D. PECULIAR USE OF SET EXPRESSIONS



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D. PECULIAR USE OF SET EXPRESSIONS



In language studies there are two very clearly-marked tendencies that the student should never lose sight of, particularly when dealing with the problem of word-combination. They are 1) the analytical tendency, which seeks to dissever one component from another and 2) the synthetic tendency which seeks to integrate the parts of the combination into a stable unit.

These two tendencies are treated in different ways in lexicology and stylistics. In lexicology the parts of a stable lexical unit may be sepa­rated in order to make a scientific investigation of the character of the combination and to analyse the components. In stylistics we analyse the component parts in order to get at some communicative effect sought by the writer. It is this communicative effect and the means employed to achieve it that Jie within the domain of stylistics.

The integrating tendency also is closely studied in the realm of lexicology, especially when linguistic scholars seek to fix what seems to be a stable word-combination and ascertain the degree of its stabil­ity, its variants and so on. The integrating tendency is also within the domain of stylistics, particularly when the word-combination has not yet formed itself as a lexical unit but is in the process of being so formed.

Here we are faced with the problem of what is called the cliche.

The Cliche

A cliche is generally defined as an expression that has become hackneyed and trite. As Random House Dictionary has it, "a cliche ... has lost originality, ingenuity, and impact by long over-use..."

This flefinition lacks one point that should be emphasized; that is, a cliche strives after originality, whereas it has lost the aesthetic generating power it once had. There is always a contradiction between what is aimed at and what is actually attained. Examples of real cliches are 'rosy dreams of youth', 'the patter of little feet', 'deceptively simple'.

Definitions taken from various dictionaries show that cliche is a derogatory term and it is therefore necessary to avoid anything that may be called by that name. But the fact is that most of the widely recognized word-combinations which have been adopted by the language are unjustly classified as cliches. The aversion for cliches has gone so far that most of the lexical units based on simile (see p. 167) are branded as cliches. In an interesting article entitled "Great Cliche Debate" published in the New York Times Magazine l we can read the pros and cons concerning cliches. The article is revealing on one main point. It illustrates the fact that an uncertain or vague term will lead to various and even conflicting interpretations of the idea embodied in the term. What, indeed, do the words 'stereotyped', 'hackneyed', 'trite* convey to the mind? First of all they indicate that the phrase is in common use. Is this a demerit? Not at all. On the contrary: something common, habitual, devoid of novelty is the only admissible expression in some types of communications. In the article just mentioned one of the deba­ters objects to the phrase 'Jack-of-all-trades' and suggests that it should be "one who can turn his hand to any (or to many kinds of) work." His opponent naturally rejects the substitute on the grounds that 'Jack of all trades' may, as he says, have long ceased to be vivid or original, but his substitute never was. And it is fourteen words instead of four. "Determine to avoid cliches at all costs and you are almost certain to be led into gobbledygook."2

Debates of this kind proceed from a grossly mistaken notion that the term 'cliche' is used to denote all stable word-combinations, whereas it was coined,*to denote^word-combinations which have long lost their novelty and become trite,' but which are used as if they were fresh and original and so have become irritating to people who are sensitive to the language they hear and read. What is familiar should not be given a derogatory label. On the contrary, if it has become familiar, that means it has won general recognition and by iteration has been accepted as a unit of the language.

But the process of Being acknowledged as a unit of language is slow. It is next to impossible to foretell what may be accepted as a unit of the language and what may be rejected and cast away as being unfit, inappropriate, alien to the internal laws of the language,or failing to meet the demand of the language community for stable word-combina­tions to designate new notions. Hence the two conflicting ideas: language should always be fresh, vigorous and expressive, and, on the other hand, language, as a common tool for intercommunication, should make use

of units that are easily understood and which require little or no effort to convey the idea and to grasp it.

R. D. Altick in his "Preface to Critical Reading" condemns every word sequence in which what follows can easily be predicted from what precedes.

