The peculiarities of translating idioms and stable expressions

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Иностранные языки и языкознание


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  • Introduction
  • Chapter 1. Idioms and stable phrases in English Language
  • 1.1 Idiomatic and stable expressions: meanings and definitions
  • 1.2 Ways of forming phraseological units
  • Chapter 2. Translation of idioms and stable phrases
  • 2.1 Translating by choosing absolute or complete equivalents
  • 2.2 Translation of idioms by choosing near equivalents
  • 2.3 Translation by choosing genuine idiomatic and approximate analogies
  • 2.4 Descriptive translating of idiomatic and set expressions
  • 2.5 Transformation of some idioms in the process of translating
  • Conclusions
  • List of literature
  • Appendix A


The presented work is aimed at conducting the analysis of the idiomatic and stable phrases, the process of the information transfer in English and Ukrainian. We are going to define the difference and similarities in idiomatic and stable expressions and examine different shades of meaning and equivalents of translating in English and in Ukrainian. The theoretical background to the practical findings will be provided in the first part of our paper.

The aim of the present paper is to research ways of translating idiomatic and stable expressions into the English and Ukrainian languages, taking into account different criteria, compare and contrast the results of investigation in order to discover differences and similarities in translating meanings, stylistic peculiarities and usage.

The objectives of our research are:

1) to contrast idiomatic and stable expressions concerning the subject information;

2) to consider their structure and meaning.

The methods of research are: the overall selection (used in gathering the research material), componential analysis (used in considering the semantic nature of researched units).

We have analyzed idiomatic and stable expressions in order to show their national colouring, since they are the reflection of culture, traditions, national character in both languages. It lays in the base of every nation to create idioms, which show the realia of its life, describe different sides of culture, habits, beliefs, everyday life. So making the following research we want to show all these peculiarities. Such an analysis is of great interest since it helps as well to learn more about the nature of researched languages.

The structure of the paper is the following:

1) the introduction which describes the aim, the objectives, the research material, as well as mentions the methods of translation;

2) the theoretical part which presents the definition of the idiomatic and stable expressions, dwells upon its nature and different approaches to its classification;

3) the practical part which shows the ways of conveying the lexical meaning of expressions; describe the found equivalents (full and partial) in the languages;

4) the conclusion which summarizes the research results given in the practical part of the presented paper.

The vocabulary of a language is enriched not only by words but also by phraseological units.

The stable expression or the idiom is a group of words whose meaning as a group is different from the meaning those words would have if you considered each one separately. Idiomatic units are word-groups that cannot be made in the process of speech; they exist in the language as ready-made units. N. M. Rayevska defines idiom (idiomatic phrase) as «a phrase, developing a meaning which cannot be readily analysed into the several semantic elements which would ordinarily be expressed by the words making up the phrase. It transcends the ordinary syntactic patterns and must be studied as an indivisible entity, in itself».

Idioms make the language more picturesque. They make each language more individual, colourful and rich. Idioms reflect the past history of the nation, its traditions and customs, folk-songs and fairy-tales, as well as its culture.

The word «information «as the most frequent used now word denoting some facts or details about something / somebody, which in the course of time obtained a great number of different meanings and different translation. In combination with other words it can make up a vast range of stable phrases and idioms. This action and word is widely used in different communicative situations, styles and provinces of life. That is why it has acquired various shades of meaning and become the part of stable phrases, some idioms and expressions.

We have chosen this topic, because we think, that it is very important to understand and translate idioms and stable phrases in a proper way.

Chapter 1. Idioms and stable phrases in English Language

1.1 Idiomatic and stable expressions: meanings and definitions

Idiom is a phrase or expression whose total meaning differs from the meaning of the individual words. For example, to blow one’s top (get angry) and behind the eight ball (in trouble) are English — language idioms. Idioms come from language and generally cannot be translated literally (word for word). Foreign language speakers must learn them just as they would learn vocabulary words.

Idiomatic or phraseological expressions are structurally, lexically and semantically fixed phrases or sentences having mostly the meaning, which is not made up by the sum of meanings of their component parts. An indispensable feature of idiomatic (phraseological) expressions is their figurative, i. e., metaphorical nature and usage. It is this nature that makes them distinguishable from structurally identical free combinations of words Cf.: red tape (free word-comb.) червона стрічка — red tape (idiom) канцелярський формалізм (бюрократизм); the tables are/were turned (free word-comb.) столи перекинуті/були перекинуті - the tables are fumed (idiom) ситуація докорінно змінилася; супротивники помінялися ролями/місцями; play with fire гратися з вогнем біля багаття (free word-comb.) гратися з вогнем — наражатися на небезпеку (idiom).

