one-word idiom

Idiom of “one-word idiom”

One-word idioms do not fall within the scope of this dictionary. But it is worth remembering that many words, even the most apparently neutral, carry idiomatic as well as literal meanings. I recall in this context asking a Japanese student of English in Honolulu ‘how he was finding Hawaii?’ He looked at me in puzzlement, and replied that he had come to Hawaii by plane. He failed to realise that ‘find’ was being used idiomatically, just as I failed to appreciate that such use of ‘find’ would ‘throw’ him (another example!).

Sometimes a word has a particular idiomatic gloss in the context of a specific sub-culture, entering the wider language as slang; or has an etymology which has led to an idiomatic usage. A handful of examples follow.

anorak: person with an excessive interest in some derisory activity, like trainspotting.

bling: items used for jazzing up one’s outfit – bracelets, necklaces, earrings, trinkets, etc.

bottle: courage.

fleshpots: luxurious and sensual delights.
(According to the Bible, located in Egypt.)

game: willing. (As in ‘Are you game for taking on this project?’ Or ‘Are you up for it?’)

gay: homosexual.

google: search for something, not necessarily on the Internet. (From the Internet search engine.)

hamstrung: ineffective, crippled, powerless.

into: keen on, knowledgeable about.

the limit: only just tolerable and no more.

metrosexual: straight man who like to express his feminine side, or vice versa for a woman.

OK: very acceptable; politically kosher.

online: electronic.

out: publicly homosexual.

rendition: capture and extradition of suspected terrorists, without due process. (A euphemism, from the US army.)

uptight: 1. anxious, nervous, uneasy. 2. rigidly conventional

wannabe: an aspirant or imitator

whatever: abbreviation of ‘whatever you say!’ (which means ‘I’m not going to argue the toss’).

winterval: the festive season. (The word itself was created by/for those politically correct souls who try to avoid the use of the word ‘Christmas’, bless them.)

With most of the above words, the original meaning has been given an additional idiomatic slant. The only new coinages are bling, metrosexual and winterval. Some of the words have entered the spectrum of idiom in the form of buzzwords and now hang about in the hope that people will still use them. Once upon a time, to say that a homosexual person was ‘gay’ or ‘out’ was a kind of doublespeak; this is an idiomatic device still much used by officialdom, such as governments and the military establishment.
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