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  1. #1
    umemashuu is offline Newbie
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    Post Too many idioms!!

    This is mostly a note to the web devs, but input is welcome from everyone:

    I'm a native born American and I don't recognize but maybe 20-25% of all the idioms listed in the idioms section. I think there are WAY too many regional idioms there. I'm from Oregon and only ever lived here, so maybe that has something to do with it?

    At any rate, given the difficulty of learning a new language, especially English, and especially all the countless idioms we have, it is imperative to minimize these idioms to the most essential for ESL students to study first. They should be categorized and limited to the most universally understood of them, and optionally by region if possible. I'm sure certain of them are more commonly used in certain areas of America, but that would require a team effort to help identify these regions, possibly by survey.

    Anyway, I think I've made my point. Many of my students like to know which idioms are actually most commonly used and understood. I have had some try to learn some on their own and end up saying something to which I reply, "huh?" lol... Thanks.

  2. #2
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Default Re: Too many idioms!!

    A number of points:
    1 It's in a section marked Refererence and not meant to be a list to learn, any more than a dictionary is meant to be a list of words to learn.

    2 It's hard to determine the most common- what sources are to be used? There are many databases of language and they do give different results.

    As a simple example, there are hundreds of postings on the web saying that nobody says 'it's raining cats and dogs' nowadays, so a simple search on the web for frequency would produce a result quite the opposite from that intended by those writers. A simple search for 'cats and dogs' (excluding any mention of rain) brings 246 mentions in a 400,000,000 (AmE) word database and 43 in a 100,000,000 (BrE) word one, suggesting that this is not a particularly common usage, but Google racks up 214,00 for a search for "raining cats and dogs". Who's right?

    3 The most universally understood are actually probably among the least relevant in a reference section because they will be the least looked up. And again, this doesn't prove utility- if I come across an idiom in a text and need the meaning of it, finding the meaning one that one occasion is useful.

    4 There is a degree of filtering available by variant, though not by region.

    5 The idea of producing a list of the most common as a separate page is fine, but which would you suggest?
    Last edited by Tdol; 30-Mar-2010 at 07:00.

  3. #3
    mmasny is offline Key Member
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    Default Re: Too many idioms!!

    Quote Originally Posted by Tdol View Post
    5 The idea of producing a list of the most common as a separate page is fine, but which would you suggest?
    A survey could be made by native English speaking users of the forums. The result can't be expected to be 'ideal', but does it have to be? We, learners would benefit anyway.

  4. #4
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    Raymott is offline VIP Member
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    Default Re: Too many idioms!!

    Quote Originally Posted by Tdol View Post
    A simple search for 'cats and dogs' (excluding any mention of rain) brings 246 mentions in a 400,000,000 (AmE) word database and 43 in a 100,000,000 (BrE) word one, suggesting that this is not a particularly common usage, but Google racks up 214,00 for a search for "raining cats and dogs". Who's right?
    Google will pick up all instances (such as this) where people write "No one says 'raining cats and dogs' any more". Those other databases won't. So they're both right, but they're looking at different things.
    OK, now that's 214,001 on Google.
    That's a good example of why Google has to be used critically for usage statistics.

  5. #5
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Default Re: Too many idioms!!

    Search engines can be useful tools, though often numbers are taken from them and held up as scientific proof without subjecting them to scientific analysis.

  6. #6
    umemashuu is offline Newbie
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    Default Re: Too many idioms!!

    Well certainly the search results are not scientific proof. That's just silly, lol.

    I tend to agree with mmasny though. Some sort of survey would be nice. Another way, though would require a bit of coding in the website (not too much) would be to add an extra column to the idioms reference section (btw good point about this being a 'reference' section). The column would be something like "Have you heard this idiom?" and if clicked (for each idiom respectively) could popup a little window with two more questions:
    1. Where did you here it? (Southern USA, Western USA, Eastern USA, UK, Canada, Australia, etc)
    2. In which era do you think it most commonly used? (1940s, 50s... 90s, 00s, etc)

    Just an example, but good feedback everyone. Thanks! :)

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Too many idioms!!

    This has to be a good idea!

    To give the learners a hint (perhaps some note like an asterisk) of what are the most essential of 3,449 would spare them from unnecessary memorizing if they don't feel like being interested in all of them. I don't, however, think that those idioms that are not recognized by everyone, should be struck off the list. Some idioms are meant to be regional.

  8. #8
    mmasny is offline Key Member
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    Default Re: Too many idioms!!

    An asterisk is not enough. There should be two or more lists. The one that already exists is fine and as Tdol said has its own purpose. Another list of most important idioms should be created. It must be arbitrary of course, but this is not a very big problem. A real one appears however - if anyone will do it.

  9. #9
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Default Re: Too many idioms!!

    Quote Originally Posted by umemashuu View Post
    Well certainly the search results are not scientific proof. That's just silly, lol.

    I tend to agree with mmasny though. Some sort of survey would be nice. Another way, though would require a bit of coding in the website (not too much) would be to add an extra column to the idioms reference section (btw good point about this being a 'reference' section). The column would be something like "Have you heard this idiom?" and if clicked (for each idiom respectively) could popup a little window with two more questions:
    1. Where did you here it? (Southern USA, Western USA, Eastern USA, UK, Canada, Australia, etc)
    2. In which era do you think it most commonly used? (1940s, 50s... 90s, 00s, etc)

    Just an example, but good feedback everyone. Thanks! :)

    I will look into that- it's an interesting thought. Thanks

  10. #10
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Default Re: Too many idioms!!

    Quote Originally Posted by mmasny View Post
    An asterisk is not enough. There should be two or more lists. The one that already exists is fine and as Tdol said has its own purpose. Another list of most important idioms should be created. It must be arbitrary of course, but this is not a very big problem. A real one appears however - if anyone will do it.

    As it's all databased, it's easy to extract them into a separate list.

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