On rare occasions the lexical meaning of idiomatically bound expressions can coincide with their direct, i. e., not transferred meaning, which facilitates their understanding as in the examples like: to make way дати дорогу; to die a dog’s death здохнути як собака; to receive a hero’s welcome зустрічати як героя; wait a minute/a momentзачекайте хвилинку/ один момент; to tell (you) the truth правду казати/правду кажучи; to dust one’s coat/jacket витрусити пальто/ піджака — дати духопеликів (idiom).

Some proper names can also be endowed with figurative meaning and possess the necessary expressiveness which are the distinguishing features of idioms2: Croesus, Tommy (Tommy Atkins), Yankee, Mrs. Grundy, Jack Ketch, etc. These proper names have acquired their constant meaning and can not be confused with usual (common) proper names of people. As a result their transferred meaning is conveyed in a descriptive way. So Mrs. Grundy means світ, люди, існуюча мораль; Jack Ketch кат; Croesus Крез, надзвичайно багата людина; Tommy Atkins англійський солдат; Yankee (in Europe) янкі/американець, etc.

Idiomatic/phraseological expressions should not be mixed up with different fixed/set prepositional, adjectival, verbal and adverbial phrases the meaning of which is not an actual sum of meanings made up by their constituent parts either: by George, by and by, for all of, for the sake of, cut short, make believe; or compounds like: topsyturvy, higledy-piggledy; coordinate combinations like: high and dry, cut and run, touch and go; Tom, Dick and Harry, etc. These and a lot of other stable expressions can very often be treated as standardized collocations. Their meaning can be rendered in a descriptive way too, like that of genuine idiomatic expressions: fifty-fifty так собі; ні добре ні погано; О. К, все гаразд, на належному рівні; cut short обірвати, присікти/припинити щось (поїздку), обірвати (розмову).

Such and the like stable expressions, like most of other standardized collocations, have usually a transparent meaning and are easier to translate than regular idioms (the so-called phraseological fusions). Meanwhile it is next to impossible to guess, for example, the meaning of the English idiom Hobson’s choiceirom the seemingly transparent meanings of its componental parts. Only a philological inquiry helps establish the meaning of the name and the real sense of the idiom — «no choice whatsoever», «acceptance of what is offered» жодного вибору.

Many other English and Ukrainian picturesque idioms, proverbs and sayings, which have national literary images must also be similarly treated and they also reflect the traditions, customs, the way of conduct or the mode of life of a nation. Their meaning, due to absence of similar idioms in the target language, can be rendered descriptively, i. e. through a regular explication. The latter, depending on the semantic structure of the source language idiom, may be sometimes achieved in the target language with the help of a single word. Cf.: English: an odd/queer fish дивак; Canterbury tale небувальщина, вигадка; blue bonnet («синій берет») шотландець; ніде курці клюнути crammed; зубами тертяка вибивати to be chilled. Most often, however, the meaning of this kind of idioms is conveyed with the help of free word-combinations: to dine with Duke Humphrey залишитись без обіду (нічого не ївши); to cut off with a shilling позбавити когось спадщини. Similarly in Ukrainian: ноги на плечі to go quickly (or very quickly) on one’s feet; зуби з'їсти на чомусь to have great experience in something; кивати/накивати п’ятами to run away quickly/hurriedly.

It goes without saying that none of the phraseologisms above can be translated word-for-word since their constituent images would lose their connotative, i. e., metaphorical meaning in the target language. So, пообідати з герцоґом Гамфрі or обрізати шилінґом could be understood by the Ukrainian language speakers in their literal meaning. The same can be said about our idiom ноги на плечі та й гайда, i. e., * with one’s legs on the shoulders which would never be understood, when translated literally, by the English language native speakers. Therefore, the componental images, when mechanically transplanted to the target language, may often bring about a complete destruction of the idiomatic expression.

The choice of the way of translation of this kind of idioms may be predetermined by the source language context or by the existence/absence of contextual equivalents for the idiomatic/stable expression in the target language. Thus, in the examples below units of this kind can be translated into Ukrainian either with the help of a single word or with the help of a standardized phraseological expression: to give a start здригнутися; to give heart to one підбадьорювати, морально підтримувати когось; the weaker vessel (facet) жінка (прекрасна стать; жіноцтво; слабша половина людства), the Holy Mother Богоматір.

Not infrequently the meaning of a standardized collocation (after Acad. V. V. Vinigradov) like that of a regular idiom may have synonymous single word equivalents in the target language. The choice of the equivalent is predetermined then by the meaning of the standardized collocation/phraseologism and by the style of the sentence where it is used: to make sure упевнитись (переконатися), забезпечувати; to make comfort втішатися; to take place відбуватися; траплятися; the world and his wife yci.

