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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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8 Forces of Nature, Weather, Plants and Animals


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8.1 Nature as a Source Domain: Introduction

Aspects of mental and material culture were the starting point of the WIs I analyzed in the previous chapters. The subject of the present chapter is widespread idioms that can be attributed to the source domain NATURE in a broad sense.1 The idioms of this source domain can be divided into two groups. The first section, entitled 8.2 Natural Forces and Weather (N 1 – N 17), deals with idioms whose images mainly come from forces of nature. They are grouped around concepts such as FIRE and WATER, SNOW, STORM, WIND, THUNDERBOLT and other natural phenomena, including the concepts of SUN and RAIN. The following section (8.3 Plants, Animals and Animal Behavior, N 18 – N 26) consists of widespread idioms containing plant and animal concepts. Here, I deal with images of the typical or innate behavior of animals, as they act by nature. Impressions that animals make on humans, i.e. the perceptions of animals by ← 335 | 336 → humans which have led to semiotizations in a lot of similes have been discussed in Section 6.2 above.

The natural phenomena that occur in the images of the idioms are ubiquitous; it is possible that they have brought about figurative units in several languages independently of each other. However, various idioms of this chapter have their origins not only in observations of nature but also in intertextual relationships that go back to ancient times.

8.2 Natural Forces and...

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