Phraseology and its stylistic use.
Set phrases possess certain properties of individual words.
Some of them are elevated: an earthly paradise; Some are subneutral:
to rain cats and dogs; to be in one's cups (= to be drunk);
Among the elevated phrases we can discern the same groups as among
the elevated words:
a) archaisms — the iron in one's soul ('permanent embitterment');
Mahomet's coffin ('between good and evil'); to play upon advantage ('to
b) bookish phrases — to go to Canossa ('to submit'); the debt of nature
('death'); the knight of the quill ('writer'); gordian knot ('a complicated
c) foreign phrases — a propos de bottes ('unconnected with the pre-
ceding remark'); mot juste ('the exact word').
Subneutral phrases can also be divided into:
a) colloquial phrases — alive and kicking ('safe and sound'); a pretty
kettle offish ('muddle');
b) jargon phrases — a loss leader ('an article sold below cost to attract
c) old slang phrases — to be nuts about ('to be extremely fond of);
to shoot one's grandmother ('to say a non-sensical or commonplace
thing'); to keep in the pin ('to abstain from drinking'); to kick the bucket,
to hop the twig ('to die').
Even what might be called neutral phrases produce a certain stylis-
tic effect as opposed to their non-phrasal semantic equivalents (to
complete absence of phrases in the whole text)r Correct English and
good English are most certainly not identical from the viewpoint of
stylistics. Idioms and set expressions impart local colouring to the
Absence of set phrases makes speech poor and in a way unnatural:
something like a foreigner's English. On the other hand, excessive use of
idioms offends the sense of the appropriate.
A very effective stylistic device often used by writers consists in
intentionally violating the traditional norms of the use of set phrases
Often the key-words of well-known phrases are purposely replaced.
Thus, unmasking the inhuman 'philosophy of facts' in his novel
Hard Times, Dickens ironically exclaims Fact forbid! instead of God
Mark Twain replaces the epithet in the expression The Golden Age,
naming satirically his contemporary epoch The Gilded Age.
A number of curious instances of distorting 'literalizing', combining
mid opposing phraseological expressions to achieve stylistic effects are
adduced by L. A. Barkova, who studied commercial advertising.8. The expression is
obviously derived from the internationally known phrase the other side
of the medal.
Changes in spelling (attaining a new meaning and at the same time
preserving the phonetical form of the original set expression) are also
resorted to. The well-known precept Waste not, want not (the idea of which
is 'wasting will make one suffer from want of what has been wasted', or
to put it shorter, 'wasting brings suffering') is used by the producer of
dietary foods, hinting in his advertisement at the disadvantage of being
fat: Waist not, want not.
A furniture shop praises its sofas: Sofa, So Good! (from so far, so good ).
A special device is the interaction of set phrases in an ad for a new
cookbook: The last word in French cookbooks by the first lady of French
cooking. The phrases last word and first lady make an antithesis, thus
enhancing the expressive force of the statement.
Sometimes allusions are made use of. The ad recommending Smirnoff's
Silver (a famous brand of whisky) says that it is for people who want a
silver lining without the cloud (the allusion is to the proverb Every cloud
has a silver lining, i.e. 'everything that is bad has a good side to it'). The
advertiser's assertion without the cloud could be a hint that the consumer
will have no hang-over afterwards.
All the examples of phraseology in advertising were collected by
L.A. Barkova. The author of the present book has only commented on
some of them.