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Opening a Pandora's Box: Proper Names in English Phraseology

Partizia Pierini (Rome)


 

Abstract

This article explores the linguistic-cultural aspects and usage of phraseological units involving personal and place names in English. The introductory sections outline the linguistic features of proper names and phraseological units. The qualitative part of this study provides a list of units belonging to four phraseological types (idioms, stereotyped similes, binomials, formulae), drawn from idiom dictionaries. An investigation of the sources of names shows that the personal and place names involved are historically, socially or culturally prominent in British culture. Here is noted a predominance of personal over place names, and within the former, a predominance of male over female names, and first names over family names, with a number of hypocorisms. The quantitative part of the study consists of a corpus search of the selected units in the British National Corpus in order to find their frequency and distribution across registers. The search reveals that they have very low levels of occurrence, and are more commonly used in written registers, in particular, in fiction, journalism and miscellaneous texts.


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