words in pairs like "cold and grey"

Discussion in 'English Only' started by LV4-26, Feb 26, 2006.

  1. LV4-26

    LV4-26 Senior Member

    Hi all,

    There are a few phrases like that in English where two "loose" synonyms are combined. I think leaps and bounds also falls into that category. Is there a site where I could find a list of those pairs?

    Or, alternatively, can you think of more of them?

    Also, I seem to remember that the same phenomenon exists for approximate homonyms. It's fairly vague in my mind so I have no example to illustrate, except maybe mist and grits, which a tune by Jim Snidero but I'm not sure that phrase is otherwise used in common English.
    Can you see what I mean?

  2. charlie2 Senior Member

    Do you mean expressions like "bits and pieces"?
  3. CAMullen Senior Member

    US, English
    Dribs and drabs? Odds and ends? Tried and true? Fast and furious? Apples and oranges? Ps and qs?

    These don't need to go together in any grammatical sense, but when used together have a different meaning than they would separately. People use them as a shorthand code to paint a picture in the listener's mind.

    "Cold," by itself could describe a bottle of beer; "Gray" might describe my grandfather's beard; but "cold and gray" almost certainly refers to the weather.

    In fact, I believe there is an annual "bad writing" contest where all the entries are supposed to begin with "It was a dark and stormy night..."

    <<Off topic edit CLICK HERE for the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest>>
  4. LV4-26

    LV4-26 Senior Member

    Yes, that's what I was thinking of.
    I just have a doubt about apples and oranges? Does the combination of those two have a special meaning?
  5. frog.arch

    frog.arch Member

  6. river Senior Member

    U.S. English
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 7, 2010
  7. LV4-26

    LV4-26 Senior Member

    Thanks a lot, river. That's about exactly what I was looking for. I just guess not all of them are mentionned on that page.
    I was thinking of slings and arrows just now.
    Did it already exist as a pair before Hamlet or did Shakespeare make it up?

    [EDIT : and the second link is great :) ]
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 7, 2010
  8. CAMullen Senior Member

    US, English
    Apples and Oranges - Separately, fruits that grow in different climates - together, they form a warning not to make invalid comparisons. "You can't compare apples and oranges."

    Dribs and drabs - If I am trying to extract information from someone reluctant to provide it, I expect the information to come to me in "dribs and drabs" - that is, in tiny amounts.

    Odds and ends - I think these terms come from sewing. They have come to mean the little miscellaneous pieces you might find lying on, for example, a not-too-tidy workbench.

    Tried and true - This means "found through experience to be reliable or trustworthy."

    Fast and furious - For example, a particularly exciting sporting event with no dull pauses.

    Ps and qs - I'm unsure of the origin, but in addition to being used to describe successes and failures in a statistical survey, it means, colloquially, "mind your own business" - that is, "don't interfere in my affairs!"
  9. frog.arch

    frog.arch Member

    thank you, CAMullen. :)
  10. LV4-26

    LV4-26 Senior Member

    Anyone for slings and arrows in my post #7?

    Or is it that no one knows the answer (which I can understand as it's a difficult question unless you were born in the XVIIth century)?
  11. panjandrum

    panjandrum Occasional Moderator

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    I looked in various references for quotations (Oxford collection), but I could find nothing but Shakespeare references.
    The phrase is so common on the web that finding anything that relates to an earlier original than Shakespeare would be really difficult.
  12. CAMullen Senior Member

    US, English
    I found, under eggcorns.lascribe.net, the following reference which is just opinion, of course:

    The original is from Hamlet’s Shakespeare, and it is a biblical reference, I believe.

    On the SHAKSPER mailing list, Hardy M. Cook reports:
    [...] Although Jenkins suspects that the line should read “stings and arrows of outrageous fortune,” he cites no examples of the arrows of fortune. [...]
    I checked the OED1 under “slings,” and found example after example of the union of “slingers and archers, slings and bows”–the light artillery of pre-gunpowder warfare. [...] I see no need for an emendation of “slings” to “stings.” […]
    Both “slings” and “arrows” had a figurative use by Shakespeare’s time (and probably much earlier), indicating the “power” of certain abstractions. [...]

    <<Mod edit to comply with WR Copyright rule - #16. The quotation has been cut to four sentences - my choice. Feel free to edit as appropriate while keeping within the rule.>>
  13. CAMullen Senior Member

    US, English
    Of course, if we want an easy "out," we can simply say that nobody really uses "slings and arrows" as meaning more as a term than "slings" and "arrows" do individually; they're just trying to show off about knowing a little Shakespeare! So, curious as you may be, LV4-26, this doesn't relate to your original question.

