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The time period “to study the ropes” comes from the pre-steam days when an apprentice sailor needed to learn to handle the ropes used to set sails to catch the wind. (file picture)
Paul Warren is Professor of Linguistics at Victoria College of Wellington. Language Issues is a bimonthly column on language.
Opinion: The Language Issues group appreciates readers’ feedback and questions. Sir Bob Jones wrote about an expression he had heard from a member of the Laotian household. This individual, who I suppose was a learner of English, reported to Sir Bob a dialog she had with certainly one of his teenage sons on the time.
She stated his son wished to “be part of the corporate and study rope”. Sir Bob’s query was why mates and colleagues to whom he communicated this dialog discovered the thought of ”studying the rope” so humorous. As he commented, these acquaintances could not have discovered “sheep” amusing in the identical method.
The primary distinction between “studying rope” and “sheep” is that the latter entails the applying of the overall rule “additions to make the plural” to what appears like a singular “lamb”. We could simply settle for this over-generalization of the rule, as a result of it appears logical.
When younger kids do that, it’s in actual fact proof that they’ve internalized a rule of grammar, simply as they are saying ‘run’ for ‘ran’ or ‘gone’ for ‘gone’. Nobody informed them these guidelines, which they cleverly set for themselves. Then they must kind when “provides to plural” or “add to previous tense” are usually not utilized; That’s, they must study the irregular exceptions of the common sample.
However, idioms like “study the ropes” are usually static, which means that modifications to their primary grammatical construction appear usually unacceptable. So deviations from the same old type of expressions look fairly unusual and will be amusing.
So, even a passive kind like “Be taught the ropes by” could seem uncommon, regardless that making a passive sentence is a really productive English syntax. Pupil Realized Vocabulary Record as a passive model of Pupil Realized Vocabulary Record isn’t unusual in the identical method.
In Bob Jones’ instance, “Studying to Rope” doesn’t comprise the big sentence construction modifications that will happen within the passive model. The article “the” is lacking and the noun “rope” needs to be plural. These could also be attribute errors of English learners whose first language could not use articles or plural endings, as is the case with Lao.
The speaker can also lengthen a sample she has found in different expressions with the verb “study,” resembling “study English” or “study to program.” One other reality which may be related to the “studying rope” instance is the often-reported misinterpretation of “rote studying” as “studying by rope”.
Idioms are additionally fastened within the sense that they can’t be interpreted as a easy mixture of the meanings of the element elements, though their origins could have come from a extra literal which means. So the phrase “to study the ropes” means studying the way to do a selected job, for instance by means of apprenticeship, and usually doesn’t embrace any ropes in any respect.
The expression originates within the marine world, from the pre-steam days when an apprentice sailor needed to learn to handle the ropes used to set sails to catch the wind. Quotations within the Oxford English Dictionary point out that its extension to imply studying the way to do different duties grew to become extra frequent within the mid-Nineteenth century.
When language learners, no matter whether or not they’re studying their first language or their later language, don’t perceive the right type of the time period and say that somebody goes to “study the rope,” it could sound unusual or fascinating, however it’s simply as explicable as they are saying once they “ran” behind Sheep”.
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