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    • Join Date: Aug 2009
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    Post How English compose their Idioms?

    Dear teachers,

    I am a Vietnamese linguistics student. We have to write a big essay this sunday to finish subject "Cognitive Language". Our teacher gave us a topic: "Compare: Vietnamese Idioms and English Idioms (category Plants and Flowers). How both countries see the world, descbride the meaning of idioms and give an explanation for that using".

    I find out that idioms are under the economic, cultural, national (...) factors' influence. Such as, there are so many Vietnamese idioms which used image of bamboo to describe or talk about something. It's because the image of bamboo is our country's image. English usually uses image of nettle, straw or rose in their idioms. It's because of the economic, cultural, national (...) factors' influence. But i don't know how those factors bring its influence to english idioms? Which plants or flowers is typical in english idioms?

    Thank you so much for your helping!

    • Join Date: Jun 2006
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    Re: How English compose their Idioms?

    Just go to some search engines online and put in "English idioms plants" as I did and you will get some results such as these listed below:

    A rolling stone gathers no moss
    People say this to mean that that an ambitious person is more successful than a person not trying to achieve anything. Originally it meant the opposite and was critical of people trying to get ahead.
    Barking up the wrong tree
    If you are barking up the wrong tree, it means that you have completely misunderstood something or are totally wrong.
    Beat about the bush
    If someone doesn't say clearly what they mean and try to make it hard to understand, they are beating about (around) the bush.
    Bouquet of orchids
    Id someone deserves a bouquet of orchids, they have done something worthy of praise.
    Broken reed
    If something or someone fails to give you the support you were hoping for, they are a broken reed.
    Can't see the forest for its trees
    If someone can't see the forest for its trees, they are too focused on specific details to see the picture as a whole.
    Clutch at straws
    If someone is in serious trouble and tries anything to help them, even though their chances of success are probably nil, they are clutching at straws.
    Come up roses
    If things come up roses, they produce a positive result, especially when things seemed to be going badly at first.
    Come up smelling of roses
    (UK) If someone comes up smelling of roses, they emerge from a situation with their reputation undamaged.
    Cut down the tall poppies
    (AU) If people cut down the tall poppies, they criticise people who stand out from the crowd.
    Demon weed
    Tobacco is the demon weed.
    Draw the shortest straw
    If someone draws the shortest straw, they lose or are chosen to do something unpleasant.
    Flowery speech
    Flowery speech is full of lovely words, but may well lack substance.
    Forest for the trees
    (USA) If someone can't see the forest for the trees, they get so caught up in small details that they fail to understand the bigger picture.
    Gild the lily
    If you gild the lily, you decorate something that is already ornate.
    Go to seed
    If someone has gone to seed, they have declined in quality or appearance.
    Grasp the nettle
    (UK) If you grasp the nettle, you deal bravely with a problem.
    Grass roots
    This idioms is often used in politics, where it refers to the ordinary people or voters. It can be used to mean people at the bottom of a hierarchy.
    Hit the hay
    When you hit the hay, you go to bed.
    In the tall cotton
    A phrase that expresses good times or times of plenty and wealth as tall cotton means a good crop.
    Jungle out there
    If someone says that it is a jungle out there, they mean that the situation is dangerous and there are no rules.
    Just as the twig is bent, the tree’s inclined
    Things, especially education, that affect and influence us in our childhood shape the kind of adult we turn out to be. (There are various versions of this, like 'As the twig is bent, the tree's inclined' and 'As the twig is bent, so the tree inclines', 'As the twig is bent so is the tree inclined')
    Kick something into the long grass
    If an issue or problem is kicked into the long grass, it is pushed aside and hidden in the hope that it will be forgotten or ignored.
    Knock on wood
    This idiom is used to wish for good luck. ('Touch wood' is also used.)
    Last straw
    The last straw is the final problem that makes someone lose their temper or the problem that finally brought about the collapse of something. It comes from an Arabic story, where a camel was loaded with straw until a single straw placed on the rest of the load broke its back.
    Lead someone up the garden path
    If someone leads you up the garden path, they deceive you, or give you false information that causes you to waste your time. 'Lead someone down the garden path' is also used.
    Let the grass grow round your feet
    If you let the grass grow round your feet, you delay doing things instead of taking action.
    Little strokes fell great oaks
    Meaning: even though something may seem impossible, if you break it up into small parts and take one step at a time, you will succeed.
    Make hay
    If you make hay, or may hay while the sun shines, you take advantage of an opportunity as soon as it arises and do not waste time.
    Mighty oaks from little acorns grow
    Big or great things start very small.
    Muck or nettles
    'Muck or nettles' means 'all or nothing'.
    Needle in a haystack
    If trying to find something is like looking for a needle in a haystack, it means that it is very difficult, if not impossible to find among everything around it.
    Never a rose without the prick
    This means that good things always have something bad as well; like the thorns on the stem of a rose.
    Nip it in the bud
    If you nip something in the bud, you deal with a problem when it is still small, before it can grow into something serious.
    No bed of roses
    If something isn't a bed of roses, it is difficult.
    Old chestnut
    An old chestnut is something that has been repeated so many times that it has lost its impact.
    Olive branch
    If you hold out or offer an olive branch, you make a gesture to indicate that you want peace.
    Oops a daisy
    An expression used to indicate surprise.
    Out of the woods
    If you are out of the woods, you have emerged safely from a dangerous situation, though the idiom is often used in the negative.
    Primrose path
    The primrose path is an easy and pleasurable lifestyle, but one that ends in unpleasantness and problems.
    Pushing up the daisies
    If someone is said to be pushing up the daisies, they are dead.
    Put someone out to pasture
    If someone is put out to pasture, they are forced to resign or give up some responsibilities.
    Rough end of the stick
    To get the rough end of the stick is to be treated unfairly or to come off worse than the other party in a transaction, situation or relationship.
    Run around the bush
    (USA) If you run around the bush, it means that you're taking a long time to get to the point.
    Seed money
    Seed money is money that is used to start a small business.
    Short end of the stick
    If someone gets the short end of the stick, they are unfairly treated or don't get what they deserve.
    Shrinking violet
    A shrinking violet is a shy person who doesn't express their views and opinions.
    Sow the seeds
    When people sow the seeds, they start something that will have a much greater impact in the future.
    Take a straw poll
    If you take a straw poll, you sound a number of people out to see their opinions on an issue or topic.
    The grass is always greener
    This idiom means that what other people have or do looks preferable to our life. The complete phrase is 'The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence'.
    The short straw
    If you take the short straw, you lose a selection process, which means that you have to do something unpleasant.
    Thorn in your side
    A thorn in your side is someone or something that causes trouble or makes life difficult for you.
    Touch wood
    This idiom is used to wish for good luck. ('Knock on wood' is also used.)
    Turf war
    If people or organisations are fighting for control of something, it is a turf war.
    Turn a new leaf
    If someone turns a new leaf, they change their behaviour and stop doing wrong or bad things.
    Turn up one's toes to the daisies
    If someone has turned up their toes to the daisies, it means that the person died.
    Ugly as a stick
    (USA) If someone is as ugly as a stick, they are very ugly indeed.
    Up a gum tree
    (AU) If you're up a gum tree, you're in trouble or a big mess.
    (UK) A woman politician given an unimportant government position so that the government can pretend it takes women seriously is a wallflower.
    Watch grass grow
    If something is like watching grass grow, it is really boring.
    Wither on the vine
    If something withers on the vine, it fails to get the intended result, doesn't come to fruition.
    Wood for the trees
    (UK) If someone can't see the wood for the trees, they get so caught up in small details that they fail to understand the bigger picture.

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