to pigeonhole/postpone/put on ice/shelve

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MateuszMoś

Senior Member
Hello,

Having done a few exercises connected with English vocabulary, I cannot differentiate the meanings of the afore-mentioned words. Unfortunately, the books do not provide any explanations that's why I am a bit puzzled. I can realize that the one word is sometimes used in a daily speech, the other is used in official letters.
Are you able to provide any information thanks to which I will be able to know where to use "to pigeonhole" and where to avoid using it?
My second question is which verb should be used with gerund form and which with full infinitive, my attempts:

I will shelve/pigeonhole/postpone/put on ice doing this plan until next year.
I will shelve/pigeonhole/postpone/put on ice this plan and to it next year.
I will shelve/pigeonhole/postpone/put on ice the plan of my doing it until next year.
 
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  • pob14

    Senior Member
    American English
    I see that the Collins version of the WR dictionary includes "put aside" as a meaning of "pigeonhole;" I've never heard it used that way. I wonder if that's a UK usage. To me, "pigeonhole" means "put into a category."

    I've been pigeonholed as a criminal lawyer for too long; I want to start doing some other kinds of cases.
     

    DonnyB

    Sixties Mod
    English UK Southern Standard English
    I see that the Collins version of the WR dictionary includes "put aside" as a meaning of "pigeonhole;" I've never heard it used that way. I wonder if that's a UK usage. To me, "pigeonhole" means "put into a category."
    I was surprised to find that Oxford Dictionaries Online lists as one of its meanings: Put aside for future consideration. I've never come across it used like that and it's not as far as I'm aware a UK/BE usage. I certainly wouldn't advise using it in any of the OP's sentences.

    Which leaves:
    1. I will postpone doing this plan until next year. ("shelve" might work there but I don't like it much.)
    2. I will shelve/postpone this plan and [return] to it next year. (if you use "put on ice" you'd have to do it as:
    2a I will put this plan on ice and [return] to it next year.)
    3. I will ..... the plan of my doing it until next year. (isn't idiomatic and may not even be grammatically correct).

    PS - "put on ice" is rather informal compared to the others.
     

    Parla

    Member Emeritus
    English - US
    In reply to post #2: Interestingly (and surprisingly, to me) the online Free Dictionary (which is based on the American Heritage Dictionary), does give "shelve" as a tertiary definition of pigeonhole:
    1. To place or file in a small compartment or recess.
    2. To classify mentally; categorize.
    3. To put aside and ignore; shelve.
    I'm familiar only with the first and second definitions, and certainly the second is the one commonly used (the first referred to compartments in the classic roll-top desk,* with which hardly anyone now alive is familiar).

    *Click on one of the small photos to see the compartments inside the desk.

    [Footnote added in edit.]
     
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    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    I see that the Collins version of the WR dictionary includes "put aside" as a meaning of "pigeonhole;" I've never heard it used that way. I wonder if that's a UK usage. To me, "pigeonhole" means "put into a category."

    I've been pigeonholed as a criminal lawyer for too long; I want to start doing some other kinds of cases.
    That's what it means to me, so I, also, was surprised at that "put aside" definition. However, the OED has that meaning going back to 1855, including a citation from the USA
    2002 Salt Lake Tribune (Nexis) 25 Mar. a8 Reports this general tend to get pigeonholed in some file rather than acted upon.
     

    Mahantongo

    Senior Member
    English (U.S.)
    Like Parla, I am only familiar with the first two definitions, with the second in particular being a common usage. Before today, I had never heard of that third definition, and I have never come across anyone using the word that way. I therefore would recommend that it should not be used by anyone with this odd, unusual meaning, as it would clearly create confusion.

    (It also seems to me that the citation given is merely another use of the first definition: to put something into a slot, compartment, or other place for a file. While the effect of filing something away may be to delay or postpone it, I don't think the meanings are truly the same.)
     
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    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    I don't agree with Mahantongo about the meaning in that citation. It clearly means exactly the definition:

    Reports this general tend to get pigeonholed in some file rather than acted upon.
    Reports this general tend to get put aside in some file rather than acted upon.

    However, I don't use pigeonhole with that meaning.
     

    suzi br

    Senior Member
    English / England
    I agree with the others that I would not use pigeonhole for this meaning.

    With put on ice it does not fit well in any of the examples you gave because the word order is usually different with that phrase.

    I will put those plans on ice until my pay rise comes through.
    NOT: I will put on ice those plans ....

    DonnyB already pointed this out, but I am making it a more general point about ANY time you think of using this phrase.
    A similar kitchen-related phrase is "I'll put that on the back burner".
     

    suzi br

    Senior Member
    English / England
    I agree with Mahantongo (post #6) regarding the citation noted by Paul (post #5).
    I don't! For the reason cited in #8. Clearly it starts from the literal idea of using that sort of filing system, but move into the possibility that it can be neglected there once it has been filed. Even so, it is not commonly used that way and I would not use it when there are many more well-known idioms for the job.
     
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