    As a consolation, though, "leaps and bounds" is sort of the opposite of "dribs and drabs."

  14. DaleC Senior Member

    If grammarians or linguists have a standard term for cliches consisting of pairs of synonyms, then I can't recall it. But see this short article.

    Many of the examples you and others have mentioned don't fit -- they are not pairs of synonyms. Cold and grey/gray are certainly not synonyms. The only thing common to most of the suggestions is that they are memorable (either because of alliteration or because of vivid imagery).
  15. LV4-26

    LV4-26 Senior Member

    So it is...I wasn't sure but as I'd seen (as panjy said) loads of google results with slings and arrows I'd thought it could be used as an idiom. But as you suggested, it seems to be only used as an implied reference to Hamlet.
    Thanks for satisfying my insatiable curiosity :)
  16. CAMullen Senior Member

    US, English
    ...and if not satifying it, then at least avoiding it gracefully, right? I knew all those philosophy classes would come in handy if I lived long enough!

    Good topic though; I enjoyed it.

  17. cuchuflete

    cuchuflete Senior Member

    Maine, EEUU
    Hi Jean-Michel,
    For your collection of common word pairs--

    Hot and bothered
    fine and fancy
    venerated and revered (not, as the Firesign Theater would have it, "generated and veneered")
    done and gone
    oldies and goodies
    fat and happy (sometimes, 'fat, dumb and happy')
    bright-eyed and bushy-tailed
    huggy-bear and kissy-face (I'm not sure about the hyphens)
    hugs and kisses

    It might be fun to write a short prose piece or poem using as many of these as possible. There is an E.E. Cummings poem that includes a dozen or so love metaphors, all of which are cliches. If I can remember it, I'll let you, first and foremost,
    have the down and dirty on it.

  18. I believe this originated from 'please and thankyou ('q').

    The phrase is 'mind your ps and qs' - in other words 'mind your manners!'

    I haven't heard it used in BE in the way you describe, CAM.

  19. panjandrum

    panjandrum Occasional Moderator

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Thread about Ps and Qs may be found HERE.
  20. Being 'prim and proper' I like my men to be 'stiff and starchy' not 'merry and gay'. ;)

    Thanks for the Ps and Qs link, Panj. I was always told to 'mind mine' when going to school friends' parties.

  21. LV4-26

    LV4-26 Senior Member

    Obviously there may be some variations.
    For instance, as an alternative to oldies and goodies, I've also seen oldies but goldies.
    Thanks a lot, Cuchu, I appreciate ;)
  22. cuchuflete

    cuchuflete Senior Member

    Maine, EEUU
  23. Pimothy Member

    English + Dutch, UK
    I always liked the phrase "by and large". It means something like 'mostly' or 'generally'.
    E.g. The UK train system is by and large a mess ;)
  24. atterlep New Member

    Fort Wayne, IN
    English - United States
    When you "compare apples and oranges," you make a false analogy, or grouping together two classses of objects that are fundamentally different.
  25. timpeac

    timpeac Senior Member

    English (England)
    I think such things are called collocations, or at least are a subset of collocations. Collocations are words that go together "just because they do", such as "black and white" rather than "white and black" "private and confidential" "fish and chips" "snakes and ladders" etc.

    Another sort would be "to drive change" rather than "to propulse change" (but that's not the sort you're asking about).
  26. maxiogee Banned

    You can't compare 'apples' and 'pears' - they're like chalk and cheese! :D

    I think this discussion is nearly done and dusted!
  27. panjandrum

    panjandrum Occasional Moderator

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    I agree with maxiogee, I'm sick and tired of all this.
    But by and large isn't like the others - it is a nautical term meaning in any direction except within about six points of the wind.
  28. cuchuflete

    cuchuflete Senior Member

    Maine, EEUU
    Those who tire so easily should be tarred and feathered.

    Subsequently, they shall be drawn and quartered.:D
  29. Royally born and bred, and having the ways and means, come hell or high water I shall put my heart and soul into keeping this post on the straight and narrow.

    Contributing to a thread is part and parcel of a forum member's duty.

    By hook or by crook I shall never blow hot or cold over the ups and downs of forum life. It's all about ins and outs, innit?

    Apologies to the great Panjandrum. :D

  30. timpeac

    timpeac Senior Member

    English (England)
    Panj and rum?:D

  31. Gets better and better.:D A stroke of genius Tim.;)

  32. cuchuflete

    cuchuflete Senior Member

    Maine, EEUU
    Tim stills has lots of gettup and go. He's full of piss and vinegar. He's the man for the here and now, front and center.

