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Hot Topic (More than 10 Replies) English idiomatic expressions - asking for help (Read 854 times)
Jupp53
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Re: English idiomatic expressions - asking for help
Reply #14 - 10/18/20 at 21:56:05
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Thanks.

This attribution to a love "is a child" with the meaning of not being able to decide for a steady relationship was what I took out of the song.
  

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Seeley
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Re: English idiomatic expressions - asking for help
Reply #13 - 10/18/20 at 17:46:57
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Jupp53 wrote on 10/18/20 at 12:07:54:
I once loved a woman, a child I'm told
With ‘a woman’ and ‘a child I’m told’ appearing in apposition like this, I’d take it to mean that the second element, (‘a child I’m told’) is referring to the first (‘a woman’). In normal usage (ie other than as a song lyric), I’d consider that to be unambiguous. In other words, I think that Stigma is spot on when he writes:

Stigma wrote on 10/18/20 at 14:29:50:
I've taken it to mean the subject has been told (by someone else) the woman he loved was too young for him or for that kind of love. "Child" is probably not meant literally.

Of course, song lyrics don’t necessarily lend themselves to strict grammatical interpretation like this, but here, this reading is arguably supported by the background against which the lyrics were written. The song in question (Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right)  is by Bob Dylan and appears on his 1963 album The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan, though it's been covered by numerous other artists since then. At the time the song was written, Dylan was romantically involved with a young woman who was aged 18 or 19 at the time, a couple of years younger than him, and she is the person who appears arm in arm with Dylan in the famous picture on the album cover. The relationship was not straightforward, and at some point she left America to study in Europe. The songs on this album, including the one you quote from, were written in this context, and it seems quite likely that this young woman is the subject of the heartache apparent in this work. It’s very possible that Dylan had been told – whether by his friends or by the woman’s family, or indeed by someone else – that she was ‘a child’, in other words, too young or perhaps just too immature to be in a romantic relationship with him.

Other interpretations are possible, to be sure, and it’s in the nature of writings about Dylan that some extremely fanciful alternative readings have been proposed, but here it seems very plausible that the most straightforward reading is also the accurate one.
  
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an ordinary chessplayer
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Re: English idiomatic expressions - asking for help
Reply #12 - 10/18/20 at 17:12:20
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Yes I think that's right. In the U.S. at least, people are constantly and publicly worrying about the ages of other people in a relationship. Good poetry. The author was 21 or 22, but the perspective feels much older than that.
  
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Stigma
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Re: English idiomatic expressions - asking for help
Reply #11 - 10/18/20 at 14:29:50
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Jupp53 wrote on 10/18/20 at 12:07:54:
This is the third stanza of a famous song. Is the red row ambigoous? The women was named a child and/or the storyteller was named a child. Or has it a clear meaning directed to one person, hasn't it?

I've taken it to mean the subject has been told (by someone else) the woman he loved was too young for him or for that kind of love. "Child" is probably not meant literally.

What's really ambiguous is whether that young woman is the same "gal" he's addressing in the verse. I'd say she probably is, but it could also be intentionally ambiguous.
  

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Jupp53
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Re: English idiomatic expressions - asking for help
Reply #10 - 10/18/20 at 12:07:54
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Now it's not idiomatic, but I allow myself to hijack my own topic:

Quote:
It ain't no use in calling out my name, gal
Like you never done before
It ain't no use in calling out my name, gal
I can't hear you any more
I'm a-thinking and a-wond'rin' walking down the road
I once loved a woman, a child I'm told
I give her my heart but she wanted my soul

Don't think twice, it's all right


This is the third stanza of a famous song. Is the red row ambigoous? The women was named a child and/or the storyteller was named a child. Or has it a clear meaning directed to one person, hasn't it?
  

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cathexis
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Re: English idiomatic expressions - asking for help
Reply #9 - 08/30/20 at 13:16:42
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Pretty much the same here although I'm not sure if today's kids still know of it or still do it. You can also, "take it back" which means you speak the lie but then quietly say to yourself, "take it back." Again, for children. Unfortunately, this convenient act has no authority over moves on the chess board!  Would be interesting though if you sealed moves for an adjournment and when it was opened the next day it read, "take it back."
  
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Jupp53
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Re: English idiomatic expressions - asking for help
Reply #8 - 08/29/20 at 00:07:27
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Great stuff for me.

Thank you all!

Making a cross over the heart is something I didn't know. There's a catholic children costum here to cross your fingers behind the back in case of a lie. This is the "lightning rod" against the fury of god.  Grin
  

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Seeley
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Re: English idiomatic expressions - asking for help
Reply #7 - 08/28/20 at 20:27:33
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an ordinary chessplayer wrote on 08/28/20 at 18:59:25:
I assume "hope to die" has an original cultural or literary reference but I don't know what it is. It may have originated with school-children but I doubt it. When I heard it as a child even then it didn't make sense because I couldn't relate dying to being truthful, and I still can't today.

I don't know either where the second part originated, but I strongly suspect it's much more likely to have come from schoolchildren than from Shakespeare: it's just a trivial little rhyme with a plodding cadence (try reciting the whole thing out loud). 'Hope to die if I tell a lie' means that 'if my  promise to you proves to be groundless, then I'd rather die than turn out to be a liar', but perhaps you're being too literal in focusing on this. I don't think any child who says it really hopes to die if their promise turns out to be false. It's just an idiomatic way of trying to assure another child that what's been said really is true. But we're straying a long way from the OP's question about the meaning of this expression.
  
