to be inquisitive, to ask too many questions;

to be led by the nose: to be completely dominated by, totally influenced by;

long ears: an inquisitive person who is always asking too many questions;

to be all ears: to listen very attentively;

to be wet behind the ears: to be naive, inexperienced;

a loose mouth: an indiscrete person;

one's lips are sealed: to be obliged to keep a secret;

to have a sweet tooth: to have a liking for sweet food, sugar, honey, ice cream, etc.;

to grind one's teeth: to express one's fury;

to hold one's tongue: to say nothing, to be discrete;

Exploring metaphors in the classroom

When our students listen to pop songs in English, browse web sites in English or watch movies in English they frequently meet language rich in its use of metaphors. Yet metaphors are often rather neglected in the classroom. So what kinds of metaphors should we teach, why should we teach them and how can we do so effectively?

Kinds of metaphors

Our students may meet many different kinds of metaphors in English. We usually think of metaphor as being a comparison between two things which are not usually connected with each other, so that the characteristics of the one are carried over to the other. In Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, for example, Romeo famously compares Juliet to the sun, so that the qualities of the sun (radiance and warmth) are carried over to Juliet. Not only literary English, but everyday English is full of these kinds of metaphors. For example, there are many fixed expressions found in dictionaries which can only be understood metaphorically, such as:

'a step in the right direction' or

to 'sell like hot cakes'

There are also many words which can have both literal and metaphorical meanings:

verbs such as to' hammer' or 'to stream'

adjectives such as 'infectious' or 'lukewarm'

nouns such as 'ingredients' and 'foundation'.

Increasing student vocabulary

Metaphors provide a handy and memorable way of organizing new vocabulary to be learned. Most teachers are familiar with the notion of a lexical set, where vocabulary is grouped according to a topic area, such as 'food' or 'transport'. This idea can be extended to create 'metaphorical sets', where we group together the words and expressions that have a metaphorical, rather than a literal, meaning. Here are some examples:

Body vocabulary

the heart of the city

the foot of the mountain/bed/stairs

to give a hand

to break somebody's heart

Weather vocabulary

a warm welcome

to freeze somebody out

to be snowed under

to storm out

a hail of abuse

Colour vocabulary

to see red

a grey area

a white lie

to give somebody the green light.

Two activities

In the classroom, there are different ways we can incorporate this idea of metaphorical sets.

One way is to ask students in groups to research and design a poster related to a particular topic. Take the body, for example.

Students could be asked to draw an outline of a human body on a large sheet of paper, and to include a heart, feet, hand, eye, nose, etc.

Using English dictionaries, they could then research any metaphorical uses of language connected with the different parts of the body and write them in the appropriate place on the poster.

The same activity can be done for weather vocabulary (using little sketches of different types of weather) or for colours (using sheets of paper of different colours).

Another way is to ask students to brainstorm the words in a particular lexical area, such as plants. They may come up with words such as: roots, branches, seed, to blossom, to bloom, to plant.

Once you have checked that students have understood the literal meaning of all the words involved, ask them to guess what the metaphorical meaning of these words might be.

And once you have established the metaphorical meanings for these words (such as the roots of a problem or to plant an idea in somebody's mind) ask students to write a story using as many of these words as they can.

I find the stories are always very inventive, and reveal the real pleasure that students take in using another language creatively.

Improving knowledge of 'chunks'

Many metaphors occur not as isolated words, but in 'chunks' of language. Some of these 'chunks' are idioms that cannot really be varied. Some examples are:

to be 'down in the dumps'

to 'fight like cats and dogs'

Other 'chunks' can be varied, but generally occur as collocations in fairly limited combinations. Some examples are:

a 'fatal mistake / decision'

to 'waste time / money'

When teaching metaphors we should encourage students to note them down and learn them as 'chunks' - this will help students to remember them better and use them appropriately.

We can revise students' knowledge of these chunks by writing a list of chunks on the board with important words missing, e.g. fatal in fatal decision, or cat in to fight like cat and dog. Working in teams, students should then fill in the missing words and write sentences using the chunks.

