Sunday, 5 December 2021

Grandpa Greg's Advanced Grammar: BINOMIAL EXPRESSIONS

Authors' Note A binomial pair, phrase, or expression, is a language element consisting of a pair of words that are used in a fixed order as an idiom. The two members of the pair are the same part of speech, are semantically related, often near-synonyms or antonyms, and are most commonly joined by and, or or; they often play a role as clichés. The term irreversible binomial was coined and extensively discussed by American philologist Yakov Malkiel in 1954. The most catchy of these phrases are alliterative, as hale and hearty, or rhyming, as in health and wealth, or haste makes waste.

Authors' Note: The forty-fifth US president and his advisors seem to have come up with a scare tactic, telling voters that waves of Central American refugees appearing on the southern US border were comprised of potential rapists and drug-dealers. The 'redemption' referred to here is entry into the safe refuge of the United States.   

For binomial expressions, such as sin and redemption, there is (in normal times) a mandatory, irreversible order of the two linguistic elements.

Authors' Note:  Although 'flora' (the collection of visible plants) and 'fauna' (the collection of visible animals) may be of equal importance, and are familiar to most readers, they seem to be listed preferentially in English dictionaries and encyclopedia in the order shown above.

The above verse highlights the importance of the microbiota, a group of creatures that have flown generally under the radar, the limits of human perception having previously shaped understanding of the range of life on our planet. This underappreciated group of organisms includes bacteria, fungi, viruses and others, that teem in and on our bodies and those of all other creatures, in the soil, and even in apparently difficult or hostile environments.     

Authors' Note The concept of fossil words derives from the fact that dozens of obsolete and obscure words, e.g. betwixt, retain currency only as a part of idioms whose use has continued into modern times. More examples of fossil words retained in some binomial expressions are given in the verse hem and haw.

Authors' NoteThe rhyming binomial phrase, stoop and scoop, sometimes given as 'poop and scoop', describes a group activity by pet-owners.
See also the author's poem "dog park" in the collection "Urban Concerns". 


Authors' NoteBirds and bees is an alliterative binomial phrase used here in a euphemistic sense.  The counterintuitive fact that MENses are a female function could make this poem a companion-piece to the authors' verse on gender-neutral language.      

Authors' Note:   The astute reader might realize that 'whence, wherefore and whither' is a TRInomial phrase, a less common entity.  

Authors' NoteThe above verse features a number of binomial expressions, most of which are in common use. As part of their catchy appeal, binomial phrases are often used as the names of restaurants, bars and small businesses, but the name proposed here for a strip-club is original.  

Authors' Note:  'Floaters', in the eye, a common symptom may require expert medical attention when they first appear or become more numerous. Most often, they are insignificant and chronic. Jill might be surprised to learn that they are not caused by accumulation of discrete floating particles, e.g. jetsam, but are rather an effect attributed to fibrous strands traversing the vitreous (posterior) chamber of the eye.

Flotsam and jetsam is an intriguing binomial phrase. The original meaning of its two components is explained in a verse by OEDILFian contributor Kevin Lucas. 

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