"When does an expression become a cliche? There can be no definite answer, because what is trite to one person may still be fresh to another. But a great many expressions are universally understood to be so threadbare as to be useless except in the most casual discourse... A good practical test is this: If, when you are listening to a speaker, you can accurately anticipate what he is going to say next, he is pretty certainly using cliches, other­wise he would be constantly surprising you." l

Then he gives examples, like We are gathered here to-day to mourn ('the untimely death') of our beloved leader...; Words are inadequate ('to express the grief that is in our hearts').

"Similarly when you read," he goes on, "if one word almost inevitably invites another, if you can read half of the words and know pretty certainly what the other are, you are reading cliches."

And then again come illustrations, like We watched the flames ('lick­ing') at the side of the building. A pall ('of smoke') hung thick over the neighbourhood...', He heard a dull ('thud') which was followed by an omi­nous ('silence').2

This passage shows that the author has been led into the erroneous notion that everything that is predictable is a cliche. He is confusing useful word-combinations circulating in speech as members of the word-stock of the language with what claims to be genuine, original and vigorous. All word-combinations that do not surprise are labelled as cliches. If we agree with such an understanding of the term, we must admit that the following stable and necessary word-combinations used in newspaper language must be viewed as cliches: 'effective guarantees', 'immediate issues', 'the whip and carrot policy1, 'statement of policy9, 'to maintain some equilibrium between reliable sources', 'buffer zone 'he laid it down equally clearly that...' and so on.

R. D. Altick thus denounces as cliches such verb- and noun-phrases as 'to live to a ripe old age', 'to grow by leaps and bounds1, 'to withstand me test of time', 'to let bygones be bygones', 'to be unable to see the wood for the trees', 'to upset the apple-cart', 'to have an ace up one's sleeve'. And^finally he rejects such word-combinations as*'the full flush of vic­tory', “the patter of rain', 'part and parcel', 'a diamond in the rough' and the like on the grounds that they have outlasted their freshness. 3

In his protest against hackneyed phrases, Altick has gone so far as to declare that people have adopted phrases like 'clock-work precision',

'tight-lipped (or stony) silence', 'crushing defeat', 'bumper-to-bumper traffic', 'sky-rocketing costs' and the like"... as a way of evading their obligation to make their own language."1

Of course, if instead of making use of the existing means of communi­cation, i. e. the language of the community, people are to coin "their own language," then Altick is right. But nobody would ever think such an idea either sound or reasonable. The set expressions of a language are 'part and parcel' of the vocabulary of the language and cannot be dispensed with by merely labelling them cliches.

However, at every period in the development of a language, there appear strange combinations of words which arouse suspicion as to their meaning and connotation. Many of the new-born word-combinations in modern English, both in their American and British variants, have been made fun of because their meaning is still obscure, and therefore they are used rather loosely. Recently in the New'York Times such cli­ches as 'speaking realization', 'growing awareness', 'rising expectations', 4o think unthinkable thoughts' and others were wittily criticized by a journalist who showed that ordinary rank-and-file American people do not understand these new word-combinations, just as they fail to un­derstand certain neologisms, as opt (= to make a choice), and revived words, as deem (= to consider, to believe to be) and others and reject them or use them wrongly.

But as history has proved, the protest of too-zealous purists often fails to bar the way to all kinds of innovations into standard English. Illustrative in this respect is the protest made by Byron in his "Don Juan":

and also:

or:

''...'free to confess'—(whence comes this phrase? Is't English? No—'tis only parliamentary)."

"Л strange coincidence to use a phrase

By which-such44 things are settled nowadays."

"The march of Science (How delightful these cliches are!)..."

(Aldington)

Byron, being very sensitive to the aesthetic aspect of his native language, could not help observing the triteness of the phrases he com­ments on, but at the same time he accepts them as ready-made units. Language has its strength and its weaknesses. A linguistic scholar must be equipped with methods of stylistic analysis to ascertain the writer's aim, the situation in which the communication takes place and possibly the impact on the reader, to decide whether or not a phrase is a cliche or "the right word in the right place". If he does not take into consideration all the properties of the given word or word-combination, the intricacies of language units may become a trap for him.

