XII Международный конкурс научно-исследовательских и творческих работ учащихся
Старт в науке


Арутюнян Д.Л. 1
1МБОУ Лесногородская СОШ
Оганнисян Н.Л. 1
1МБОУ Лесногородская СОШ
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Every intelligent person uses idioms in his speech. So, what is an idiom? An idiom isa turn of speech which shouldn’t be translated literally [6]. Some of us don't evenknowthatweuseidiomsin ourspeech.ManyRussianidioms,suchas«битьбаклуши»and «развеситьуши» are usedby us every day.

Idioms exist in every language and come from ancient times. They are closelyconnected with the history and culture of each nation. That is why the idioms of eachlanguage are unique. But despite this, many idioms are surprisingly similar to eachother. For example, almost every language has animal idioms. They are most oftenbased oncomparing differentsituationsand traitswithanimals.

The use of idioms in speech shows the level of language knowledge, makes a personclosertothenativepeople,helpstounderstandliteratureandfilmsmoredeeply.

Idiomsmake our speechmore emotional,colorful andinteresting.

The aim of the research: to compare English and Russian animal idioms and to findout theirpopularity in ourtime.

Thetasks ofthe research:




tofindout theconnectionbetweencultureandidioms;

tomake asurvey ontheknowledge and useofanimalidioms;

tounderstand thepopularityofidioms inourspeech;

tosum everythingup.



There are many problems with understanding and memorizing Englishidiomsby foreignstudents.


The subject of research: the popularity of English and Russian animal idiomsThemethodsofthe research:


the survey among students.The problems oftheresearch:



The relevance of the research: The research can increase the popularity of EnglishandRussian idioms between students.


As already mentioned, idioms have existed in languages since ancient times. Butwhere did they come from? «Idiom» is not originally an English word – it is one ofthe many that have come into the language from Greek [2]. «Idiom» means «one of akind» and indicates that a phrase is being used with a special meaning that can bevery different to the literal meaning [2]. But despite the Greek origin, idioms areactively used all over the world, in particular in the UK. The English people are keenon using idioms. They use them several times a day. Many English idioms appearedthanks to famous writers. For example, phrases from Lewis Carroll's Alice inWonderland, such as “to grin like a Cheshire cat” and “mad as a March hare”, arecommonly used in English speech. Surely, special contribution to the development ofEnglish idioms was made by the greatest William Shakespeare. His idioms, such as“heart of gold” and “lie low” even have been translated into other languages andthat's why they are used all over the world. Idioms often come from jargon – thetechnical language used by a group of specialists [2]. Because the British used to be anation of sailors, many idioms have come from there – for example a ship with toomany sails in a strong wind would sail erratically, so a drunk person is sometimessaid tobe “threesheetsto the wind”[2].

What about Russian idioms? Just like in the UK, some of them came from literature.ButinRussia,idiomsappearedmostlyfromancientcustomsandSlavictraditions.

Such an idiom is the expression «манна небесная». Another way of the idiomappearance is the history of Ancient Russia. For example, it is the idiom «будтоМамайпрошел», which came fromtheBattle ofKulikovo.


It seems to be quite easier to talk about things the way they are, without usinguntranslatable phrases and comparisons. Nevertheless, idioms continue to live in ourspeech. Moreover, the new ones are also appearing in the language. So why dopeople useidioms?

Linguists say that we choose to use expressions that paint word pictures and createhumorous mental images rather than using only literal, logical words and phrases [8].In this way, our languages and communications become richer and, some might say,evenmore human[8]!

Firstly, idioms are historically important. It was already said that idioms hadappeared in special groups of people. Then such groups grew and transformed intonations. So we have to preserve idioms, because they are part of our history andculture.

Secondly, some idioms help to express thoughts that we can't say otherwise. A goodexample of the only-expression-known idiom is “to be in the doghouse” [9]. Thisidiom means “to be a man whose wife is angry at him over a minor offense and whois certainly going to be apologizing soon for whatever he did or said” [9]. There is noword in the English language that can better describe this situation. And the idiom isagreatsolution inthis case.

In the end, idioms connect different groups of people. There are a lot of professionalidioms that are known only in narrow circles. For example, this expression is“number cruncher”, used as a nickname foran accountant.


AforeignstudentwhowantstolearnEnglishshouldn’tforgetaboutidioms.Andit'sa big challenge to translate an English idiom into your own language and understandwhen you should use it. So how can a foreigner deal with idioms? The best solution isto divide the popular idioms into large groups. I analyzed some Russian and Englishidiom dictionaries and tried to create my own classification of idioms. I got 8 biggroups: food, weather, time, animal, house, colour, clothing and body idioms. TheclassificationisbasedonthelexicalmeaningofpopularEnglishandRussianidioms.


