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  1. #1
    azkad's Avatar
    azkad is offline Member
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    Default Problem with IDIOMS like "something to crow about"

    Dear MODERATORS, TEACHERS and the FORUM FRIENDS,

    I have so far been studying the usage of certain idioms in my essays or even articles. Could you posibbly tell me or explain whether it is allowed to refer to idioms like According to Hoyle, Ace up one's sleeve, all kidding aside, bark up the wrong tree, ax to grind, bet one's boots, beat the band, bone of contention, by hook or by crook, cast pearls before swine, cook up, do an about-face and the likes while wriring an essay, say, required by a university.

    And do you, native speakers, freaquently refer to them when you have a conversation with someone?

    And do you recommend me, as a ESL, to use such idioms in my speech?

    I am looking forward everyone's opinion about this. Thank you all in advance.

    AZIM

  2. #2
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Default Re: Problem with IDIOMS like "something to crow about"

    Firstly, I wouldn't call 'according to' an idiom; it's a standard way of introducing someone else's opinion, etc. In academic writing, I would say that it is OK to use idioms where appropriate, but this should generally be done sparingly. Idioms in an academic text to give it 'colour' or to show off the writer's command of English will look out of place. Of your examples, I think that 'about-face' could be used in, say, an essay on politics or history where a leader did one. However, 'all kidding aside' wouldn't have a place in an academic essay for me because academic writing should generally be serious and not kid the reader, besides which 'kid' is colloquial. If the idiom in not colloquial and there is a very good reason for using it, then use it. If not, then leave it out.

  3. #3
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    BobK is offline Harmless drudge
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    Default Re: Problem with IDIOMS like "something to crow about"

    Quote Originally Posted by Tdol View Post
    ... If the idiom i[s] not colloquial and there is a very good reason for using it, then use it. If not, then leave it out.
    And it helps - when you're judging whether an idiom is colloquial - to consider whether the words used in it are colloquial. Colloquially, we use throw more often than cast, and pigs more often than swine (except when 'swine' is an insult). So I'd be quite happy to see 'cast pearls before swine' in an academic essay.

    b

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Problem with IDIOMS like "something to crow about"

    "According to Hoyle" is an expression that refers to some guy named Hoyle who wrote what was once considered to be the definitive book of rules for card games. (I believe the BE equivalent is "according to Cocker.") So yes, it's an idiom, and one I wouldn't use it in an essay. For one thing, you might not be understood :)

    I agree with BobK's point about colloquial language.

    [not a teacher]

  5. #5
    azkad's Avatar
    azkad is offline Member
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    Default Re: Problem with IDIOMS like "something to crow about"

    Quote Originally Posted by Tdol View Post
    Firstly, I wouldn't call 'according to' an idiom; it's a standard way of introducing someone else's opinion, etc. In academic writing, I would say that it is OK to use idioms where appropriate, but this should generally be done sparingly. Idioms in an academic text to give it 'colour' or to show off the writer's command of English will look out of place. Of your examples, I think that 'about-face' could be used in, say, an essay on politics or history where a leader did one. However, 'all kidding aside' wouldn't have a place in an academic essay for me because academic writing should generally be serious and not kid the reader, besides which 'kid' is colloquial. If the idiom in not colloquial and there is a very good reason for using it, then use it. If not, then leave it out.
    Thanks for a detailed answer Tdol, but there is another problem for ESL leaners like me, I mean, how should we differentiate the difference between idioms used in colloquial and academic contexts? If there are any solutions, could you possibly provide some of them?
    Thank you again.

  6. #6
    azkad's Avatar
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    Default Re: Problem with IDIOMS like "something to crow about"

    Quote Originally Posted by Delmobile View Post
    "According to Hoyle" is an expression that refers to some guy named Hoyle who wrote what was once considered to be the definitive book of rules for card games. (I believe the BE equivalent is "according to Cocker.") So yes, it's an idiom, and one I wouldn't use it in an essay. For one thing, you might not be understood :)

    I agree with BobK's point about colloquial language.

    [not a teacher]
    Thank you Delmobile very much, if these idioms are not very common then why some TV channels, such as BBC or CCN, refer to them while transmitting their news. I am still not able to figure it out. Even some politicians or actors used them in their talks. Why? Why not use them in an essay while other native speakers use them?

  7. #7
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Default Re: Problem with IDIOMS like "something to crow about"

    Quote Originally Posted by azkad View Post
    Thanks for a detailed answer Tdol, but there is another problem for ESL leaners like me, I mean, how should we differentiate the difference between idioms used in colloquial and academic contexts? If there are any solutions, could you possibly provide some of them?
    Thank you again.
    One tool is this: [DAVIES/BYU] British National Corpus
    It searches a huge database, but you can also set it only to search academic texts.

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