Ibid.

Men-of-letters, if they are real artists, use the stock of expressive phrases contained in the language naturally and easily, and well-known phrases never produce the impression of being cliches,

Proverbs and Sayings

Proverbs and sayings are facts of language. They are collected in dictionaries. There are special dictionaries of proverbs and sayings. It is impossible to arrange proverbs and sayings in a form that would present a pattern even though they have some typical features by which it is 1 possible to determine whether or not we are dealing with one. These [typical features are: rhythm, sometimes rhyme and/or alliteration. But the most characteristic feature of a proverb or a saying lies not |fn its formal linguistic expression, but in the content-form of the utter-pnce. As is known, a proverb or a saying is a peculiar mode of utterance Vhich is mainly characterized by its brevity. The utterance itself, taken at Bits face value, presents a pattern which can be successfully used for other liitterances. The peculiarity of the use of a proverb lies in the fact that Ithe actual wording becomes a pattern which needs no new wording to [suggest extensions of meaning which are contextual. In other words, la proverb presupposes a simultaneous application of two meanings: [the face-value or primary meaning, and an extended meaning drawn Hrom the context, but bridled by the face-value meaning. In other words, [the proverb itself becomes a vessel into which new content is poured. IThe actual wording of a proverb, its primary meaning, narrows the [field of possible extensions of meaning, i. e. the filling up of the form. •That is why we may regard the proverb as a pattern of thought. Soit is I'm every other case at any other level of linguistic research. Abstract [formulas offer a wider range of possible applications to practical pur-Iposes than concrete words, though they have the same purpose.

Almost every good writer will make use of language idioms, by-[phrases and proverbs. As Gorki has it, they are the natural ways in ^hich speech develops.

Proverbs and sayings have certain purely linguistic features which [must always be taken into account in order to distinguish them from [ordinary sentences. Proverbs are brief statements showing in condensed [form the accumulated life experience of the community and serving as |conventional practical symbols for abstract ideas. They are usually I didactic and image bearing. Many of them through frequency of repeti­tion have become polished and wrought into verse-like shape, as in the [following:

"to cut one's coat according to one's cloth."

"Early to bed and early to rise,

Makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise."

Brevity in proverbs manifests itself also in the omission of connec-|fives, as in:

"First come, first served." "Out of sight, out of mind."

But the main feature distinguishing proverbs and sayings from or­dinary utterances remains their semantic aspect. Their literal meaning is suppressed by what may be termed their transferred meaning. In other words, one meaning (literal) is the form for another meaning (transferred) which contains the idea. Proverbs and sayings, if used appropriately, will never lose their freshness and vigour. The most no­ticeable thing about the functioning of sayings, proverbs and catch-phrases is that they may be handled not in their fixed form (the tradi­tional model) but with modifications. These modifications, however, will never break away from the invariants to such a degree that the cor­relation between the invariant model of a word-combination and its variant ceases to be perceived by the reader. The predictability of a variant of a word-combination is lower in comparison with its invariant. Therefore the use of such a unit in a modified form will always arrest our attention, causing a much closer examination of the wording of the utterance in order to get at the idea. Thus, the proverb 'all is not gold that glitters' appears in Byron's "Don Juan" in the following form and environment where at first the meaning may seem obscure:

"How all the needy honourable misters,

Each out-at-elbow peer or desperate dandy,

The watchful mothers, and the careful sisters (Who, by the by, when clever, are more handy

At making matches where "t'is gold that glisters" l' Than their he relatives), like flies o'er candy

Buzz round the Fortune with their busy battery,

To turn her head with waltzing and with flattery."

Out of the well-known proverb Byron builds a periphrasis, the mean­ing of which is deciphered two lines below: 'the Fortune', that is, 'a mar­riageable heiress').