Exampleofan English


Exampleofa Russian



tobring home the





like a boltfromthe


«какгром средиясного



tokill time”

«убить время»


to liveacatanddog




House idioms

have a roof over one’shead”

«иметь крышу надголовой»


awhite lie”

«ложь во спасение»


topullup one’ssocks”

«засучить рукава»

Body idioms

to know something likethepalmofone’shand”


Theexamplesweretakenfrom[1] and[5].


Iwouldliketolearnmoreaboutanimalidioms.Animalidiomsarethemostusedtype idioms in English and Russian languages. Many animal associations are partlysimilar or completely the same in both languages. So it will be convenient to consideranimal idioms in my research. By similarity to each other, English and Russiananimal idioms can bedivided into 4largegroups.

The first group includes idioms that are related to the same animals and have thesame association in both languages. In other words, it is a group of completelyidentical animal idioms. As an example of such idiom, we can use the Englishexpression “to take the bull by the horns” and the Russian «взять быка за рога».Eachof themmeansdoingsomethingdifficult inabrave anddeterminedway.

First group


The idiom

The meaning



to takethe bull



by thehorns”

todo something




anddetermined way







The second group includes idioms that are related to the same animals, but have adifferent association. As an example, we can use two popular idioms about hares. TheEnglish expression “to kiss the hare’s foot” is used for people who are late forsomething. The Russian idiom «ехать зайцем» has a completely differentassociation.Itmeans havinga trip withouta ticket.



The idiom

The meaning



to kiss the hare’sfoot”

to be late forsomething



«ехать зайцем»

to have a trip withoutaticket


The third group includes idioms that are related to different animals, but have thesame association in both languages. English and Russian languages have idiomsabout people who succeed in achieving two things in a single action. In Russian, thisis the idiom «убить двух зайцев». The English version “to kill two birds with onestone”soundsalmostthesame,butinsteadof hares, birdsare usedhere.



The idiom

The meaning



to kill two birdswithonestone”

to succeed inachieving two thingsinasingleaction[3]





The fourth group of animal idioms is the most problematic. It includes those idiomsthat don't have the similar ones in another language. Learning is the only way to dealwith these idioms. As an example of such an idiom, there may be an Englishexpression “to cry wolf”. It is used when someone keep asking for help when hedoesn’t need it, with the result that people think he doesn’t need help when he reallyneeds it. Unfortunately,thereis no suchidiomin Russian.



The idiom

The meaning



to crywolf”

to keepaskingforhelp when you do notneedit,withtheresultthat people think youdonotneedhelpwhen you really needit[3]





There are many reasons why some animal idioms sound exactly as they are. If we gointo the history of the animal idioms origin, we will find very interesting historicalsituations. They form the uniqueness of any language idioms. Knowledge of suchstories willhelpthe foreignertolearn someuntranslatable idioms.

I decided to consider the history of the idiom “cry wolf”, which I have already takenas an example. The origin of the saying “cry wolf” is believed to be from Aesop, aGreek fabulist [4]. “The Boy Who Cried Wolf” is one of the stories written by him[4]. The fable tells the story of a boy who deceived villagers by calling for help andcrying “Wolf!”. The neighbors thought at first that the wolf was attacking the sheepand rushed to help, but then they realized that the boy was calling them for nothing.Finally, when the wolves actually appeared, no one believed the boy's cries: thevillagersthought thatitwasanotherfalse alarm,andthewolves atethesheep.

The fable has been translated into many languages. For example, in the Russianversion, it is called «Мальчик, который кричал: “Волк!”». Of course, such a namecould not become an idiom. This is mostly caused by the Russian grammar, whichdoes not allow idiom to be existed. Such problem of idioms translating is calledlinguistic. Different translators come up with their own methods to translate suchidioms.Butthere is nosingle solution forthem yet.


Culture and idioms are closely related. Culture is a special property that occurs in agroup of people. Culture brings people together and creates a nation. Such linguisticunits as idioms are created by the nation and for the nation, so that’s why they live formanycenturies.Ofcourse,culturalidiomscreategreatdifficultiesfortranslators.

Suchidioms needknowledgeoftheculturaltreats.

So what about animal idioms? It's no secret that in the ancient times people treatedanimals as the symbols of something. The choice of an animal is related to the naturalor historical features of country. That is why we can see a similar idiom with anotheranimal in differentcountries.

