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Long Time, No Buzz: Fixed Expressions as Constructional Frames

Katarina Rasulic

Résumés

Cet article explore la variabilité des expressions figées en anglais dans une perspective constructioniste. L’analyse couvre deux types d’expressions : des séquences aphoristiques traditionelles (p.e., Once bitten, twice shy) et des citations populaires contemporaines (p.e., And now for something completely different). L’analyse montre que dans les deux cas ces schémas pré-fabriqués sont utilisés productivement comme des constructions dans lesquelles certains « slots » sont occupés par des lexèmes différents (p.e., Once bitten, twice bankrupt; And now for something else) et présentent occasionallement un remaniement du motif syntaxique (p.e., Once Biden, twice shy; And now for something completely Madonna), laissant cependant la correspondance générale forme-sens-usage clairement reconnaissable. Ces résultats sont interprétés à la lumière des notions de blending conceptuel et d’intertextualité dans l’usage quotidien de la langue, et dans le contexte d’une théorie constructioniste.

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1. Setting the scene

  • 1  The paper is based on a talk given at the Third International AFLiCo Conference “Grammars in Const (...)

1Following the constructionist tenet that the number of idiosyncratic form-meaning-use correspondences in natural languages is much greater than assumed in mainstream generative approaches (Fillmore, Kay & O’Connor 1988, Lambrecht 1994, Goldberg 1995, 2006, Culicover & Jackendoff 2005), this paper addresses the issue of variation in fixed expressions in English.1

2The term fixed expressions is adopted from Moon (1998), as a convenient umbrella term referring to different kinds of holistic units of two or more words, such as frozen collocations, grammatically ill-formed collocations, proverbs, routine formulae, similes, idioms etc. (Moon 1998: 2). Such linguistic units, labelled and classified in different ways by different authors, constitute a significant part of phraseological research and have been studied extensively by scholars working in numerous linguistic fields, in particular psycholinguistics, corpus linguistics, applied linguistics and cognitive linguistics (for overviews of different research perspectives see Moon 1998, Wray 2002, Gries 2008). Moreover, insights into the complex nature of idiomatic language and grammar-lexicon continuum have played an important role in the theoretical foundations of functionally oriented and usage-based approaches to language, including the constructionist paradigm (for a survey of the role of phraseology in linguistic theory see Gries 2008; for overviews of the growing family of constructionist approaches see Goldberg 2006: 205‑226, Schönefeld 2006). Although the range of phenomena subsumed under the label of fixed expressions is very large and although there is considerable variety in both the terminology and the criteria employed in dealing with such phenomena from different research perspectives, the following features, identified by Moon (1998: 7‑8), can be used to highlight the pertinent aspects: institutionalization – the degree to which a multiword item is conventionalized in the language; lexicogrammatical fixedness – the degree to which a multiword item is frozen as a sequence of words; and non-compositionality – the degree to which a multiword item cannot be interpreted on a word-by-word basis, but has a specialized unitary meaning.

3Particularly significant for this paper is the fact that all of these features are a matter of degree. The gradual nature of the features of fixed expressions is also reflected in the set of parameters identified by Gries (2008) as the ones that are typically implicated in phraseological research and with respect to which co-ocurrence phenomena, including phraseology, should be defined: the nature of elements involved, the number of elements involved, the number of times an expression must be observed to count as a phraseologism, the permissible distance between the elements involved, the degree of lexical and syntactic flexibility of the elements involved, and the role that semantic unity and semantic non-compositionality/non-predictability play in the definition. With respect to these criteria, a fixed expression can be seen as typically involving two or more specific and immediately adjacent words, co-occurring more frequently than expected on the basis of chance, exhibiting a relatively high degree of lexical and syntactic stability, and characterized by semantic unity which may but need not involve non-compositionality. So the ‘fixedness’ of fixed expressions is rather a matter of degree, in particular with respect to the parameters of lexical and syntactic flexibility and non-compositionality, allowing for certain variability and enabling the interplay between routine and novelty, as illustrated by the example from the title – Long time, no buzz – which is clearly a variant of the fixed expression Long time, no see. Indeed, over the past two decades, corpus linguistics has provided compelling evidence that “so-called ‘fixed phrases’ are not in fact fixed” (Sinclair 1996: 83), and the variability of fixed expressions has been identified as a remarkable linguistic phenomenon by a number of authors working within different theoretical frameworks (cf. especially Sinclair 1991, 1996, Moon 1998, Wray 2002, Carter 2004, Langlotz 2006, Philip 2008).

