ТОП 10:

Violation of Phraseological Units and its Rendering


Another stylistic device which may also be described as national is the so-called violation of phraseological units or renovation. This device is used in all types of phraseological units: fusion, unities and collocations. But despite their stability, phraseological units are easily broken by some lexical element which is either added or substituted. Evidently the ties binding the components are not indissoluble, which is probably due to a wide and flexible collocability of the English language.

The substitution of a component element may be achieved by a synonym or an antonym, by a word with a resembling sound form, or by any word prompted by the context or by the writer’s intention. These substitutions are always occasional and unpredictable, e.g.

Every country on the old continent has a fine collection of skeletons in the cupboard.

У всіх європейських країн є чимало негожих таємниць, які вони приховують одна від одної.


The meaning is fully rendered but the device is not reproduced in the translation. It is a typical case of semantic but not of stylistic equivalence.


The President is not going to be a bull in the economic china shop.

У питаннях економіки президент не збирається поводитися як слон у посудній лавці.


The device is rendered by a detached construction.

Substitution based on the phonetic principle can be illustrated by the following example from Winston Churchill’s speech in the Commons after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour:

I hesitate to express opinions about the future, because things turn cut so very oddly, but I will go so far as to say that it may be Japanese, whose game is what I may call “To make hell while the sun shines” are more likely to occupy themselves in securing their rich prizes in the Philippines, the Dutch East Indies and the Malayan Archipelago”.

Я завжди вагають, коли маю висловлювати думку щодо майбутнього, тому що події розгортаються таким не передбачуваним шляхом, але я дозволю собі зауважити, що, можливо, японці, гра котрих полягає в тому, щоб, користаючись сприятливими обставинами, скоїли якомога більше бід, скоріш за все намагатимуться закріпити за собою свої цінні надбання на Філіппінах, у Голландській Ост-Індії і на Малайському архіпелазі.


The effect of this violation is enhanced by a play on words resulting from combining two phraseological units: a proverb “to make hay while the sun shines” and a collocation “to make hell”.

Only semantic equivalence is achieved in the translation, as the corresponding Ukrainian proverb Куй залізо, доки гаряче (коваль клепне, доки тепле) would be irrelevant here.

Substitutions also occur in allusions and epigrams, e.g.


The family was at this moment divided, unlike Gaul, into four parts.

У цей момент, на відміну від Галлії, родина розділилася на чотири частини.


This is an allusion to the well-known opening line of Caesar’s “De bello gallico”. The English translation of the original sentence runs as follows: “Gaul as a whole is divided into three parts”. Besides substitution, the allusion is extended by means of a lexical addition and is structurally altered.

Violation may also be achieved by a shifting of component elements, as was done, for example, by Evelyn Waugh:

There’s danger in numbers; divided we stand, united we fall”.

In the first phrase E.Waugh substitutes the noun “danger” for “safety” (there is safety in numbers); in the second, he shifts the components (united we stand, divided we fall).

The following translation may be suggested:

У єдності слабкість. Окремо ми встоїмо. Разом ми загтнемо.

The revival of a faded metaphor or metaphoric element may be regarded by the introduction of some word or words which restore and bring to mind the original transference of meaning.

I wanted to give her not a piece but the whole of my mind. (S.Maugham)

In phraseological unity “to give apiece of one’s mind – відверто висловити комусь своє несхвалення – one of the components is a faded metaphor (piece) but the additional word “the whole” brings back the original meaning of the word “piece”. Naturally the device cannot be preserved but can be compensated by means of expressive synonyms and an intensifier.

Я хотів не тільки відверто висловити їй своє несхвалення, але й буквально викласти все, що я про неї думав.

Set expressions (collocations) are easily violated as the ties between the elements are rather loose. This fact is confirmed by the existence of synonymous variants, e.g. to cast a glance, to dart a glance, etc.

Phrases containing repetition (of the type “day by day”, “step by step”) are also sometimes broken by an additional word.

The clocks of Silverhill ticked away minute by slow minute. (P. Whitney).

Годинниик в Сільверхіллі повільно відраховували хвилину за хвилиною.


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