Idioms are a substantial part of almost any language. The definition of the term implies using peculiar phrases and word combinations that usually contain the parts, which cannot be logically conjoined. An idiom can be grammatically uncommon or contain some incompatible words (from the point of view of common sense).
A certain dialect peculiar to people from a specific district or class can also be called an idiom. Oftentimes, the term is used to signify the general peculiarities of a specific language, its most prevalent features and occurrences.
The term derives from the word “idíōma” (Greek), which can be translated as “specific property”, “peculiarity”. It was introduced into English approximately in 1565-1575.
Idioms as a literary tool can be rather bright and versatile. Because of their artistic nature, oftentimes they can incorporate other linguistic tools. For instance, there are numerous metaphors in some of the idioms. This involves using the words in a non-literal way, like in the phrase “butterflies in my stomach”. This is an idiom where a metaphor is incorporated, signifying the feeling of excitement or nervousness.
Oftentimes, idioms are confused with euphemisms, as both of these literary tools cannot be interpreted based on their literal meanings. However, while an idiom implies a certain combination of words that have a special meaning when put together, a euphemism is simply a way to name things in a more polite and less harsh way.
Authors can use idioms in their works for a number of reasons. Firstly, it is an excellent way to add more color to the text, make it more interesting, and get rid of the text’s flatness. Idioms are able to provide an artistic effect (to some extent) and make the narrative less dull.
Authors often implement idioms when they want to illustrate the peculiarities of the character’s nature and the way he or she speaks. Idioms can serve to depict the hero’s patterns of speech, which might help the reader understand the character and his background better. It’s a great method for the author to present a more detailed image of the hero.
Being a rather useful linguistic tool, idioms can represent the peculiarities and the features of the language during a certain period or based on the region or country it derives from. Thus, idioms allow us to learn more about a certain language. Moreover, they are able to show the changes in a language with the course of time or show how it can vary depending on the region.
Idioms are able to play the role of euphemisms, allowing the author to discuss certain (oftentimes rather uncomfortable) subjects in an indirect manner. Just like euphemisms, idioms can be applied when the author needs to make certain concepts sound less harsh. The names of diseases or, let’s say, death can oftentimes be substituted with an idiom. It is also an effective tool when the author wants to illustrate the fact that the character feels uncomfortable talking directly about certain issues or subjects.
Idioms can be found in numerous literary pieces. For instance, Shakespeare widely used them (and even created quite a lot). In his play “Hamlet”, he introduced a new idiom “a method in my madness”. Other of his works include such iconic idioms as “a fool’s paradise”, “heart’s content”, “lie low”, “a sorry sight”, and so on. These idioms are being used even these days, despite being coined hundreds of years ago.
In “The Great Gatsby”, the author uses various idioms to add some color to the narrative and to illustrate the mood and the atmosphere of that certain time period. For instance, the phrase “got my hands full” is used to substitute the simple and somewhat dull phrase “I’m too busy”. It also shows the peculiarities and the mood of the character, Nick Carraway.
J. Steinbeck used a lot of idioms in his work called “East of Eden”. The examples can be found throughout the text and include phrases like “for all the world”, “to set minding backwards”, etc. The first one means to certainly seem in a specific way. The second idiom signifies a process oа remembering and recollecting something. Here, the idioms serve to illustrate the character’s current state of mind. They also point at the hero’s speaking habits and the patterns he uses in the conversations, which helps the reader receive a clearer picture of the character.
Idioms are prevalent in everyday conversations and help people express their thoughts in a more artistic way, alter the speech, and change some old phrases they are used to. Idioms can be an inseparable part of someone’s speech, a set habit, which represents the person’s linguistic peculiarities.