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Lexicon of Common Figurative Units

Widespread Idioms in Europe and Beyond. Volume II


Elisabeth Piirainen

The book continues the work of Widespread Idioms in Europe and Beyond (2012) and also brings new insights into the similarities of the European languages. Using comprehensive data from 78 European and some non-European languages, another 280 “widespread idioms” have been analyzed in terms of their distribution and origins. They are arranged according to their source domains (for example, performing arts, sports, history, war, technology, money, folk belief, medical skills, gestures, and nature). Among them are very modern layers of a common figurative lexicon, including quotes of personalities of recent times. Thorough research on the sources of these idioms goes beyond the entries in relevant reference works and brings new and unpredictable results. All of the data in this book adds new knowledge to the fields of language and culture. We now know which Europe-wide common idioms actually constitute a “Lexicon of Common Figurative Units” and which chronological and cultural layers they may be assigned to. The question about the causes of the wide spread of idioms across many languages now can partly be answered.

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3 History and War


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3.1 History and Armed Conflicts as Source Domains: Preliminary Remarks

The subject of this chapter is widespread idioms that can mostly be attributed to important historical events from ancient to modern times or to significant personalities and their work and actions, on the one hand, and to various kinds of hostile confrontations, battles, wars, and the weapons used here, on the other. The history of the West is marked by military conflicts, assertion of power positions and other types of exercise of power and violence. These relationships have left traces in the “Lexicon of Common Figurative Units”, a fact that led me to discuss the WI source domains HISTORY and WAR together in the same chapter.

Idioms of these source domains can be divided into four groups. Six widespread idioms allude to well-known episodes of antiquity and another one to symbols of power in ancient times. They are discussed in Section 3.2 History of Ancient Times (H 1 – H 7). The next six idioms lead us to the Middle Ages and the early modern period. Here it is mainly popular personalities whose outstanding work or character gave rise to the formation of widespread idioms (Section 3.3 History of Medieval and Early Modern Times, ← 73 | 74 → H 8 – H 13). A separate section is formed of idioms that come from medieval chivalry (3.4 Fighting and Knighthood in the Middle Ages, H 14 – H 22). Here, the courtesy of the knightly culture, fencing and archery...

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