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RE: Definition of idiom 2

From: Christophe Strobbe <Christophe.Strobbe@esat.kuleuven.be>
Date: Mon, 06 Mar 2006 11:54:38 +0100
Message-Id: <>
To: w3c-wai-gl@w3.org

Gregg proposed:
phrase whose meaning cannot be deduced from the meaning of the individual
words and where you can't change the wording very much without losing the
intended meaning.
[with several examples]

John responded:
change "you can't change the wording very much" to "the wording cannot
be changed significantly"
delete the parenthetical phrase about someone converting it in their

Gregg responded to John's comments:
No phrase has the same meaning if you change the words significantly.

RE deleting the parentheticals...   I would agree except if you say "The old
man knocked over the bucket" most everyone would know what you meant.  So
that would make it not an idiom according to our definition.  However, the
only way that people do this is by first translating it back into "kicked
the bucket" then understanding it. So we can either decide that that
isn't a problem - or we can find another way to say this.

Thoughts every one?

I'm tempted to go with Johns suggestion, delete these, and not worry about
it.  Everyone who reads the definition will know what it means even if you
can think of a way to argue it.

So current proposal is same as #2 except delete parenteticals that talk
about figuring out that it is a poorly executed version of the idiom.

I don't understand the argument in the first comment ("phrase has the
same meaning if you change the words significantly"): if we define idiom
as "a phrase whose meaning whose meaning cannot be deduced from the
meaning of the individual words and where the wording cannot be changed
significantly without losing the intended meaning" (i.e. with two restrictive
relative clauses: whose ... and where ...), the argument about
"phrase" seems moot to me.

Regarding significant changes to an idiom such as "the old man knocked
over the bucket"): these are caught by the success criterion because
"knocked over" becomes a "word used in an unusual and restricted way"
(it acquires a restricted metaphorical meaning that can only be deduced
by going back to the original idiom).

The examples don't contain changes that are not considered significant.
For example, in the Dutch idiom, "hij" (he) can be replaced with "zij" (she),
"ik" (I), or another personal pronoun. Such a change does cause a loss
of the intended meaning.


Christophe Strobbe
Received on Monday, 6 March 2006 10:53:29 UTC

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