Similarly treated are also traditional combinations which have in the target language several stylistically neutral free equivalents (words or word-combinations) as: to run a risk ризикувати, йти на ризик, to apply the screw натиснути (на когось); to drop like a hot potato швидко позбутися когось, обірвати стосунки, раптово припинити знайомство.

Faithful translating of a large number of picturesque idiomatic/ phraseological expressions, on the other hand, can be achieved only by a thorough selection of variants having in the target language a similar to the original lexical meaning, and also their picturesqueness and expressiveness. This similarity can be based on common in the source language and in the target language componental images as well as on the structural form of them. As a result, the meaning of such idioms is mostly guessed by the students, which generally facilitates their translation.

A few examples will suffice to prove it. English: a grass widow (widower) солом’яна вдова (вдівець); not to see a step beyond one’s nose далі свого носа нічого не бачити; measure twice and cut once сім раз одміряй, а раз відріж; not for love or money ні за які гроші/ ні за що в світі; Ukrainian: не знати/тямити ні бе, ні ме, ні кукуріку (not to know chalk from cheese); вночі що сіре, те й вовк all cats are grey in the dark, який батько, такий син, яка хата, такий тин (яблучко від яблуні далеко не відкочується) like father, like son; not a cat’s/dog's chance жодних шансів/можливостей, (однієї) клепки бракує (he) has not all his buttons, etc.

translating idiom stable phrase

It often happens that the target language has more than one semantically similar/analogous phraseological expression for one in the source language. The selection of the most fitting variant for the passage under translation should be based then not only on the semantic proximity of the idioms/phraseologisms but also on the similarity in their picturesqueness, expressiveness and possibly in their basic images. The bulk of this kind of phraseological expressions belong to the so-called phraseological unities. (Vinogradov). Here are some Ukrainian variants of the kind of English phraselogisms: either win the saddle or loose the horse або пан, або пропав; або перемогу здобути, або вдома не бути; many hands make work light це згода, там і вигода; гуртом і чорта побореш; гуртом і батька добре бити; громада — великий чоловік; a man can die but once від смерті не втечеш; раз мати народила, раз і вмирати; раз козі смерть; двом смертям не бути, а одної не минути; haste makes waste/the more haste, the less speed тихше їдеш — далі будеш, поспішиш — людей насмішиш, хто спішить — той людей смішить.

A number of phraseological units, due to their common source of origin, are characterized in English and Ukrainian by partial or complete identity of their syntactic structure, their componental images, picturesqueness and expressiveness (and consequently of their meaning). Such kind of idioms often preserve a similar or even identical word order in the source language and in the target language. Hence, they are understood and translated by our students without difficulties: to cast pearls before swine кидати перла перед свиньми; to be born under a lucky star народилася під щасливою зіркою; to cherish/warm a viper in one’s bosom пригріти гадюку в пазусі; to be/ fall between Scilla and Charybdis бути між Сціллою і Харібдою/між двох вогнів.

One of the peculiar features of this type of idiomatic expressions is their international nature. Only few of them have phraseological synonyms of national flavour, being thus restricted to corresponding speech styles, whereas international idioms predominantly belong to the domain of higher stylistic level.

National/colloquial variants of international idiomatic substitutes, therefore, always differ considerably by their picturesqueness, expressiveness and their lexical meaning. They are only semantically analogous to genuine equivalents, which may sometimes lack absolute identity in the source language and in the target language (to cross the Styx канути в Лету; to drop from the clouds з неба впасти; neither fish nor flesh ні пава ні ґава).

As can be seen, some international idiomatic expressions slightly differ in English and Ukrainian either in their structural form and lexical/idiomatic meaning or in the images making up the idioms. Thus, the idiomatic expression to fish in troubled waters has in English the plural of waters whereas in its Ukrainian equivalent has a singular form, moreover, the component to fish is detalized and extended to ловити рибку (рибу) в каламутній воді; the Society of Jesus is орден єзуїтів (but not the Order of Jesus) and the Babel of tongues is вавілонське стовпотворіння and not Вавілон мов.

Slight divergences are also observed in several other English and Ukrainian international equivalents: the game is (not) worth the candle (singular) варта гра свічок (plural). The idiom a sound mind in a sound body, on the other hand, has a reverse position of its component parts: у здоровому тілі здоровий дух.

