Monday, 27 September 2010

double idioms (1)

In 2010 I had the pleasure of attending SCEP for a week as an academic observer (my thanks to Michael Ashby). SCEP is a fortnight's course in English phonetics run annually by University College London. In a strand of practical classes for (very) advanced learners of English the tutor presented idioms with the main stress falling not on a word which one would expect to be stressed but on some other word - 'stress idioms' or 'accentuation idioms' as the tutor liked and likes to call them. So they are idioms in a double sense - semantically and accentually. They look so innocent, so guiltless, so inculpable! But non-native speakers often fall into a trap laid for them and stress the wrong word. Not that the wrong stress renders the idiom totally incomprehensible, but it doesn't sound nativelike.

Here's an example:
Let him stew in his own juice!
Where does the main stress normally fall? On stew, own or juice?
Look the idiom up in a dictionary, please. Can you find the idiom and if so, does the dictionary tell you where the main stress falls? If it does: what's this treasure box of a dictionary called?
More to come soon!

1 comment: