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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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14 Quotations, Terms and Views of Recent Modern Times


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14.1 Quotes and Concepts of Recent Modern Society as Sources: Introduction

This chapter covers both idioms and figurative units of a terminological character which have emerged in recent times, reflecting current affairs or developments and changes of modern society. On the one hand, we deal with sayings or statements—ascribed to a prominent person of the present or recent past—which later turned into figurative units. On the other hand, we look at concepts and terms which are not associated with a particular personality but also only developed in the modern era and found their way into the “Lexicon of Common Figurative Units”.

It is a well-known fact that a number of idioms gained currency thanks to certain personalities. However, it cannot usually be said whether the idiom in question was coined by the person concerned or whether it was already in currency and achieved popularity by way of the person’s speeches or writings. Most quotes I analyzed originate from politicians and other public figures. Hence, the present chapter is connected to both Chapter 3 “History and War” (as a continuation of idioms originating in history since the 19th century) and—due to the quotation character of several figurative units—also to the realm of ← 635 | 636 → “intertextuality” which Volume I of “Widespread Idioms” was devoted to. See also the previous Chapter 13, a Supplement to “WI Volume I”. The widespread idioms are arranged chronologically, ranging from 1844 to 1987. I divided them...

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