Therefore, each of the above-given idiomatic expressions has either a different form of a component/image, a different word order or a slightly different lexical meaning of a componental part. And yet despite the pointed out divergences such and the like idiomatic expressions/phraseological units do not cease to be absolute equivalents in either of the two languages.

Apart from the kinds of idiomatic expressions singled out on the foregoing pages, there exists in each language a specific national layer of idiomatic/phraseological expressions comprising also proverbs and sayings, which are formed on the basis of componental images pertaining solely to a concrete national language. Such idioms are first of all distinguished by their picturesqueness, their expressiveness and lexical meaning of their own. Due to their national particularity, these idioms/ phraseologisms can not and do not have traditionally established literary variants in the target language. As a result, their structural form and wording in different translations may often lack absolute identity. In their rough/interlinear or word-for-word variants they mostly lose their aphoristic/idiomatic nature and thus are often subject to literary perfection: the moon is not seen when the sun shines місяця не видно, коли світить сонце/ місяця не помічають, коли світить сонце; it is a great victory that comes without blood велика та перемога, яку здобувають без пролиття крові or найбільша та перемога, яка здобувається без пролиття крові.

Similarly translated are some Ukrainian national phraseologisms into English: один дурень так зіпсує, що й десять розумних не направить what is spoiled by one fool can not be mended by ten wisemen; малі діти — малий клопіт, великі діти — великий клопіт small children — smaller troubles, grown-up children — grave troubles.

Isomorphic is also the existence in both the languages of a number of idiomatic expressions which are of regular sentence-type structure containing some common componental parts. Hence, their lexical meaning, nothing to say about their componental images, their picturesqueness and their expressiveness are identical as well. This is predetermined by their common source of origin in English and in Ukrainian: if you run after two hares, you will catch neither якщо побіжиш за двома зайцями, не впіймаєш жодного; a drowning man will catch (snatch) at a straw потопаючий хапається за соломинку (і за соломинку вхопиться, хто топиться); Bacchus has drowned more men than Neptune Бакх утопив більше людей, ніж Нептун (вино загубило більше людей, ніж море); he who spares the rod spoils the child хто жаліє різку, той збавляє дитину.

As can be noticed from these examples, some English and Ukrainian idiomatic expressions are far from uniform lexically, structurally, and by their componental images, picturesqueness and expressiveness. They do not always spring from the same source of origin either. Because of this a faithful translation of phraseological/idiomatic expressions depends upon some factors the main of which are as follows:

whether the idiomatic expression in the source language and in the target language is of the same/different source of origin;

whether the idiomatic expression has in the target language only one, more than one or all componental images in common;

whether the componental images, when translated, are perceived by the target language speakers;

whether the structural form of the idiomatic expressions can be retained in the target language without any transformations;

whether there exists an analogous/similar in sense idiomatic expression in the target language, etc.

All these and some other factors should not be neglected when translating idiomatic/phraseological expressions from and into English. In fact, here exists a regular interdependence between the lexical meaning, the origin, the picturesqueness and the expressiveness of idioms on the one hand and the method of their translating on the other.

1.2 Ways of forming phraseological units

A.V. Koonin classified phraseological units according to the way they are formed. He pointed out primary and secondary ways of forming phraseological units.

Primary ways of forming phraseological units are those when a unit is formed on the basis of a free word-group:

a) Most productive in Modern English is the formation of phraseological units by means of transferring the meaning of terminological word-groups, e. g. in cosmic technique we can point out the following phrases: «launching pad» in its terminological meaning is «стартова площадка», in its transferred meaning — «відправний пункт», «to link up» — «стикувати космічні кораблі «in its transformed meaning it means — «знайомитись».

b) A large group of phraseological units was formed from free word groups by transforming their meaning, e. g. «granny farm» — «пансіонат для людей похилого віку», «Trojan horse» — «комп'ютерна програма»;

c) Phraseological units can be formed by means of alliteration, e. g. «a sad sack» — «нещасний випадок», «culture vulture» — «людина, яка захоплюється культурою», «fudge and nudge» — «ухильність».

d) They can be formed by means of expressiveness, especially it is characteristic for forming interjections, e. g. «My aunt!)), «Hear, hear!» etc.

e) They can be formed by means of distorting a word group, e. g. «odds and ends» was formed from «odd ends»;

f) They can be formed by using archaisms, e. g. «in brown study» means «in gloomy meditation» where both components preserve their archaic meanings,

g) They can be formed by using a sentence in a different sphere of life, e. g. «that cock won’t fight» can be used as a free word-group when it is used in sports (cock fighting), it becomes a phraseological unit when it is used in everyday life, because it is used metaphorically;

h) They can be formed when we use some unreal image, e. g. «to have butterflies in the stomach» — «відчувати хвилювання», «to have green fingers» — «процвітати як квіткар — любитель «etc.