4The constructionist perspective adopted in this paper is based on the framework developed by Goldberg (2006):

Any linguistic pattern is recognized as a construction as long as some aspect of its form or function is not strictly predictable from its component parts or from other constructions recognized to exist. In addition, patterns are stored as constructions even if they are fully predictable as long as they occur with sufficient frequency. (Goldberg 2006: 5)

  • 2  For a detailed account of the status of lexically filled and partially lexically filled constructi (...)

5Fixed expressions are therefore understood as lexically filled constructions that manifest a particularly high degree of form-meaning-use idiosyncrasy.2 Given the high level of specificity and the correspondingly low level of schematicity of such idiosyncratic linguistic patterns, it is worth exploring how they can be productively extended beyond their original form and function.

6The focus here will be on two particular kinds of fixed expressions – traditional aphoristic sequences (e.g. Once bitten, twice shy)and recent popular quotes (e.g. And now for something completely different). The aim of the paper is twofold: (1) to provide insight into the degree and kind of variation licensed by the fixed expressions under examination, and (2) to consider possible theoretical contextualizations of the findings using the notions of construction grammar (Goldberg 2006), cognitive grammar (Langacker 1987, 2000), conceptual blending (Fauconnier & Turner 2002) and intertextuality in everyday language use (Gasparov 2004).

7The expressions selected for closer examination and the scope of the analysis are presented in Section 2. The description of lexical and syntactic modifications of the expressions examined is presented in Section 3, followed by the consideration of the underlying motivations in Section 4. Theoretical implications and contextualizations of the findings are discussed in Section 5, followed by the concluding remarks in Section 6. In the body of the text the data is presented in a condensed form, including the type of modification, the number of tokens in quantifiable types of modification, and illustrative examples, while the full list of modified expressions, reflecting the types of modification described, is provided in the Appendix.

2. The data and the scope of the analysis

8The following fixed expressions have been selected for closer examination:

9(1) – Long-established aphoristic sequences, which exhibit somewhat irregular syntax, characterized by the structural balancing of two parts against each other (cf. Quirk et al. 1985: 843):

Once bitten, twice shy
First come, first served
Easy come, easy go
Long time, no see

10(2) – Relatively recent popular film quotes, which are characterized by a specific lexico-syntactic pattern, meaning and use and thus commonly identified as idiosyncratic chunks:

  • 3  The expressions selected for the analysis in this group feature prominently in the American Film I (...)

And now for something completely different (“Monty Python's Flying Circus”)3
Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn (“Gone with the Wind”)
Go ahead, make my day (“Sudden Impact”)
May the force be with you (“Star Wars”)

  • 4  It is interesting to note that long time, no see has been attributed different origins in etymolog (...)

11The two groups of expressions manifest different degrees of ‘fixedness’ with respect to institutionalization, lexico-syntactic stability and semantic unity, with the former generally being longer established in the language, more confined by the peculiarity of the syntactic pattern and more semantically holistic. Also, the expressions subsumed under the two loose headings differ among themselves with respect to form, meaning and use. Of the four expressions in the first group, each contains a non-finite verb form, but in different distributions; the first three are proverbial and metaphorical, compreheded via the generic is specific metaphor (Lakoff 1993: 235), while the fourth, Long time, no see,4 is a ritualistic formula which is interpreted literally. Of the four expressions in the second group, one is verbless, one contains a finite verb-form, and the remaining two a non-finite verb form; the first two are interpreted literally, while the other two are more metaphorical; each of them is used as a ritualistic formula in situationally and culturally bound contexts. The two groups are not meant to be homogenous; rather, the diversity in the form, meaning and use of the fixed expressions selected for examination has been opted for in order to check whether it will affect the degree and kind of variation which they can accommodate.

