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English Idioms


English Idioms


First published in 1927

Reprinted 1941, 1943, 1944, 1945, 1946, 1948, 1950

Hardcover: 288 pages


In the present volume, instead of attempting to divide the work into chapters treating of "colloquial phrases", "cant phrases", "slang phrases", and so forth, I have thrown the whole into alphabetical form, and have marked by letters the category to which, in my opinion, the phrases ought to belong. This classification may be studied or may be neglected as suits the convenience or the taste of the consulter. The division I have chosen is fourfold, and in a descending scale of dignity - Prose, Conversational, Familiar, Slang.

By Prose (P) phrases, I understand such phrases as Macaulay or Matthew Arnold might use in their serious writings. 

Conversational (C) phrases, again, are suitable for use in social intercourse, at gatherings where strangers are present, and where we weigh our words before uttering them.


Familiar (F) phrases are less dignified, and are only in place where we are speaking unreservedly among intimates.

The lowest category of all is that of Slang (S) phrases, which are generally of a local or technical nature - that is, they are fully understood only by those of a certain locality, coterie, or profession. Such is the language of the forecastle, of the school-ground, or of the mine.

This Volume does not pretend to exhaust the list of slang phrases, but only to give those which have crept into ordinary use, and are understood, although they may not be used, by all educated people. At least eighty per cent (80%), of the phrases are freshly gathered.

James Main Di xon, M.A, Professor of English literature: He was professor of English and secretary of the Imperial College of Engineering, Tokio, Japan, from 1879 to 1886, when he was called to the Imperial University of Japan in the same capacity. There he taught Hidesaburo Saito, one of the first Japanese writers of English Grammar, and Natsume Sseki, a famous novelist and ex-university professor, who disliked his style of teaching English literature.

From 1892 to 1901 he was professor of English literature at Washington University in St. Louis, Mo. In 1903–1904 he was president of Columbia College, Milton, Oregon. He was professor of English literature at the University of Southern California from 1905 to 1911, when he was transferred to the chair of Oriental studies and comparative literature. In 1906 he became editor of the West Coast Magazine.

He compiled a Dictionary of Idiomatic English Phrases (1891) and wrote: Twentieth Century Life of John Wesley (1902); "Matthew Arnold," in Modern Poets and Christian Teaching (1906); and A Survey of Scottish Literature in the Nineteenth Century (1907). In 1920, he wrote, The Spiritual Meaning of Tennyson's "In Memoriam" and Manual of Modern Scots. In 1908, he received an honorary Doctor of Letters degree from Dickinson College.


Post Updated: List of Authors, Anonymous Works and Journals quoted in the Book

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