It has already been.pointed out that Byron is fond of playing with stable word-combinations,.sometimes injecting new vigour into the com­ponents, sometimes entirely disregarding the semantic unity of the com­bination. In the following lines, for instance, each word of the phrase safe and sound gets its full meaning.

"I leave Don Juan for the present, safe— Not sound, poor fellow, but severely wounded;"

The proverb Hell is paved with good intentions and the set expres­sion to mean well are used by Byron in a peculiar way, thus making the reader re-appraise the hackneyed phrases.

(< ................ if he warr'd

Or loved, it was with what we call the best Intentions, which form all mankind's trump card,

To be produced when brought up to the test, The statesman, hero, harlot, lawyer—ward

Off each attack, when people are in quest

1 the archaic form of glitters

Of their designs, by saying they meant well. ['Tis pity that such meaning should pave hell"

The stylistic effect produced by such uses of proverbs and sayings is the result of a twofold application of language means, which, as has already been emphasized, is an indispensable condition for the appearance of all stylistic devices. The modified form of the proverb is perceived against the background of the fixed form, thus enlivening the latter. Sometimes this injection of new vigour into the proverb causes a slight semantic re-evaluation of its generally accepted meaning. When a prov­erb is used in its unaltered form it can be qualified as an expressive means (EM) of the language; when used in a modified variant it assumes the one of the features of an SD, it acquires a stylistic meaning, though not becoming an SD.

We shall take only a few of the numerous examples of the stylistic use of proverbs and sayings to illustrate the possible ways of decomposing the units in order simply to suggest the idea behind them:

"Come!" he said, "milk's spilt." (Galsworthy) (from 'It is no use crying over spilt milk!').

"But to all that moving experience there had been a shadow (a dark lining to the silver cloud), insistent and plain, which disconcerted her," (Maugham) (from 'Every cloud has a silver lining').

"We were dashed uncomfortable in the frying pan, but we should have been a damned sight worse off in the fire" (Maugham) (from 'Out of the frying-pan into the fire').

"You know which side the law's buttered." (Galsworthy) (from 'His bread is buttered on both sides').

This device is used not only in the belles-lettres style. Here are some instances from newspapers and magazines illustrating the stylistic use of proverbs, sayings and other word-combinations:

"...and whether the Ministry of Economrc Warfare is being allowed enough financial rope to do its worst." (from 'Give a thief rope enough and he'll hang himself).

"The waters will remain sufficiently troubled for somebody's fishing to be profitable" (Economist) (from 'It is good fishing in troubled waters').

A newspaper editorial once had the following headline:

"Proof of the Pudding" (from 'The proof of the pudding is in the eating').

Here is a recast of a well-known proverb used by an advertizing agency:

"Early to bed and early to rise

No use—unless you advertize"

(from 'Early to bed and early to rise* }

Makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise')*

Notice this recast by Lewis Carroll of a well-known saying:1

"Take care of the sense and the sounds will take care of them­selves."

Epigrams

An epigram is a stylistic device akin to a proverb, the only difference being that epigrams are coined by individuals whose names we know, while proverbs are the coinage of the people. In other words, we are always aware of the parentage of an epigram and therefore, when using one, we usually make a reference to its author.

Epigrams are terse, witty, pointed statements, showing the ingenious turn of mind of the originator. They always have a literary-bookish air about them that distinguishes them from proverbs. Epigrams possess a great degree of independence and therefore, if taken out of the context, will retain the wholeness of the idea they express. They have a generaliz­ing function and are self-sufficient. The most characteristic feature of an epigram is that the sentence gets accepted as a word-combination and often becomes part of the language as a whole. Like proverbs, epigrams can be expanded to apply to abstract notions (thus embodying different spheres of application). Brevity is the essential quality of the epigram. A. Chekhov once said that brevity is the sister of talent; 'Brevity is the soul of the wit' holds true of any epigram.

Epigrams are often confused with aphorisms and paradoxes. It is dif­ficult to draw a demarcation line between them, the distinction being very subtle. Real epigrams are true to fact and that is why they win general recognition and acceptance.

Let us turn to examples. Somerset Maugham in "The Razor's Edge" says:

"Art is triumphant when it can use convention as an instru­ment of its own;;purpose."

This statement is interesting from more than one point of view. It shows the ingenious turn of mind of the writer, it gives an indirect de­finition of art as Maugham understands it, it is complete in itself even if taken out of the context. But still this sentence is not a model epigram because it lacks one essential quality, viz. brevity. It is too long and therefore cannot function in speech as a ready-made language unit. Be­sides, it lacks other features which are inherent in epigrams and make them similar to proverbs, i.e. rhythm, alliteration and often rhyme. It cannot be expanded to other spheres of life, it does Hot generalize.

Compare this sentence with the following used by the same author in the same novel.

"A God that can be understood is no God."

This sentence seems to meet all the necessary requirements of the epigram: it is brief, generalizing, witty and can be expanded in its appli­cation. The same applies to Byron's

"...in the days of old men made manners; Manners now ftiake men" ("Don Juan")

or Keats's

"A thing of beauty is a joy forever."

Writers who seek aesthetic precision use the epigram abundantly; others use it to characterize the hero of their work. Somerset Maugham is particularly fond of it and many of his novels and stories abound in epigrams. Here are some from "The Painted Veil."

"He that bends shall be made straight."

"Failure is the foundation of success and success is the lurking

place of failure..."

"Mighty is he who conquers himself."

There are utterances which in form are epigrammatic—these are verses and in particular definite kinds of verses. The last two lines of a sonnet are called epigrammatic because, according to the semantic structure of this form of verse, they sum up and synthesize what has been said before. The heroic couplet, a special compositional form of verse, is also a suitable medium for epigrams, for instance:

"To observations which ourselves, we make, We grow more partial for th' observer's sake."

(Alexander Pope)

There are special dictionaries which are called "Dictionaries of Quota­tions." These, in fact, are mostly dictionaries of epigrams. What is worth quoting must always contain some degree of the generalizing quality and if it comes from a work of poetry will have metre (and sometimes rhyme). That is why the works of Shakespeare, Pope, Byron and many other great English poets are said to be full of epigrammatic statements.

The epigram is, in fact, a supra-phrasal unit in sense, though not in structure (see p. 194). " "

Poetry is epigrammatic in essence. It always strives for brevity of expression, leaving to the mind of the reader the pleasure of amplifying the idea. Byron's

"The drying up a single tear has more

Of honest fame, than shedding seas of gore,"

is a strongly worded epigram, which impresses the* reader with its gener­alizing truth. It may be regarded as a supra-phrasal unit inasmuch as it is semantically connected with the preceding lines and at the same time enjoys a considerable degree of independence. The inner quality of any sentence to which the rank of epigram, in the generic sense of the term, can be attributed, is that the particularity of the event is replaced by a timeless non-particularity.1

Take care of the pence and the pounds will take care oi themselves,

Quotations

Next to the originator of a good sentence is the first quoter of it. Emerson

A quotation is a repetition of a phrase or statement from a book, speech and the like used by way of authority, illustration, proof or as a basis for further speculation on the matter in hand.

By repeating a passage in a new environment, we attach to the ut­terance an importance it might not have had in the context whence it was taken. Moreover, we give it the status, temporary though it may be, of a stable language unit. What is quoted must be worth quoting, since a quotation will inevitably acquire some degree of generalization. If repeated frequently, it may be recognized as an epigram, if, of course, it has at least some of the linguistic properties of the latter.

Quotations are usually marked off in the text by inverted commas (" "), dashes (—), italics or other graphical means.

