Americans love idioms, probably more than any other country. We shoot the breeze, bend ears, pull legs, and put our feet in our mouths. These bizarre phrases are a staple of our language and conversation style. A collection of these idioms have been published in The American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms and the new volume contains hundreds of new entries.
This interesting and entertaining topic was brought to our attention by NPR in their article, “Dictionary Of Idioms Gets Everybody On The Same Page.” As entertaining as these are, how do they work in taxonomies? Depending on the organization, term lists could get quite confusing with say, medical terminology combined with idioms referencing body parts? Just a thought, or brain teaser.
Melody K. Smith
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I love this! Idioms, or the component words in them, are highly important in taxonomy work. Many writers try to be fresh and distinctive, so it is not uncommon for them to use idioms. The key for taxonomists is to disambiguate the component words in an idiom, because a word common to a taxonomy term and an idiom can lead to classifying content wrong. Content classification systems, such as M.A.I., must be taught to recognize idioms as phrases or to spot and disregard words in an idiom if they co-occur with certain other words, e.g. “couch” when near “potato”. The infinite variety of language keeps us on our toes (there we go again!).