12The analysis comprises a total of 306 tokens of modified expressions under examination, distributed as follows:

13(1) – Aphoristic sequences:

Once bitten, twice shy

55

First come, first served

31

Easy come, easy go

37

Long time, no see

46

14(2) – Popular film quotations:

And now for something completely different

42

Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn

34

Go ahead, make my day

36

May the force be with you

25

  • 5  An insightful discussion of the restrictions concerning the collection of data on variant forms of (...)

15The data has been collected through a relatively straightforward Internet search. Each expression has been run through the Google search engine with one lexical item missing and the titles of the first 50 Internet pages have been taken into consideration. The search technique of leaving out one lexical item has proved to be useful in dealing with different fixed expressions simultaneously, insofar that it enables a clear comparison of the range and kind of variation accommodated by different expressions. It has also conveniently provided a number of instances where more than one lexical item is modified (e.g. And now for something really dangerous, Twice bitten, never shy), and these have been included in the analysis. The full range of internal variability that could be retrieved for each expression examined obviously exceeds the restrictions imposed by the search technique applied,5 which leaves beyond the scope of this paper the issue of the degree to which a single fixed expression can be modified and still remain recognizable. This is an important issue that needs to be addressed in both corpus-based and experimental research.

  • 6  Related to the linguistic phenomenon discussed in this paper is the notion of “snowclones”. The po (...)

16The examples of modified expressions under examination have been found in different areas of language use, ranging from journalistic writing and advertisements to song lyrics and personal communication (Internet forums, blogs etc.) The fact that such a high number of modified expressions has been attested in diverse areas of everyday language use clearly shows that fixed expressions from both groups are widely recognized by language users as ready-made templates which allow for various kinds of creative modification in the process of meaning construction.6

17The analysis has revealed that the idiosyncratic linguistic sequences from the two groups examined, although varying along different dimensions of fixedness, turn out to manifest considerable similarity in terms of the degree and kind of variation they accommodate. The findings presented below have emerged as a result of considering the following aspects of the modification of the fixed expressions at stake:

  • lexical modification with respect to the overall syntactic pattern

  • underlying motivations for the selection of the modified element (phonological, semantic, information structure)

  • viable theoretical interpretations of this linguistic phenomenon.

3. Lexical modification with respect to the syntax of the fixed expression

183.1 The modification of fixed expressions typically involves lexical substitution,  whereby the overall syntactic pattern is preserved:

Aphoristic sequences

Popular quotes

Once bitten, twice Adj (7)

Once bitten, twice wise

Once bitten, twice live

Once bitten, twice V-en (11)

Once bitten, twice bold

Once bitten, twice blessed

Once V-en, twice shy (11)

Once beaten, twice shy

Once married, twice shy

Once Adj, twice shy (3)

Once dead, twice shy

Once glitzy, twice shy

First come, first V-en (11)

First come, first seated

First come, first bought

First V-en, first served (7)

First seen, first served

First paid, first served

First come, NumOrd/AdjSup served (2)

First come, second served

First come, best served

Easy come, easy V (11)

Easy come, easy do

Easy come, easy buy

Long time, no V (13)

Long time, no hear

Long time, no sell

And now for something completely Adj (15)

And now for something completely ridiculous

And now for something completely Shakespearean

And now for something completely V-en (2)

And now for something completely wasted

And now for something completely stolen

And now for something Adv different (2)

And now for something quite different

And now for something substantially different

And now for something Adv Adj (9)

And now for something really dangerous

And now for something absolutely gorgeous

Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a N (19)

Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a link

Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a Google

Go ahead, make my N (11)

Go ahead, make my Monday

Go ahead, make my duel

Go ahead, make Poss N (day) (5)

Go ahead, make Obama’s day

Go ahead, make our midnight

Go ahead, make a N (3)

Go ahead, make a mess

Go ahead, make a wish

May the force V with you (7)

May the force sing with you

May the force exercise with you

193.2 Apart from, or in addition to lexical substitution, it is also possible to add or remove certain elements at the phrase level and still keep the overall syntactic pattern, whereby the removal of elements is apparently conditioned by the degree of elaboration of the internal phrase structure within the host expression:

Addition (19)

Subtraction (7)