Using English creatively

As we have seen, many metaphors in English form part of the ordinary repertoire of the native speaker. We can help students to learn some of these fixed metaphors while simultaneously encouraging them to play creatively with language. One way is to ask students to write short poems with one of the following titles:

Weather metaphors

A sunny smile

An icy look

A stormy relationship

People metaphors

A chip off the old block

A rough diamond

A shoulder to cry on

An ugly duckling

A fairy godmother

Parts of proverbs

A new broom

Early birds

Birds of a feather

Silver linings

A rolling stone

Developing student autonomy

Finally, we can develop students' awareness of metaphors by encouraging students to 'collect' metaphors - by noting them down when they encounter them on the Internet, in pop songs, etc. These metaphors can then be explained and discussed in the classroom. You may even want to keep a record of these on a wall poster….and at the end of the term ask students to vote on the most useful metaphor, the most surprising metaphor, their favorite metaphor, etc.

2.2.2 Focus on authentic speech and idiomatic language in classes

Objectives: Developing students’ guessing skills, developing reading and listening skills on the base of idioms.

Target group: 4th year students

Level: Intermediate

Organization: Class

Time: 80 min.

Step 1. Reading the Text.

Read the text “The Case of the Friendly Prank”

People love Tom Comeuppance because of all of his good traits—and despite his one very bad trait. Tom is never satisfied with anything. He always finds something to complain about and wish for, and he usually complains and wishes about the same thing for a long time. Most of the time, he also ends up getting what he has been wanting, but even then he still finds something to complain about soon after. This kind of behavior sometimes drives his family and friends crazy.

Lately, Tom has been complaining about needing a car even though his family just recently helped him get his own apartment near the school he attends, the Merlin Institute of Technology (MIT). His friends also got together and bought him a ten-speed bicycle for his birthday. This is what Tom has been saying:

"I'm tired of walking and riding around so much. I need a car. I sure wish I owned that 1965 Ford Mustang that's for sale over at Bob Fisher's used-car lot."

His friends at MIT, who are studying mechanical engineering with him, are also tired — they're tired of hearing this from him so much. In fact, they cant stand it any more. They've put up with it long enough. In other words, they are simply fed up. This is the way they let him have it in the cafeteria Friday afternoon.

'"Car, car, car'—that's all we ever hear from you these days. It's really wearing thin."

"Enough already! You sound like a broken record!" 'Yeah, could you change the record, please?"

But these words didn't hurt Tom. They rolled off him like water off a duck's back. He wasn't even bothered when the same kind of thing happened at his family's house, where he went for dinner on Saturday. The members of his family are very different in their jobs and interests—his father is a crane operator, his mother is a science fiction writer, his sister is a body builder, and his brother is a magician—but they are all alike in loving Tom very much. Even so, there is a limit to how much their love can tolerate from him. These were their words:

"Tom, you're starting to get on my nerves with all this car talk."

"You're really rubbing me the wrong way, too."

"I'll be even more honest with you — you're going to drive me to drink!"

"Tom, you know the expression, Every cloud has a silver lining'? For you, the expression should be, 'Every silver lining has a cloud.'"

On Sunday, Tom spent the whole day in the library. When he got back to his apartment Sunday night, he found a very big and very unusual gift waiting for him. You could have knocked him over with a feather when he saw it. There was a note attached to it that read.

"Surprise! You've been driving us up a wall. Now it's your turn. And this time, for once, don't look a gift horse in the mouth!"

Step 2. Idioms from the case.

Make a list of idioms in “The Case of Friendly Prank”, and beneath them write your guesses as to their meanings. Compare your results in class.

Step 3. Guessing the Meaning of Idioms I.

Listen to the tape and write the idioms that you hear in the blank spaces below. Then guess their meanings and write them on the lines beneath.

Exercise 2


1. Hold your horses. I'll be ready to leave in just a minute.

2. I'm afraid that Hideo let the cat out of the bag and now everybody knows our plans.

3. Ravi thought he was being funny, but the fact is his joke went over like a lead balloon.

4. The basketball team is on a roll. They've won their last five games.

5. Nui is all up in the air about her planned vacation in Paris.

6. I was supposed to meet a new friend for dinner last night, but she stood me up.

7. Mr. Sato says that we have to learn to get our work done on time, so he has drawn the line on late homework.

8. Amedeo got in a jam with his parents because he forgot to tell them how late he would be getting home.

9. Fahad should have known better what to say in that situation. He sure put his foot in his mouth that time.

10. Martin was a great soccer player for many years, but he's all washed up now.

11. The police strongly suspected the owner of having burned down his own store in order to collect the insurance, so they asked him to come clean with them.

