Sociologic and Psychologic Aspects of Linguistics

I was just thinking of what fascinating areas the sociology and psychology of linguistics are.  This came to mind when thinking about idiomatic expressions and not just the implications but implicit assumptions that are made on the part of speakers regarding who is being communicated with.

For example, when a native speaker of a tongue is speaking with a non-native speaker, they may disdain from employing idiomatic expressions.  But it would be interesting to research how this occurs and why, and what attributes or characteristics of the speaker may temper or affect his or her modes of communicating.

Another interesting situation would be when there are two native speakers of a language but who speak different dialects of that language.  Depending upon how different those dialects may be, the speakers may choose to comfortably employ idiomatic expressions with an explicit understanding that, even if the other speaker might not be familiar with a particular idiom, they might be able to quickly grasp it.  It would be interesting to study situations in which these types of interactions occur and what influences formation of implicit assumptions about the other speaker that get employed when communicating.

I was searching the Internet for a definition of the idiom “to wire something” or “to have something wired”, yet could not find it listed anywhere.  I did find one site which was an ESL test supposedly about idioms, yet the “idioms” it was using were things like “to pick on (someone)”, “to pick (something) off”, “(something’s) being  picked over”, etc.  In my opinion, these are not actually idioms but actual valid definitions of the verb “pick” which, when combined with specific prepositions, have specific meanings.  In German this is the regular case as with many if not most verbs which accompany a preposition, for example the verb “aufheben”, auf (up) + heben (to lift), i.e. “to lift up”.  That is given as a separate definition in German and is not considered part of the verb “heben”.

To me a true idiom is a phrase of speech in which the grammatic elements could never reasonably be defined in a dictionary with the given meaning that is implied in the phrase.  For example, “to have the hots for (someone)” – I don’t think that the idiomatic meaning of that phrase could ever reasonably be expected to be included in a formal definition of the verb “to have” (although now that I think about it it could be listed as “hot for (someone)”).  This leads to a general case of idiomatic expressions which appear to usually  consist of the verb “to have” coupled with a noun and adjectival clause or prepositional phrase with a noun object.

Now I want to create a list of idioms.  One of my favorite that this poet guy from New York I met years ago used and which has always stuck in my mind for some reason was “to give someone the fuzzy end of the lollipop”, which basically means to dis someone…  This guy was like a walking, talking repository of the most colorful idioms I’ve ever heard in my life if also a bit crazy.  Just listening to this guy even if he was ranting about someone or something just left me feeling awe and amazement, wanting to note down everything he said.