i) They can be formed by using expressions of writers or politicians in everyday life, e. g. «corridors of power» (Snow), «American dream» (Alby)"locust years" (Churchil), «the winds of change» (Mс Millan). Secondary ways of forming phraseological units are those when a phraseological unit is formed on the basis of another phraseological unit; they are:

a) Conversion, e. g. «to vote with one’s feet» was converted into «vote with one’s feet»;

b) Changing the grammar form, e. g. «Make hay while the sun shines» is transferred into a verbal phrase — «to make hay while the sun shines»;

c) Analogy, e. g. ((Curiosity killed the cat" was transferred into «Care killed the cat»;

d) Contrast, e. g. «cold surgery» — «a planned before operation» was formed by contrasting it with «acute surgery», «thin cat» — «a poor person» was formed by contrasting it with «fat cat»;

e) Shortening of proverbs or sayings e. g. from the proverb «You can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear» by means of clipping the middle of it the phraseological unit «to make a sow’s ear».

f) Borrowing phraseological units from other languages, either as translation loans, e. g. «living space» (German), «to take the bull by the horns» (Latin).

Phonetic borrowings among phraseological units refer to the bookish style and are not used very often.

Chapter 2. Translation of idioms and stable phrases

2.1 Translating by choosing absolute or complete equivalents

This is the method of translating by which every componental part of the source language idiom is retained in the target language unchanged. The componental parts include all notionals and also the lexically charged functional which contribute to the lexical meaning of the idiomatic/phraseological expression. The notional components also create the main images (the picturesqueness), the expressiveness and the figurative (connotative) meanings of idiomatic expressions. Translating with the help of equivalents is resorted to when dealing with idioms which originate from the same source in both the languages in question. These sources may be:

1) Greek or other mythology: Cassandra warning - застереження Кассандри (застереження, на які не звертають уваги, але які збуваються). We have found only one expression, which partly expresses the subject information.

ancient history or literature. We did not find any stable and idiomatic expressions concerning subject information neither in English, nor in Ukrainian.

the Bible or works based on a biblical plot: to cast the first stone at one першим кинути у когось каменем. This expression is used to symbolize the conversation, which started with quarrel.

A great many absolute equivalents originate from contemporary literary or historical sources relating to different languages (mainly to French, Spanish, Danish, German, Italian, Arabic). German: da ist der Hundbegraben ось де собака заритий (It is used to notify that someone learned a secret, that the information was disclosed).

Translating with the help of absolute equivalents are very often made use of when dealing with the sentence idioms containing the subject, the predicate, and some other parts of the sentence, though some minor alterations in their structure/word order may not be excluded altogether. Such alterations, however, do not change either the denotative meaning or the componental images, the picturesqueness, expressiveness or connotative meaning of idioms: out of the mouths of babies speaks the truth (wisdom) устами немовлят говорить істина/мудрість; walls have ears стіни мають вуха, etc.

As has been said, the target language variants of absolute equivalents may sometimes slightly differ in their structure or in the order of words from the source language idioms (e. g hold one`s tongue тримати язика на припоні). These minor changes in the structural form, however, do not influence in any way the meaning and the expressiveness or picturesqueness of absolute equivalents in the target language.

Not only regular idioms but also many so-called standardized word-combinations, which may often originate in the two languages from a common source, can be translated by absolute equivalents. Due to this, they retain in the target language the semantic identity and the componental structure of the source language units: a word spoken is past recalling - слово не горобець, вилетить — не спіймаєш; to throw light проливати світло, shoot off one’s mouth - вистрелити з рота etc.

Standardized word-combinations, as will be shown below, can also be translated in some other ways, which is an obvious testimony to the unchangeable inconsistency of the way identified as «translation by means of loans» («кальки», «калькування»).

2.2 Translation of idioms by choosing near equivalents

The meaning of a considerable number of phrase idioms and sentence idioms originating in both languages from a common source may sometimes have, unlike absolute equivalents, one or even most of their components different, than in the target language. Hence, the quality of their images is not identical either, though not necessarily their picturesqueness and expressiveness (if any): measure twice, cut once сім раз одміряй, один раз одріж; to go in one ear and out of the other - в одне вухо влетіло, з іншого вилетіло.