They are mostly used accompanied by a reference to the author of the quotation, unless he is well known to the reader or audience. The reference is made either in the text or in a foot-note and assumes va­rious forms, as, for instance:

"as (so and so) has it"; "(So and so) once said that"...; "Here we quote (so and so)" or in the manner the reference to Emerson has been made in the epigraph to this chapter.

A quotation is the exact reproduction of an actual utterance made by a certain author. The work containing the utterance quoted must have been published or at least spoken in public; for quotations are echoes of somebody else's words.

Utterances, when quoted, undergo a peculiar and subtle change. They are rank-and-file members of the text they belong to, merging with other sentences in this text in the most natural and organic wayf bearing some part of the general sense the text as a whole embodies; yet, when they are quoted,, their significance is heightened and they become different from other parts of the text. Once quoted, they are no longer rank-and-file units. If they are used to back up the idea ex­pressed in the new text, they become "parent sentences" with the cor­responding authority and respect and acquire a symbolizing function; in short, they not infrequently become epigrams, for example, Hamlet's "To be or not to be!" X

A quotation is always4 set against the other sentences in the text by its greater volume of sense and significance. This singles it out, par­ticularly if it is frequently repeated", as any utterance worth committing to memory generally is. The use of quotationsTpresupposes a good know­ledge of the past experience of the nation, its literature and culture.1 The stylistic value of a quotation lies mainly in the fact that it com­prises two meanings: the primary meaning, the one which it has in its original surroundings, and the applicative meaning, i.e. the one which it acquires in the new context.

1 A quotation from Byron's "English Bards and Scotch Reviewers" will be apt as a comment here: "With just enough of learning to misquote."

Quotations, unlike epigrams, need not necessarily be short. A whole paragraph or a long passage may be quoted if it suits the purpose. It is to be noted, however, that sometimes in spite of the fact that the exact wording is used, a quotation in a new environment may assume a new shade of meaning, a shade necessary or sought by the quoter, but not intended by the writer of the original work.

Here we give a few examples of the use of quotations.

"Socrates said, our only knowledge was

"To know that nothing could be known" a pleasant

Science enough, which levels to an ass

Each man of Wisdom, future, past or present.

Newton (that proverb of the mind) alas!

Declared with all his grand discoveries recent

That he himself felt only "like a youth

Picking up shells by the great ocean—Truth." (Byron)

"Ecclesiastes said, "that all is vanity"—* Most modern preachers say the same, or show it

By their examples of the Christianity..," (Byron)

Quotations are used as a stylistic device, as is seen from these exam-j pies, with the aim of expanding the meaning of the sentence quoted and setting two meanings one against the other, thus modifying the original meaning. In this quality they are used mostly in the belles-lettres style. Quotations used in other styles of speech allow no modifications of mean­ing, unless actual distortion of form and meaning is the aim of the quoter.

Quotations are also used in epigraphs. The quotation in this case possesses great associative power and calls forth much connotative mean­ing,

Allusions

An allusion is an indirect reference, by word or phrase, to a historical, literary, mythological, biblical fact or to "a fact of'everyday life made in the course of speaking or writing. The use of allusion presup­poses knowledge of the fact, thing or person alluded to on the part of the reader or listener. As a rule no indication of the source is given. This is one of the notable differences between quotation and allusion. Another difference is of a structural nature: a quotation must repeat the exact wording of the original even though the meaning may be modified by the new context; an allusion is only a mention of a word or phrase which may be regarded as the key-word of the utterance. An allusion has cer­tain important semantic peculiarities, in that the meaning of the word (the allusion) should be regarded as a form for the new meaning. In other words, the primary meaning of the word or phrase which is assumed to be known (i.e. the allusion) serves as a vessel into which new meaning is poured. So here there is also a kind of interplay between two meanings.

Here is a passage in which an allusion is made to the coachman, Old Mr. Weller, the father of Dickens's famous character, Sam Weller, In this case the nominal meaning is broadened into a generalized concept:

"Where is the road now, and its merry incidents of life!., old honest, pimple-nosed coachmen? I wonder where are they, those good fellows? Is old Welter alive or dead?" (Thackeray)

The volume of meaning in this allusion goes beyond the actual know­ledge of the character's traits. Even the phrases about the road and the coachmen bear indirect reference to Dickens's "Pickwick Papers."

