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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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7 Material Culture, Money and Living


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7.1 Widespread Idioms and Material Culture: Preliminary Remarks

This chapter deals with widespread idioms that have their origin in source domains of material culture in a broad sense. Two larger groups of idioms have emerged that can be attributed to the material basis of life, such as elementary needs of living, on the one hand, and trading and money, on the other. It turned out that FINANCIAL ISSUES and COMMERCE are important domains of the figurative lexicon of European languages in general. Therefore, I dedicated Section 7.2 Money, Trade, and Commerce (M 1 – M 10) to widespread idioms of this area. Basic human needs are food, clothing and shelter. Among the data I collected, there are some heterogeneous idioms which can be assigned to these domains of everyday material culture in a wide sense. This led me to treat them in Section 7.3 Food, Clothes and Housing (M 11 – M 23). Included are source frames like FOOD PRODUCTION, CLOTHING, HOUSE, and EVERYDAY OBJECTS.

7.2 Money, Trade, and Commerce (M 1 – M 10)

Even in ancient times, many proverbs testify to the crucial role that the pursuit of money and wealth play in motivating human action and the importance ← 281 | 282 → of commercial skill in increasing one’s own property.1 The great quantity of Greek and Roman proverbs discussed by Otto (1889) gives an impression of the diversity of proverbs from this area.2 Similarly, MONEY, TRADE, and COMMERCE are elaborated source domains of...

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