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What is an idiom? Among other things, it is an expression whose words do not mean what they say. Someone spilling the beans all over the table may make a mess, but spilling the beans all over town would mean something else entirely. Idioms are also inflexible - you can't hit about the bush or beat about the shrub, or say that the bush was beaten about. The English language contains a vast store of idioms that can be used in creative and forceful ways. This totally revised and greatly expanded edition examines over 500 such phrases, tracing each one's source and history through a rich supply of examples. New entries include playing fast and loose (from a 16th-century fairground game), head over heels (a totally illogical variation on the more sensible 'heels over head') and knee-high to a grasshopper (which won out over knee-high to a mosquito and knee-high to a toad). Mini-essays scattered through the book enable the authors to expand on such broader themes as: What is an idiom? National Rivalries, and The Old Curiosity Shop of Linguistics. While maintaining scholarly accuracy, Linda and Roger Flavell convey their great love of the curious in language in a way that will be irresistible to anyone who delights in words.
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