However there are intermediate circumstances between fundamental that means and bona fide idiom. After we say that somebody threw up, is that an idiom? A part of the essence of an idiom is that you simply wouldn’t instantly know its that means out of context — “chewing the fats,” “being stood up,” “throw that as much as me,” and many others. In distinction, the connection of “throw up” to throwing is, upon a little bit of reflection, relatively apparent; it’s why individuals additionally say “hurl” or “upchuck” to imply the identical factor. If individuals are studying English, can we contemplate their recognition that that is how we routinely consult with that motion as having grasped considered one of our idioms? Probably not. “Throw up,” on this sense, is a phrase that occurs to have two elements that we write individually.
What we consider as one phrase with one that means can in use really be many, many extra phrases, and never simply within the sense of stark and apparent homonyms reminiscent of “spring” as a season and “spring” as a coil. That is fantastically illustrated with my favourite instance: “decide up.” Its fundamental that means is to elevate one thing. However we additionally decide up our youngsters from faculty. Somebody may decide somebody up at a bar. You decide up a illness, or somebody says you’ve picked up the behavior of overusing sure salty phrases. In all these circumstances, we see a relationship with the “elevate” that means. Few would say that once we discuss of selecting up our youngsters, we’re tossing in an idiom. Quite, these makes use of of “decide up” are one thing extra mundane than idioms; they’re phrases of their very own.
That these are separate phrases is particularly clear when the connection with lifting will get extra summary: A automobile picks up pace; a cocktail picks up your spirits; we decide up a sound from far off; we decide up the place we left off. Sure, “decide” and “up” are phrases in their very own proper, however on this case a mix of the 2 is the supply of what are literally many extra phrases, and that is the case with numerous others. Assume a bit in regards to the various things “make up” can imply, for instance. But nobody can be accused of overusing the phrases “decide” or “make,” a lot much less the phrase “up.” The secret is how we use them.
And this brings us again to the profanity concern. After we understand a phrase as used quite a bit or an excessive amount of, it’s usually getting used to imply a number of issues. The informal utilization of “like” divides into about 4 completely different usages, some having drifted fairly dramatically from its inventory definition. The N-word that ends with “er” and the N-word that ends with “a” are, for all intents and functions (idiom alert!), completely different phrases now, and the latter can also be creating into, of all issues, new pronouns. What we would hear as a mere matter of one more F-bomb is definitely a vocabular sapling sprouting apace, with branches rising in several instructions. As I put it in “9 Nasty Phrases” (with wording a notch too zesty to print right here), the F-word can convey destruction, deception, dismissal, dauntingness and down-to-earthness.