The slight divergences in the near equivalents as compared with the source language idioms can manifest themselves also in some other aspects, as for example:

in the structure of the target language variant (e. g to make a long story short сказати коротко);

in the omission (or adding) of a componental part in the target language (e. g to come up against a blank wall — говорити, ніби до глухої стіни);

in the substitution of a feature (or image) of the source language phraseological/idiomatic expression for some other (more fitting or traditionally expected) in the target language: to find common ground - знайти спільну мову;

Similar componental substitutions, both semantic and structural, can be observed in regular standardized collocations and in comparative proverbs or saying as: to throw/shed light проливати світло; to ask smb. humbly; to go cap in hand to smb бити чолом (пояснювати певну інформацію); to listen open-mouthed розвісити вуха.

Therefore, faithful translation may be achieved by different methods. Moreover, it must be evident now that «translating by means of loans» may refer to any method of rendering phraseologisms/idioms which are or may become regular loans in the target language.

In other words, translation of idiomatic expressions «by means of loans» does not always fully justify the essence of the term.

2.3 Translation by choosing genuine idiomatic and approximate analogies

An overwhelming majority of English idiomatic expressions have similar in sense units in Ukrainian. Sometimes these lexically corresponding idiomatic expressions of the source language may also contain easily perceivable for the target language speakers combinations of images as well as similar or identical structural forms. These idiomatic expressions, naturally, are in most cases easily given corresponding analogies in the target language. As a matter of fact, such expressions are sometimes very close in their connotative (metaphorical) meaning in English and Ukrainian as well. Any common or similar traits of idiomatic expressions are the main proof of their being genuine analogies. The latter in each of the two languages comprise also proverbs and sayings as well as the so-called standardized and stable collocations: to have the ready tongue за словом у кишеню не лізти; beat a dead horse товкти воду в ступі.

Many of such and the like idiomatic expressions may often have two and more analogies by sense variants in the target language. The choice of an analogy rests then with the translator and is predetermined by the style of the text: to poke/thrust one’s nose into smth. , to pry into smth. - пхати свого носа в чужу розмову, to go in one ear and out of the other - в одне вухо влетіло, з іншого вилетіло. The number of analogies (similar by sense) expressions for an idiom in the target language may reach a regular row as it is the case with the Ukrainian phraseological expression розвісити язика, мати язик без костей, розпустити язика, etc. This idiom may have the following substitutes in different contextual environments: to fall victim to smb. 's tongue, to be always on smb. 's lips, you can get anywhere if you know how to use your tongue; a clever tongue will take you anywhere, he has a ready/glib tongue, he is itching to say it, the word is on the tip of my tongue, he wears his heart on his sleeve, he cannot keep his thoughts to himself, he has a long/loose tongue, he is too fond of talking, to have a quick/ready tongue, to be quick-tongued, to loosen the tongue, to wag one’s tongue, to talk too glibly, it slipped out, to babble on and on, to jabber away, to throw words around, etc.

Some source language idiomatic and stable expressions may have a peculiar nature of their componental parts or a peculiar combination of them and thus form nationally peculiar expressiveness and picturesqueness of componental images. The latter constitute some hidden meaning, which is mostly not quite explicit and comprehensible, not transient enough for the foreigner to catch it.

As a result, there exist no genuine phraseological analogies for the units in the target language. Since it is so, their lexical meaning can be expressed by means of only approximate analogies or through explication in a descriptive way. These analogies are only to a slight degree similar to the source language idioms, although they may be no less picturesque and expressive than the source language variants: kind words butter no parsnips годувати байками солов’я; to lose one’s breath кидати слова на вітер; etc.

No need to emphasize that selection of approximate analogies for a translator is no easy task, as the source languages idioms/ phraseologisms often bear some characteristics of a language’s traits having no correspondence in the target language.

Many idioms have obscure origin/etymology and selecting of approximate equivalents as any other corresponding semantic variants often requires a linguistic investigation on the part of the translator. For example: to come under fire means to be angrily criticized It may be translated into Ukrainian as закидати камінням.

2.4 Descriptive translating of idiomatic and set expressions

The meaning of a considerable number of idiomatic as well as stable/set expressions can be rendered through explication only in a descriptive way. Depending on the complexity of meaning contained in the source-language idiom, it can be expressed in the target language in some ways:

by a single word: to babble on and on, to jabber away, to throw words around патякати; to hold one’s tongue, to keep one’s mouth shut; he/she won’t have the heart to say it; to keep a steel tongue in one’s head; to bit one’s tongue, to shut up мовчати (не видавати інформації);

2) when the lexical meaning of an original idiomatic expression is condensed or when it is based on a nationally specific notion/structural form alien to the target language, the idiomatic expression may be conveyed by a sentence or a longer explanation: yes man (yes-man) людина, що з усіма згоджується, тільки підтакує (підтакувач).