Here is another instance of allusion which requires a good knowledge of mythology, history and geography if it is to be completely understood.

"Shakespeare talks of the herald Mercury

New lighted on a heaven-kissing hill', And some such visions cross'd her majesty

While her young herald knelt before her still. 'Tis very true the hill seem'd rather high,

For a lieutenant to climb up; but skill Smoothed even the Simplon's steep, and by God's blessing With youth and health all kisses are heaven-kissing."

(Byron)

Mercury, Jupiter's messenger, is referred to here because Don Juan brings a dispatch to Catherine II of Russia and is therefore her majesty's herald. But the phrase "...skill smooth'd even the Simplon's steep..." will be quite incomprehensible to those readers who do not know that Napoleon built a carriage road near the village of Simplon in the pass 6590 feet over the Alps and founded a hospice at the summit. Then the words 'Simplon's steep' become charged with significance and implica­tions which now need no further comment.

Allusions are based on the accumulated experience and the knowledge of the writer who presupposes a similar experience and knowledge in the reader. But the knowledge stored in our minds is called forth by an allusion in a peculiar rfianner. ^All kinds of associations we may not yet have realized cluster round the facts alluded to. Illustrative in this re­spect is the quotation-allusion made in Somerset Maugham's novel "The Painted Veil". The last words uttered by the dying man are "The dog it was that died." These are the concluding lines of Goldsmith's "Elegy on the Death of a Mad Dog." Unless the reader knows the Elegy, he will not understand the implication embodied in this quotation. Consequently, the quotation here becorpes an allusion which runs through the whole plot of the novel. Moreover, the psychological tuning of the novel can be deciphered only by drawing a parallel between the poem and the plot of the novel.

The main character is dying, having failed to revenge himself upon his unfaithful wife. He was punished by death for having plotted evil. This is the inference to be drawn from the allusion.

The following passage from Dickens's "Hard Times" will serve to prove how remote may be the associations called up by an allusion,

"No little Grandgrind had ever associated a cow in a field with that famous cow with the crumpled horn that tossed the dog that wor­ried the cat that killed the rat that ate the malt, or with that yet

more famous cow that swallowed Tom Thumb; it had never heard of those celebrities."

The meaning that can be derived from the two allusions, one to the nursery rhyme "The House that Jack built" and the other to the old tale "The History of Tom Thumb" is the following:

No one was permitted to teach the little Grandgrind children the lively, vivid nursery rhymes and tales that every English child knows by heart. They were subjected to nothing but dry abstract drilling. The word cow in the two allusions becomes impregnated with concrete mean­ing set against the abstract meaning of cow-in-a-field, or cow-in-general. To put it into the terms of theoretical linguistics, cow-in-a-fie Id refers to the nominating rather than to the signifying aspect of the word.

Allusions and quotations may be termed nonce-set-expres­sions because they are used only for the occasion.

Allusion, as has been pointed out, needs no indication of the source. It is assumed to be known. Therefore most allusions are made to facts with which the general reader should be familiar. However, allusions are sometimes made to things and facts wrhich need commentary before they are understood.

Allusions are used in different styles, but their function is every­where the same. The deciphering of an allusion, however, is not always easy. In newspaper headlines allusions may be decoded at first glance, as, for instance;

"'Pie in the sky' for Railmen" *

Most people in the USA and Britain know the refrain of the workers' song: "You'll get pie in the sky when you die."

The use of part of the sentence-refrain implies that the railmen had been given many promises but nothing at the present moment. Lin­guistically the allusion 'pie in the sky' assumes a new meaning, viz. nothing but promises. Through frequency of repetition it may enter into the word-stock of the English language as a figurative synonyms



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