As we know, collocations are one of the most important elements in our everyday language. Collocations are the ready-made constructions that help us pass on meaning and sense to other speakers of the language. Without collocations it would be difficult to understand one another. Collocations are often seen to be the key to fluency or native-like linguistic competence. A native speaker of English will say knife and fork, it’s raining cats and dogs not fork and knife or dogs and cats.
These may seem like minor differences but they make the native speaker sound native. Previous posts (click here and here) have shown the importance of collocations and the intrinsic link between culture and language.
A noteworthy fact visible within the world of politics is the ability to turn common collocations (or set phrases) into new phrases (calling them collocations would be an injustice). A good example of this are the two Polish phrases przerażające fakty, porażające fakty which in loose translation might be understood as frightening facts and paralysing facts.
Both phrases are extremely similar but show how politicians or other language users have the creative ability to take meanings a ‘notch up’ and ‘crank up’ the force of certain collocations. What is even more fascinating is the way in which these linguistic changes are understood by the audience. A scan of these two
collocations phrases shows that language users believe them to be synonymous regardless of the intentions of the original user.
The conclusion therefore is that linguistic forces have the ability to ‘level off’ and ‘smooth out’ rough edges which are simply unnecessary. In the same way that erosion allows rivers to find the ideal route across a plain, so too language finds the ideal form through which communication is most effective.