There are many English idioms associated with the lion. The main reason is the factthat the lion has long been a symbol of Great Britain. The early kings of Englandgoing back to the Norman dynasty, chose the lion as a badge or symbol of theircourage and strength [10]. One of the most famous English kings, Richard the First,was nicknamed the Lionheart. That's why we know so many idioms about lions, like“to feed someone with the lions”, “lion-hearted”, “a lion in the way” and others [7].Intheseidiomsthelionappears as asymbolof pride,strengthandbravery.

There are very few idioms associated with lion in Russian. The most popular animalof Russian folklore is the bear. Every Russian child gets acquainted with a Bearcalled Мишка from fairy tales. It is not surprising that many Russian idioms arerelatedtothisanimal. Forexample,theseareexpressions«медвежья услуга»,

«давать медведя»,«медведьнаухонаступил»andothers.Eventheword

«медведь» is an idiom in some sense, because it is the name of a large and strong,butclumsy person.

But there are some animals that symbolize the same traits in Russia and in the UK.For example, it is a fox as a symbol of cunning. Such expressions as “to be as sly asafox”and“foxguardingthe henhouse”arefamiliartoeveryEnglish person.The

samefoxidiomsareusedintheRussianlanguage.These aretheexpressions

«пуститьлису вкурятник,«лисий хвост»andothers.

The wolf is also a well-known character in both languages. Idioms with this animalsymbolize hunger, danger, and loneliness. Examples of them are the Englishexpressions “to throw someone to the wolves”, “to keep the wolf from the door” andtheRussian«волкомвыть»,«волчий аппетит» and manyothers.

Surveyamong students.(Appendix 4)

I conducted a survey among students of the 10th grade. I asked them to explain themeaning of four animal idioms from all 4 groups, and also offered to answer 2questionsaboutthe study and use ofidioms.

Write what you think these animal idioms mean: “to take the bull by the horns”,“tokissthe hare’s foot”, “to killtwobirds with one stone”, “cry wolf”?

Doyou useidiomsinyourspeech?


According to the results of the survey, the most difficult animal idiom was “cry wolf”(only 5% answered correctly). This proves the fact that animal idioms which don’thave similar ones in the foreign version are the most difficult. Idioms with the sameanimals and different association also caused difficulties (only 15% answeredcorrectly).

55% of students said that they actively use idioms in their speech. Thus, for most ofthestudents,idioms play animportantroleindaily speech.

But what about the other 45%? These students use idioms rarely or don’t use them atall. The third question helped to find out some of the reasons. We found that 80% ofstudents have problems with learning idioms. The most popular problem is related tothe sound of idioms. It means that many students don’t understand the origin of someidioms.


To sum up it, I come to the conclusion. Idioms play an important role in our speech.They reflect the culture of each country and its national characteristics. At the sametime, idioms unite people and create a special form of speech which is used indifferent professions. And of course idioms show the richness and beauty of aperson's speech.

In my work, I learned the history of idioms and created my own classification ofthem. I studied the literature and compared the English and Russian animal idioms. Ihavecome tothe conclusionthatmany ofthemhavethesame origin.

After conducting a survey among students, I found out that most of them use idiomsin their speech. I have also found problems that make students not use idioms. Manyof them don’t understand the origin of some idioms and don’t know when they can beused. As a solution, I suggest using the classification of idioms and studying thehistoryofthemostdifficult idioms.


“A picture collection of idioms in five languages”, M. Dubrovin, «РОСМЭН»,1997

“Advanced English Course - Idioms. Unit 6 lesson 1”.

“Cambridge Dictionary | English Dictionary, Translations & Thesaurus”.

“Cry Wolf - Idioms - Meaning & Origin | Know Your Phrase”.


“SomethingtoCrowAbout:AConciseCollectionofAmericanEnglishIdiomsforEveryday Use” by Shelley Vance Laflin, published by the Materials Developmentand ReviewBranch, 1993

“Useful Lion Idioms (Meaning & Examples)”. 27.02.2021

“Why Do People Use Idioms? | Wonderopolis”.

“Why do we need idioms? – Quora”.

“Why is a lion the symbol of England? – PoC”.

Appendix1: Historyof idioms.

WilliamShakespeare LewisCarroll




TheBoyWhoCried Wolf”,anillustration


RichardtheLionheart RoyalArmsofEngland

TheOlympicMishka,theRussianBear mascot Anillustrationforidiom

ofthe1980MoscowOlympicGames «медведьнаухо наступил»

Appendix4: Surveyamongstudents.

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