It must be added in conclusion that some English idiomatic/set expressions have a rather transparent lexical meaning and are easy for our students to translate into Ukrainian: walls have ears - і стіни мають вуха; to keep something under wraps — держати під сукном; to hold one’s tongue - притримати язика; to lay one’s cards on the table - викладати карти; to remove scales from somebody’s eyes - відкривати, відкрити очі; полуда з очей спала.

Depending on the speech style of the passage/work, in which the idiomatic/phraseological expressions are used, and taking into account the nature of them (literary, colloquial, historical) some modifications of the above-given methods of translations and even new variants of translation may be suggested by the translator. Nevertheless, the aim of translation will always remain the same, to fully render in the target language the lexical meaning and where possible also the structural peculiarities, the picturesqueness, the expressiveness, and the connotative meaning (if any) of the source language idiomatic or stable expressions and this is far from always easy or even possible. How and with what means it can be achieved will be shown on some examples of rendering the meaning of several national idioms.

2.5 Transformation of some idioms in the process of translating

As has already been pointed out, some phraseological expressions singled out by Acad. V. Vinogradov as unities and having mostly a transparent meaning may reflect various national features of the source language. The latter may be either of lingual or extralingual nature, involving the national images, their peculiar picturesqueness or means of expression with clear reference to traditions, customs or historical events, geographical position of the source language nation. Such phraseological expressions are often of a simple or composite sentence structure. Being nationally distinct, they can not have in the target language traditionally established equivalents or loan variants. As a result, most of them may have more than one translator’s version in the target language. It may be either a regular sense-to-sense variant (an interlinear-type translation) or an artistic literary version rendering in which alongside the lexical meaning is also the aphoristic nature, the expressiveness, the picturesqueness, the vividness of the source language phraseologism/idiom.

Taking into account the aims pursued and the contextual environment of the idiom, there must be acknowledged at least two main levels of translating the national idioms:

the level of the interlinear rendering, sense-to-sense translation only, which is quite sufficient to faithfully express the lexical meaning of most of these phraseologisms/idioms;

the literary/literary artistic level, at which not only the sense but also the expressiveness, the vividness, the picturesqueness and the aphoristic nature (if any) of the idioms should possibly be conveyed as well.

Faithful translation of national idioms/phraseologisms is mostly achieved deliberate transformations of all kinds performed by the translator. The transformations are aimed at making the national images, the sense and structure of these phraseologic expressions easier for the target language readers/listeners to comprehend. Such transformations, therefore, adjust in many a case the source language idiom as a sense unit to the requirements of the target language bearers.

No need to emphasize that some successful literary artistic translations/variants of specifically national idioms may in the end become regular translation loans of the target language.


A language is a living substance, which evolves under the influence of different factors. Being very flexible English and Ukrainian languages constantly enrich their vocabulary with the words invented by the language speakers, making it more colorful with new idiomatic expressions, and at times refills its stocks with the borrowings and neologisms. English just amazes by its extraordinary linguistic diversity.

It is a language rich in exceptions and spelling traps, where almost every rule is valid 90% of the time. English is a language with a vast idiomatic basis, which makes its learning very exciting and intriguing. There are about 4,000 idioms used in the American English.

In this course paper there was conducted analysis of idiomatic and stable expressions concerning subject «information» and the process of transferring the information in English and Ukrainian. During the investigation there were analysed 207 English and 149 Ukrainian idiomatic and stable expressions concerning subject «information'.

Though the difference is not a great, but we suppose that this figure must be taken into consideration. We have chosen this topic, because We think the process of transferring the information is a very important sense of human beings and in every language of the world there is a word denoting the subject «information' and a great number of idiomatic and stable expressions to this notion. Thus it is obvious that such expressions play an important part in the language. Thus idiomatic and stable phrases enrich the vocabulary and makes the language more colourful and emotionally shadowed. In this course paper expressions which we have found were classified according to such classifications: by choosing absolute/complete equivalents, translation of idioms by choosing near equivalents, translation by choosing genuine idiomatic analogies, translating idioms by choosing approximate analogies, descriptive translating of idiomatic and set expressions.

The aim of my investigation was: to compare and understand which language boasts the greater number of idiomatic expressions concerning subject «information» and to find differences and similarities in translating these phrases in given languages. Our research consisted of the following stages:

first of all we collected idiomatic expressions concerning subject «information» from Ukrainian and English dictionaries of idioms and from some other dictionaries;

then we devised ways of faithful rendering the idiomatic and stable expressions, which I have found. That presented considerable difficulties as there was a need for a proper classification which could illustrate typical features of translating these stable phrases denoting communication of information in Ukrainian and English.

the forthcoming work was dedicated to the confrontation expressions concerning subject «information» according to formulated classifications;

During this process we pointed out all the differences and similarities of all phrases concerning subject «information» in both languages. The great part of investigation belongs to theoretical section which consists of analysis of translation of idiomatic/phraseological and stable expressions in the English and Ukrainian languages. The last stage of the research is a general conclusion to the data obtained.

