"Mass of contradictions" and "bundle of nerves"

babayna

New Member
Italian
Are these idiomatic expressions or collocates?
I am writing a linguistic essay and i can't properly understand the difference between the two features.
 
  • panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Are these idiomatic expressions or collocates?
    I am writing a linguistic essay and i can't properly understand the difference between the two features.
    We have had some discussions recently about terminology, in particular the meaning of "idiomatic", so I'll be careful.
    Idiom & idiomatic - their meaning and usage
    Idiomatic / idiom

    These expressions are familiar and common.
    Therefore it is reasonable to say that these are standard collocations.
    I would also say that they are idiomatic English - if used appropriately. By that, I mean that native speakers would naturally use these phrases.

    Now, are they idioms?
    From one of the threads listed above:
    1. An idiom is a phrase whose meaning cannot be determined by the literal definition of the phrase itself.
    I don't think they are idioms - but they are figurative or metaphorical.

    As I am a non-expert in the classification of such things, I hope others chip in soon.
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    More inexpert still, I would certainly call them collocations, if it was a word I used much. They are expressions which are used quite frequently: we don't so often say a bundle of contradictions or a mass of nerves, though these expressions are not out-of-the-question.

    The collective noun is usually associated with the particular word which follows it, but the collective noun is not specific to it, as in the case of a pride of lions or a charm of goldfinches. The Serengeti would be a less exciting place if inhabited by charms of lions, and my garden would feel more dangerous for the possibility of an encounter with a pride of goldfinches.

    Idiom? I agree with Panj. I don't think so. It's not difficult to see what is meant. The level of the image isn't deep. It's not like a baker's dozen, where quite a long acquaintance with bread-making might still leave one puzzled about what the expression meant.
     

    Alxmrphi

    Senior Member
    UK English
    I agree with Thomas, they're collocations, not really idioms, but there certainly is an argument for this label, considering we're talking about a (possibly) unique association that doesn't translate literally into another language.

    Babayana: since you're writing a linguistics essay you might want to call them syntagmatic associations, which is the more 'scholarly' term for it (words that commonly co-occur).
     
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    Myridon

    Senior Member
    English - US
    A "mass of contradictions" is an idiom ("Your post is a mass of contradictions") because it is not literally a mass (physical lump) made out of contradictions (abstract concepts).
    A bundle of nerves is usually an idiom ("I'm a bundle of nerves" = "I'm very nervous.") but sometimes not ("The spinal cord is a bundle of nerves.")
     

    Myridon

    Senior Member
    English - US
    To my understanding, "Your post is a mass of contradictions." is a metaphor, but "mass of contradictions" by itself is not a metaphor.
     

    Parla

    Member Emeritus
    English - US
    But you don't say why they are idioms, do you? I think we need justification, rather than just a bald, apparently dogmatic, assertion.
    I don't understand your question, Thomas. We are not supposed to be defining terms that can be looked up in the dictionary. Both expressions meet the dictionary definition of idiom, as well as the definition of collocation.
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I don't understand your question, Thomas. We are not supposed to be defining terms that can be looked up in the dictionary. Both expressions meet the dictionary definition of idiom, as well as the definition of collocation.
    It's not very complicated, I think. We are concerned with applying our understanding of the terms collocation and idiom, to the two expressions. We were explaining why they met one definition, but not the other; you simply stated that they met both, without showing where our analysis differed from yours. Your failure to give any explanation meant that we had no means of assessing, or being persuaded by, your argument, or even of knowing whether you had one.

    Just saying that both expressions meet the dictionary definitions, without countering the arguments which have been put forward to the contrary, is not enough, in my view. If we were solely engaged here is trotting out dictionary definitions, the forum would not be very interesting or valuable. We are mostly engaged in expanding people's understanding of the dictionary, by debate. You seem to be refusing to engage in debate.

    I want to know why you hold your view.
     
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