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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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11 Physical Reactions and Sensation


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11.1 Body-based Feelings and Reactions as Source Domains: Preliminary Remarks

I divided the broad topic of widespread idioms which are located in the source domain THE HUMAN BODY into three chapters which overlap in part. On the one hand, there are the images of gestures, facial expressions and posture which I dealt with in Chapter 10. On the other hand, there are a large number of idioms whose underlying imagery is based on the concept of specific body parts or organs; these WIs will be covered in Chapter 12. In between there is a further group of widespread idioms whose source domains are closely related to both of them: idioms which are grouped around physical weakness, involuntary body reactions, the medical area and unpleasant body-based feelings such as pain, caused by heat, cold and other factors, but also pleasant sensations through healing.

We have already encountered some widespread idioms of these source domains; I discussed them in “WI Volume I” because of their intertextual interweaving. The widespread idiom (C 15) to have one’s hair stand on end ‘to feel very frightened, nervous or angry’ is a good example of a bodily reaction as source concept to denote an abstract emotion. Other examples are (B 22) ← 497 | 498 → to grit one’s teeth / to clench one’s teeth together which is based on an involuntarily physical reaction and (E 12) to reopen old wounds: the painful experiences of wounds that do not heal serve as...

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