During all my investigation it was sometimes hard to find direct equivalents to phrases in both languages, but all of them may be easily rendered, but not always as the idiomatic expressions.

Idioms derived from the culture of the nation and from day-to-day life. In real context idioms explain themselves: 9 times out of 10 times, idioms carry their own explanation. The main function of idioms is to paraphrase what is going on, and what is being said.

Idiomatic expressions pervade English and Ukrainian with a peculiar flavor and give it astounding variety, bright character and color. They help language learners understand culture, penetrate into customs and lifestyle of people, and make a deeper insight into history of the country.

To sum up, in this course paper there was conducted analysis of idiomatic and stable expressions denoting the subject «information» in the English and Ukrainian languages. This niche of language is of great interest since idiomatic and stable phrases have interesting meanings applied in varied situations.

Whilst, the majority of native language speakers can not always know the origin of idioms they use, though as long as they utilize them in every day communication, they know its meaning and feel where it is appropriate to use this or that idiom.

Undoubtedly, the correct usage of English and Ukrainian idioms is finesse, which makes the language of the speaker more vivid and exciting.

List of literature

1. Амосова Н. Н. Основы английской фразеологии. — Л., 1963

2. Квеселевич Д.І., Сасіна В. П. Практикум з лексикології сучасної англійської мови: Навч. посібник. — Вінниця: «Нова книга», 2001

3. Корунець І.В. Теорія та практика перекладу. — Вінниця. «Нова книга», 2003

4. Пономарів О. Д. Сучасна українська мова. — Київ: «Либідь», 1991

5. Раєвська Н.М. English lexicology. — Київ: «Вища школа», 1998

6. Удовиченко Г. М. Словник українських ідіом. — К.: Радянський письменник, 1986

7. Фразеологічний словник української мови/Уклад.: В.М. Білоноженко та ін. — К.: Наук. думка, 1999

8. Arnold I. V. The English Word. — М.: Высшая школа, 1973

9. Cambridge International Dictionary of Idioms

10. Longman Pocket Idioms Dictionary. — Harlow, Pearson Education Limited, 2001

11. Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English. — Harlow, Pearson Education Limited, 2001

12. Oxford. Collocations. Dictionary for Students of English. — Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2002

13. http: //www. dictionary. cambridge. org (Cambridge University Press, 2006)

14. http: //www. longman. com/dictionaries

15. http: //www. m-w. com/ (Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary)

16. http: //ogden. basic-english. org/intlword. html#sci

17. http: //www. onelook. com/ (Dictionary Search, 1996)

18. http: //www. yourdictionary. com/ (Quick Lookup Database: The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth edition, 2000)

19. http: //www. refine. com. ru/pageid-1106−1. html

Appendix A

Examples of idioms and stable phrases:

Translation of idioms and stable phrases:

to blow one’s top

вийти за рамки, сказитися, втратити контроль над собою;

behind the eight ball

потрапити у халепу

the tables are turned

докорінно змінювати ситуацію

red tipe

канцелярський бюрократизм

to make way

дати дорогу

to receive a hero’s welcome

зустрічати як героя

wait a minute/moment

зачекайте хвилину/один момент


так собі/ні добре, ні погано

cut shirt

обірвати (розмову)

an odd/queer fish


canterbury tale


blue bonnet


to dine with Duke Humphey

залишитись без обіду

to cut off with a shilling

позбавити когось спадщини

to have great experience in something

зуби з'їсти на чомусь

to run away quickly

накивати п’ятами

to give heart to one

підбадьорювати/морально підтримувати когось

the weaker vessel


the Holy Mother


to drop like a hot potato

швидко позбутися когось

to apply the screw

натиснути (на когось)

to run a risk


measure twice and cut once

сім раз відміряй, а раз відріж

not for love or money

ні за які гроші

not a cat’s chance

жодних шансів

to cast pearls before swine

кидати перли перед свинями

to have butterflies in the stomach

відчувати хвилювання

Cassandra warning

Застереження, на які не звертають уваги, але які збуваються

to find common ground

знайти спільну мову

to beat a dead horse

товкти воду в ступі

to have the ready tongue

за словом у кишеню не лізти

to lose one’s breath

кидати слова на вітер

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