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Speak good English (Idiomatic expressions)

BY: Hannah A Amoah

In the past few weeks, we have been looking at idiomatic expressions whose composition seems to go against the normal principles of grammar, for which reason many people may consider such expressions incorrect and would want to 'correct' them.


So far, we have looked at the idiomatic expressions:
Put your best foot forward.
As best you can.
Note what we said about the expression
 Put your best foot forward:
that, as it stands, it's correct, and that if we want to go by grammar and render it as:
Put your better foot forward we take away its idiomatic nature and it becomes an ordinary expression whose meaning has nothing to do with the idiomatic expression:
Put your best foot forward.
On the expression:
As best you can,
note that its meaning has nothing to do with the simile ....as....as...., as in:
As proud as a peacock
As simple as ABCD
Since As best you can is idiomatic, the moment you tamper with its construction, you render it meaningless. In fact, there is nothing like:
As best as you can in the English language.
Let's look at yet another idiomatic expression which appears 'incorrect' from the way it's constructed:
From the attitude she put up, I could easily see that she had something up her sleeve.
The idiomatic expression in the sentence is:
To have something up your sleeve.
I have seen this expression rendered as:
To have something up your sleeves, apparently because attires or apparels with sleeves have two of them.
But since the composition and the meaning of an idiomatic expression are fixed, we don't have to apply what we know to be the normal or ideal situation to an idiom.
The idiomatic expression as we have it is:
To have something up your sleeve (NOT sleeves)
and so should it be.
The expression means:
To have a secret plan or idea that you are going to use or apply later, as in:
Don't worry; he still has a few tricks up his sleeve.
Note that if you change the singular sleeve to the plural sleeves, you render the expression meaningless because there is no idiomatic expression
To have something up your sleeves.