12. Some sales people have just the right touch—they can sell anyone anything.

13. Microwave ovens cook so fast that they really make cooking a breeze.

14. Her excuse for not getting her homework done was pretty wild, but it still rang true.

15. Mei-Ling got the jump on her homework and finished it a day early.

Step 4. Guessing the meaning of the Idioms II.

Listen to the idioms on the tape, think about the context they are in, and write your best guess as to their meanings. If you cannot guess the meaning, then try to include the idiom in a request for an explanation.

Exercise 3


1. Mohammed didn't come to class because he's feeling under the weather.

2. Santha is great at growing plants—she really has a green thumb.

3. When her husband died, she went to pieces.

4. It's okay to be busy, but maybe you're spreading yourself too thin.

5. I haven't heard a word from you this morning. What's the matter—cat got your tongue?

6. Because of her husband's illness, Mary has become the breadwinner for their family.

7. I believed her! I thought she was serious, but of course she was only pulling my leg.

8. Anna has worked so hard for so many years that she's feeling burned out in her job.

9. With all the problems that Luis has, is it any wonder that he's got a bad case of the blues?

10. The basketball game wasn't even close. Our team got blown away.

11. On only our second date, he asked me out of the blue to marry him!

12. I knew my boss was having a bad day, but I didn't expect him to bite my head off.

13. Have you ever noticed how some people will talk your head off on the telephone?

14. People on the street who ask Mr. Lee for money aren't going to get any—they're barking up the wrong tree with him.

15. The view from the top of this mountain will take your breath away.

Step 5. Idioms from Students.

Present to your classmates other English idioms that you have heard, and they will share some with you. Try to guess meanings, and ask for explanation when you are not able to guess correctly.

Step 6.

Determine what an idiom is.


This paper has discussed the nature of idiomaticity versus nonidiomaticity in learner language and compared and contrasted nonidiomaticity with error. The complementary nature of generated language and formulaic, conventionalised language in discourse has been discussed and the gradational nature of idiomatic language has been delineated. The metaphorical nature of much idiomatic language has been emphasised and the central importance of metaphorical multiword units in language use has been insisted upon. In the context of Bartlett's[31] (1932) principle of "effort after meaning" pedagogical implications in terms of encouraging students to perform cognitive, problem-solving exercises in order to unearth the underlying meaning of the pervasive and structured metaphors informing idiomatic language have been sketched out. Finally, exercises indicative of these principles have been presented. At the end of my research the following conclusions can be made .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. This research proposes practical hints for teachers wishing to diverse their lessons with idioms. And we concluded that even languages belonging to different families may have similar or hemi similar idioms and those which differ dramatically can be guessed within the context. So idioms are integral part of language which make our speech more colourful and authentically native.


1. Bartlett, F. C. Remembering : A Study in Experimental and Social Psychology . Cambridge : Cambridge University Press . 1932

2. Michael McCarthy, Felicity O’Dell. English Vocabulary in Use. Cambridge University Press, 1994.

3. The Penguin Dictionary of English Idioms, New York, 1989.

4. Арнольд И. В. Лексикология современного английского языка. М.: 1959.

5. Бархударов Л.С., Язык и перевод. М., 1975.

6. Бархударов Л.С., Рецкер Я.И., Курс лекций по теории перевода, 1-й МГПИИЯ, М., 1968.

7. Галперин И.Р., Информативность единиц языка. М., 1974.

8. Каменецкайте Н. Л. Синонимы в английской фразеологии. М.: «Международные отношения», 1971.

9. Катцер Ю., Кунин А., Письменный перевод с русского языка на английский. М., 1964.

10. Кузьмин С., Употребление – главное звено механизма переводческих показателей (на примере фразеологизмов). Тетради переводчика, М., 1972.

11. Kuzmin S.S., Translating Russian Idioms, Higher School, M., 1977

12. Левицкая Т., Фитерман А., Обновление фразеологических единиц, и передача этого приема в переводе. Тетради переводчика, №5, М., 1968.

13. Морозов М.М., Пособие по переводу русской художественной прозы на английский язык. М., 1972.

14. Сазонова И.К., Лексика и фразеология современного русского языка. М., 1963.

15. Федоров А.В., Введение в теорию перевода, М., 1967.