    Our Queen is showing off her sweet and low side, so let us bow and scrape, lest she rant and rave, endangering life and limb for all.
  33. cuchuflete

    cuchuflete Senior Member

    Maine, EEUU
    First and foremost, we mustn't have Panj sick and tired of us.

    Now and again we must be short and sweet in our expostions,
    such that, all in all, and little by little, he will be kind and merciful.
  34. The daylilly hybridizer can be high and mighty when push comes to shove. Methinks he comes and goes in fits and starts. He needs a good spit and polish. ;)

    Panj - it's high time you were up and doing instead of being sick and tired. :D

  35. panjandrum

    panjandrum Occasional Moderator

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Oh spit and botheration.
    What with one thing and another, I've been backwards and forwards looking high and low for rogues and vagabonds playing fast and loose with the rules and regulations - instead of concentrating on the here and now.
    Wid yiz luk at thon!:eek:
    I guess there's no point in huffing and puffing when the great and the good have conspired one with another, and joined forces with Her Majesty (who are an and in their own right), to play ducks and drakes with the warp and weft of the forum's fabric.
  36. dayve Member

    Sydney, Australia
    English - Australia
    I had only ever heard of "pith and vinegar". Is "piss and vinegar" any different? Can't find either in the OED!

  37. Hi Dayve,

    This is an American slang term, largely used by country bumpkins (take a look at the person who wrote it;) ) meaning 'full of youthful energy and vitality'.

    See here for more information.

    Tip of the day: If you don't find what you are looking for in a dictionary, try searching the net with google.

    Best wishes,

    La Reine V
  38. Isotta

    Isotta Senior Member

    English, Hodgepodge
    As long as I need not bow and kowtow,
    I'll be up and to arm, booted and spurred,
    Through dark and stormy night, by land and sea,
    Through alley and street, and village and farm,
    To rant and rage--on the place and the hour.
  39. The Running Head New Member

    English - UK
    Try 'hendiadys'.
  40. Einstein

    Einstein Senior Member

    Milano, Italia
    UK, English

    Meanwhile I was thinking of "rules and regulations".
  41. timpeac

    timpeac Senior Member

    English (England)
    "Compare and contrast..." - the mainstay of the exam essay question.
  42. se16teddy

    se16teddy Senior Member

    London but from Yorkshire
    English - England
    Just wanted to observe that many of these pairs are alliterative, reminding us of the days before English came under undue French influence, and when English verse was based on alliteration rather than rhyme.

    Here a a few examples, which I got from here: http://linguistlist.org/issues/6/6-395.html. Not all of these pairs are synonyms or run in parallel.
    as good as gold (not synonyms)
    - house and home
    - have and to hold
    - blind as a bat
    - bed and board
    - might and main
    - forgive and forget
    - to bear the brunt
    - the law of the land
    - life and limb
    - hale and hearty
    - hearth and home
    Last edited: Nov 6, 2010
  43. grubble

    grubble Senior Member

    South of England, UK
    British English
    nuts and bolts
    ins and outs
    ups and downs
  44. ewie

    ewie Senior Member

    Another Country
    English English
    I did. It didn't agree with me.
  45. djmc Senior Member

    English - United Kingdom
    This sort of usage preserves words which have otherwise almost totally dropped out of a language for example without let or hindrance or the French au fur et au mésure.

    Let is otherwise not used in English except let ball for tennis and I do not think fur is otherwise used in French.
  46. dn88 Senior Member

    How about "last but not least"?
  47. timpeac

    timpeac Senior Member

    English (England)
    That's interesting. I remember a foreign speaker (I forget which language) once saying that the English habit of perfectly serious texts using such alliteration in chapter titles would be risible in some other languages - things such as "playing with pronouns" or "attacking adverbs". I didn't realise that this was a uniquely English phenomenon.
  48. LV4-26

    LV4-26 Senior Member

    The linguistic phenomenon I described in my opening post has no real equivalent in French. There may exist a few similar pairs but in incomparably less profusion.
    That's why I became interested in the matter and decided to open this thread. :)
    My sample expression wasn't alliterative, though.
    By the way, the title was never corrected but it should be cold and gray with an 'a' (a recurrent spelling mistake of mine).
    Last edited: Nov 7, 2010
  49. Einstein

    Einstein Senior Member

    Milano, Italia
    UK, English
    Not a mistake! Grey is British spelling, gray is American:)
  50. BoringLovechild New Member

    These pairs are called binomials, by the way. Can't add anything to the list though...

Share This Page