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Re: English idiomatic expressions - asking for help
Reply #6 - 08/28/20 at 18:59:25
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Hi Seeley. I know both of these idioms quite well. My points were (a) in general English idioms are not universally understood by all native English speakers, and (b) I assume "hope to die" has an original cultural or literary reference but I don't know what it is. It may have originated with school-children but I doubt it. When I heard it as a child even then it didn't make sense because I couldn't relate dying to being truthful, and I still can't today. Maybe it's Shakespeare, he was sufficiently dramatic.
  
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Re: English idiomatic expressions - asking for help
Reply #5 - 08/28/20 at 16:59:31
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an ordinary chessplayer wrote on 08/28/20 at 16:24:06:
"Cross my heart and hope to die" -- I know what it means, but I'm not sure where the hope to die part came from.

'Cross my heart and hope to die if I tell a lie' is what we used to say when I was a child, which I think is the explanation for that.

an ordinary chessplayer wrote on 08/28/20 at 16:24:06:
When I put "8x10" into google, I get: 80, frame, rug, outdoor rug, picture frames, canvas, photo, gazebo. But that's because google knows I am in the USA. Your results were probably not helpful.

As I said, it's a standard picture-frame size:

https://www.johnlewis.com/browse/home-garden/photo-frames-accessories/size=8-x-1...

The term 'eight by ten' has presumably become obsolete here in the UK now that everything's metric, but the same size of frame is still standard. This makes sense in the OP's song too, which tends to support what I say. You're quite right that this probably wouldn't show up in any search-engine results in Europe.

Incidentally, perhaps you're familiar with the American singer Loudon Wainwright III. I vaguely recalled a line from one of his songs (Harry's Bar) about a bar that he frequents in London, and a Google search gave me the lyrics. In the song, LWIII says about the bar owner: 'I gave him my 8x10 to hang up on his wall'. I think that makes it fairly likely that we're talking about a photo, as opposed to anything else that might have the same measurements.
  
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Re: English idiomatic expressions - asking for help
Reply #4 - 08/28/20 at 16:24:06
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Native English speakers don't always get the idioms either. "Cross my heart and hope to die" -- I know what it means, but I'm not sure where the hope to die part came from. "Eight by ten" -- This one is translated in both language and units of measure! I'm sure in Europe there is a similar standard darkroom print size, but it's in metric units.

When I put "8x10" into google, I get: 80, frame, rug, outdoor rug, picture frames, canvas, photo, gazebo. But that's because google knows I am in the USA. Your results were probably not helpful.

That would be a cool search engine! Show me what someone in Uzbekistan would see if they searched for this.
  
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Re: English idiomatic expressions - asking for help
Reply #3 - 08/28/20 at 13:37:15
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Jupp53 wrote on 08/28/20 at 12:18:20:
What is the meaning of: "cross our hearts and we hope to die that the other was to blame". And "so we gaze at an eight-by-ten".

'Cross our hearts and hope to die' means 'we promise' (as in making the sign of a cross over the heart).

'We gaze at an eight by ten' presumably refers to a picture in a frame that's eight inches by ten inches, which is I believe is a standard picture-frame size.

Incidentally, you don't specify what dictionary you use, but the three I tend to rely on are Collins, the Oxford and Chambers, all of which can be accessed  online, and 'cross my heart (and hope to die)' appears in all of these (linked below). I'd recommend these as authoritative sources that might you might find helpful in future.

https://www.collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/english/cross-my-heart
https://www.lexico.com/definition/cross_my_heart
https://chambers.co.uk/search/?query=heart&title=21st
  
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Re: English idiomatic expressions - asking for help
Reply #2 - 08/28/20 at 13:36:42
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In you'd like, here's a much harder test of your fluency(wink):

  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kTcRRaXV-fg



  
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Re: English idiomatic expressions - asking for help
Reply #1 - 08/28/20 at 13:07:36
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Ha! Man, that song's taking me back!

So the theme of the song is:

Quote:
Never meanin' what they say now.
Never sayin' what they mean.


That is, insincerity. Polite or trivial "talk" instead saying what's really important or meaningful.

Quote:
Whoa we make one another cry,
break a heart then we say goodbye;
cross our hearts and we hope to die
that the other was to blame.


As kids, we swear we tell the truth when we know we lied. When confronted about lying, we make a superstitious gesture similar to swearing an oath; we "cross our hearts and hope to die." The kid literally draws an "X" over his heart/chest and loudly proclaims he hopes he drops dead right now - if he's not telling the truth. But of course truth stands on its own - or should. So this dramatic act is likely a cover for a lie. We can't even admit this to ourselves, let alone each other.

Quote:
But neither one will ever give-in,
so we gaze at an eight-by-ten
thinkin' 'bout the things that might have been
and it's a dirty rotten shame.


We both know we've been insincere, so we can't look each other in the eye. We "look away", avert our eyes. Staring at anything else but each other - an 8x10 (which is a piece of lumber, a plank, 8inches by 10 inches as lumber is measured by width and height since the length is where you cut it for use.) rather than look at each other and admit the truth.

But the song is not meant to be a cynical indictment, but a plea for sincerity. Hence:

Quote:
Look-around tell me what you see.
What's a-happenin' to you and me?
God grant me the serenity
to jus' remember who I am.


It seems to imply perhaps a couple breaking up. But it is really about much more than that. As stated above.

Hope this helps,

Andrew
  
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English idiomatic expressions - asking for help
08/28/20 at 12:18:20
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When reading English I stumble again and again on expressions where neither the dictionary nor a search gives help to understand what the author means. So I will ask here the native english speaking members of the forum for help, if I am stuck with my search.

From this song: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5znh58WITU8

What is the meaning of: "cross our hearts and we hope to die that the other was to blame". And "so we gaze at an eight-by-ten".


  

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