16. Bek A., "Volokolamsk Highway", F.L.P.H., Moscow.

17. Белинский В.Г., Собр. соч., СПБ, 1896, т. 1.

18. German Y., “Eternal Battle”, Progress Publishers, Moscow.

19. German Y., "The Cause You Serve", F.L.P.H., Moscow.

20. Жуковский В.А., Предисловие к «Дон Кихоту». М., 1805.

21. Nikolayeva G., "The Newcomer" , F. L. P. H., Moscow, 1955.

22. Internet site: http://vernadsky.dnttm.ru/h4/w01358.htm ‘Phraseology of modern English‘

23. Internet site: http://durov.com/lectures/OCR/Halperin.htm

[1] Savory T., The Art of Translation, London, 1957, p.21

[2] Чуковский К., Высокое искусство. М., 1968, с. 61-62

[3] The full list of works and authors is mentioned in bibliography to this qualification paper.

[4] Каменецкайте Н. Л. Синонимы в английской фразеологии. М.: «Международные отношения», 1971, с. 3.

[5] Судзиловский Г. А. Сленг – что это такое? Английская просторечная военная лексика. М.: Военное издательство, 1973, с. 37.

[6] Ворно Е. Ф., Кащеева М. А. и др. Лексикология английского языка. Л.: Учпедгиз, 1955, с. 123.

[7] Ворно Е. Ф., Кащеева М. А. и др. Лексикология английского языка. Л.: Учпедгиз, 1955, сс. 124 - 125.

[8] Каменецкайте Н. Л. Синонимы в английской фразеологии. М.: «Международные отношения», 1971, с. 3.

[9] PhraseologyofmodernEnglishhttp://vernadsky.dnttm.ru/h4/w01358.htm

[10] Арнольд И. В. Лексикология современного английского языка. М.: 1959.

[11] Michael McCarthy, Felicity O’Dell. English Vocabulary in Use. Cambridge University Press, 1994.

[12] Катцер Ю., Кунин А., Письменный перевод с русского языка на английский. М., 1964, с. 94-100; 104-109

[13] Бархударов Л.С., Рецкер Я.И., Курс лекций по теории перевода, 1-й МГПИИЯ, М., 1968, с. 6-13

Бархударов Л.С., Язык и перевод. М., 1975, с.83-86

[14] Бархударов Л.С., Рецкер Я.И., Курс лекций по теории перевода, 1-й МГПИИЯ, М., 1968, с. 6-13

[15] Кузьмин С., Употребление – главное звено механизма переводческих показателей (на примере фразеологизмов). Тетради переводчика, М., 1972

[16] Жуковский В.А., Предисловие к «Дон Кихоту». М., 1805, с. 2

[17] Белинский В.Г., Собр. соч., СПБ, 1896, т. 1, с. 299

[18] Федоров А.В., Введение в теорию перевода, М., 1967, с.172, 174

[19] Морозов М.М., Пособие по переводу русской художественной прозы на английский язык. М., 1972, с. 9-10

[20] Левицкая Т., Фитерман А., Обновление фразеологических единиц, и передача этого приема в переводе. Тетради переводчика, №5, М., 1968, с. 46-48

[21] Катцер Ю., Кунин А., Письменный перевод с русского языка на английский, с. 94-100, 104-109

[22] German Y., Eternal Battle, Progress Publishers, Moscow, p. 331

[23] Сазонова И.К., Лексика и фразеология современного русского языка. М., 1963, с. 6

[24] Федоров В.А., Введение в теорию перевода, М., 1958, стр. 172

[25] "The Newcomer" by G. Nikolayeva, F. L. P. H., Moscow, 1955, p. 45

[26] "The Cause You Serve" by Y. German, F.L.P.H., Moscow, p. 105

[27] "Volokolamsk Highway" by A. Bek, F.L.P.H., Moscow, p. 91

[28] Галперин И.Р., Информативность единиц языка. М., 1974, с. 85

[29] Bartlett , F . C . Remembering : A Study in Experimental and Social Psychology . Cambridge : Cambridge University Press . 1932 .

[30] The Penguin Dictionary of English Idioms, New York, 1989, p.77

[31] Bartlett, F . C . 1932 . Remembering : A Study in Experimental and Social Psychology . Cambridge : Cambridge University Press.