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El modismo acoge en un mismo espacio —culturalmente compartido— al hablante y al oyente, que interactúan entre sí; sólo en este entorno se consigue descifrarlo. Estas expresiones fijas, por su importante carga metafórica, suponen un escollo en el aprendizaje de una lengua. Por ejemplo, ¿cómo interpretaría un estudiante de castellano la frase “vete a freír espárragos”? Fórmulas lingüísticas como esta, no se construyen durante la conversación, sino que se heredan y repiten como viejas fórmulas gastadas.

Por último, las expresiones idiomáticas no pueden ser descodificadas desde la literalidad o la interpretación aislada de las palabras, ya que estas, el conjunto que las conforman, las envuelven de distintos significados. “Andarse por las ramas”; “estar en los cerros de Úbeda”; “darse el pisto”; o “ponerse como el Quico”, son sólo una muestra de que los modismos son actos de habla indirectos, con un claro significado intencional subyacente.

Los modismos, como fenómeno lingüístico, se dan en todas las lenguas. En el espacio gramatical que nos ocupa, y que se aborda a continuación, damos paso a un contenido muy concreto: los modismos propios del inglés americano.

Fuentes: CVC Cervantes

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One of the most important steps in learning to speak English as well as a native speaker is mastering two things: phrasal verbs and idioms. Because the list of phrasal verbs is so long, we’re going to leave that for another day, and focus on idioms this week. Specifically, we’ll be looking at American idioms.

To get started, let’s look at a couple that mean the same thing: big cheese and big shot. We use these idioms as nouns to describe a person, a person who is important, powerful or influential. In other words, we’re talking about a VIP. The only difference between the two expressions is that we normally use “big shot” with the indefinite article, and “big cheese” with the definite article. For example:

~ He’s so arrogant; even though he just started at this company, he already thinks he’s a big shot.

~ Don’t argue or disagree with the big cheese or you’ll find yourself out of a job!

Now that we’ve warmed up a bit, let’s keep going with some more idioms that’ll have you talking like an American in no time!

The next idiom we will go over is “bet (your) bottom dollar.” The first part of the idiom uses the verb “to bet,” which means to wager money on the outcome of something, normally sports-related. The second part references the unit of currency used in the United States, the dollar. This idiom means to be sure about something. For example:

~ I’d bet my bottom dollar that they win the championship.

~ He’s certain he’ll win the lottery, but don’t bet your bottom dollar on it.

Another very American idiom is “to bite the bullet.” With the word “bullet” in the expression, one may imagine cowboys and Indians and the Old West. However, it’s an idiom that is still used very often to this day. It means to face an unpleasant or difficult situation. Let’s look at some example sentences:

~ I know it’s the weekend, but I have to bite the bullet and work on my presentation.

~ I don’t want to move to a new town, but I’m going to have to bite the bullet and do it anyway.

The last idiom we’ll be looking at (for now) is “to toot (your) own horn.” This expression dates all the way back to the 16th century, when horns would be blown (tooted) to announce the entrance or arrival of important people, like kings. The idiom means to boast or brag; in other words, to talk with excessive pride and self-satisfaction about your own achievements. For example:

~ Person A: “Tom is always talking about his Mercedes Benz and his nice house.”

Person B: “Yeah, he really likes to toot his own horn.”

~ Person A: “Did I tell you that I won the dance contest?”

Person B: “Only 100 times. Stop tooting your own horn!”

That’s all for this edition of American idioms, folks! If you’d like to try your hand at them, there is a practice exercise at the bottom of the page.

 

A. Edstrom

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