Musings on Five Collocations

By Maeve Maddox

Speech and writing are comprised of single words, but many words we use are organized as expressions. A lot of these groupings happen once again and once again in specific patterns. Linguists call these foreseeable patterns collocations:
junction: The regular juxtaposition or association, in the sentences of a language, of a specific word with other specific words; a group of words so associated.– Oxford English Dictionary
Some typical collocations are make the bed, come to a choice, go searching, get married, have lunch, keep ones cool, and keep the modification.
Some junctions become so familiar they can be classed as proverbs and cliches, like much better safe than sorry, very first come, first served, the early riser catches the worm, alls well that ends well, this too shall pass, a stitch in time saves nine, and practice what you preach.
Junctions do shift in time. Possibly some speakers depart intentionally from the predictable word in an effort to be initial. Or perhaps the old phrasing shifts because of an altered worldview or merely because of strangeness with the conventional versions.
Here are five examples of junctions that sound incorrect to me. I inspected each one in the Ngram Viewer to see if they were in fact more typical than I pictured.
Here are 5 junctions that strike me as odd.
2 hands are much better than one.
In an episode of Bones, a brand-new representative desires Booth to take him along to examine a case. To persuade Booth, he states, “Two hands are much better than one.” Booth waggles his hands and says, “I have 2 hands.” The better expression in the context would have been “two heads are much better than one.”.
Two heads are much better than one: a single person can make money from the experience or recommendations of another.
2 hands are much better than one Obviously! Anyone who has ever injured one hand can concur. This one doesnt show up at all in the Ngram Viewer.
Who might have had it out for Jeff?
This quote is also from a television episode, however I stopped working to note the series. The sense was “who may have wished to hurt Jeff?”.
This phrasing appears to conflate two idioms.
to have it in for somebody is to dislike someone and dream to do them harm.
to look out for somebody is to be alert to the well-being of someone, “to have ones back.”.
There is likewise the idiom, to have it out, significance, “to participate in a frank discussion of an issue.”.
The junction “have it out for,” browsed along with “have it in for” does make a showing in the Ngram Viewer, however its hard to tell when the meaning shifted from the sense of “engaging in frank discussion” to “wanting ill to.” The latter seems to be rare and fairly recent.
From holiday baking projects to unwinding pots of tea, Ive put my 3-inch Kuhn Rikon Stainless Steel Strainer to task.
This food author has actually utilized put to job with the meaning “put to utilize.” As I d never seen this collocation, I assumed he had misconstrued the idiom take to task.
take to task: call somebody to account for an overlooked duty. This definition appears in Dr. Johnsons 1809 dictionary.
The Ngram Viewer files put to task in nineteenth century sources as part of the expression put to task-work. Compared to the more common junction, the “put to job” version is rare.
Due to the fact that people lower their guards, its good.
lower your guard: become less guarded or alert.
This expression originates from the sport of fencing and can use to other sports, like boxing and cricket. Here, the significance of the noun guard is “a defensive posture.” Although apparently adequate writers incorrectly use the plural kind to trigger it to appear in the Ngram Viewer, the word is constantly singular, no matter whether the referent is a single person or a number of.

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I checked each one in the Ngram Viewer to see if they were in truth more common than I envisioned. The more appropriate expression in the context would have been “2 heads are much better than one.”.
2 hands are better than one Obviously! Anyone who has ever hurt one hand can concur. Obviously adequate authors incorrectly use the plural kind to cause it to appear in the Ngram Viewer, the word is always particular, regardless of whether the referent is one person or a number of.

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