idiom templates

Mark Mandel Mark_Mandel at DRAGONSYS.COM
Wed Aug 22 15:07:46 UTC 2001

What would you call the class of constructions like these? Idiom templates?
Grammatical idioms? Idioms of grammar?

1. X me no Ys:
     a. tell me no lies: Grammatical even without any idiomatic
interpretation, but close to the proverb "Ask me no questions, I'll tell
you no lies."
     b. but me no buts: This form is an idiom in its own right.
     c. drib me no drabs: "Don't give me disconnected bits and pieces of
information", from idiom "dribs and drabs".

2. As an X, s/he's a great Y.
     a. As a baseball player, he's a great linebacker: "He's not much of a
baseball player." Maybe he's a linebacker who went in for baseball, or
maybe the speaker is comparing what he does in bb to what a linebacker does
in football (blocking the plate??), or maybe he has no connection to
football at all. But in all contexts, the speaker is saying he's not very
good at baseball, or maybe lousy at it.
     b. As a baseball player he's a great accountant: "He's lousy at
baseball." Since accountancy is totally non-athletic and accountants are
stereotypically wimpy (apologies to all accountants!), this strips away all
positive associations that (a) could have.
     c. The prophet Tenskwatawa, who as a tactician made one hell of a TV
evangelist...: "Tenskwatawa, who knew less of tactics than 'a novice in a
nunnery'...". This example, BTW, is the one that started me thinking about
this subject. It's from Michael Longcor's spoken introduction to his song
"When Tenskwatawa Sings", about the Battle of Tippecanoe from the Shawnee
point of view.

-- Mark A. Mandel

More information about the Ads-l mailing list