Once bitten, twice as angry

May the force and minty-Fresh Breath be with you

And now for something different

And now for something positive

203.3 On the other hand, in a remarkably high number of instances, lexical substitution is such that it involves the reshaping of the overall syntactic pattern (further examples of syntactic reshaping in view of the linguistic motivation and the information structure of the modified expressions are presented in section 4):

Aphoristic sequences

Popular quotes

Once bitten, twice N (1)

Once bitten, twice Ed

Once bitten, twice V (3)

Once bitten, twice watch out

Once bitten, twice read more

Once N, twice shy (1)

Once Biden, twice shy

First come, first (to) V (6)

First come, first kill

First come, first sue

First N, first served (1)

First scrum, first served

Easy come, easy N (5)

Easy come, easy money

Easy come, easy pop (music)

Easy N, easy go (2)

Easy-plug, easy-go

Easy lover, easy go

Long time, no N (20)

Long time, no news

Long time, no comment

And now for something completely NP (3)

And now for something completely Madonna

And now for something completely video

Frankly, my dear, NP Vintr (1)

Frankly, my dear, the musical doesn’t work

Go ahead, make  O  OC (9)

Go ahead, make me stay

Go ahead, make me gay

May the force be SC (2)

May the force be better behaved

May the force be over

May the force VtrP (1)

May the force not beat you up

4. Underlying motivations for the selection of the modified element

4.1 Phonological and semantic motivation

21The examples above show that the selection of the element of the fixed expression to be modified and the novel element is primarily context-dependent and conditioned by the overall constructional meaning (e.g., Once bitten, twice bold), but that there are also cases where the modification of fixed expressions is clearly motivated by linguistic factors involving the intricate interplay between the form and meaning of the element selected for modification on the one hand and the form and meaning of the novel element on the other (e.g., Once beaten, twice shy).

22As far as the form is concerned, modification can evidently be easily triggered by different kinds of phonological similarity between the element selected for modification and the novel element (especially rhyming or homophony, but also partial overlapping of the phonological form), as well as by the phonological similarity (especially rhyming) between the novel element and another element of the host expression (e.g., Once bitten, twice smitten). The phonologically motivated modification of idiosyncratic expressions frequently occurs at the cost of reshaping the overall syntactic pattern:

Phonological motivation / Same syntax (15)

Phonological motivation / Different syntax (16)

Once bitten, twice smitten

Easy come, easy blow

Long time, no sail

Go ahead, make my play

May the force beat with you

May the source be with you

Once bitten, twice fly

First come, first surf

Easy come, easy Gaughin

Easy rum, easy go

Long time, no tea

May the force beer with you

23Semantic motivation is distinctly more complex to pinpoint (and consequently resists precise quantification), due to the fact that it can involve not only a straightforward semantic relation between the replaced and the novel element (e.g. First come, last served – where the replaced element first and the novel element last are antonyms), but also the compatibility of the meaning of the novel element and the overall meaning of the host idiosyncratic expression (e.g. Once bitten, never shy – where the novel element never, although not directly antonymous to the replaced element twice, is incorporated in the host expression so as to make the modified expression stand in contrast to it). Moreover, the selection of the novel element is primarily conditioned by the constructional meaning of the host idiosyncratic expression. Broadly speaking, lexico-semantic motivation can involve either similarity in meaning (ranging from near-synonymy between the replaced and the novel element to similarity in lexical/grammatical meaning conditioned by the overall meaning of the host expression) or oppositeness in meaning (ranging from antonymy between the replaced and the novel element to lexical/grammatical contrast conditioned by the overall meaning of the host expression):

Similarity

Oppositeness

Once stung, twice shy

Easy come, easy leave

Easy come, easy depart

And now for something totally different

Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a a darn

Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a a fuck

Once bitten, never shy

First come, last served

Easy come, hard to go

And now for something completely similar

Frankly, my dear, I do give a hoot

Go ahead, make my night

May the force be without you

4.2 Information structure: End focus vs. initial focus

24In terms of the information structure (cf. Lambrecht 1994), the examples provided so far clearly show that the modified elements tend to bulk towards the end of the fixed expression. This end-weight in the distribution of new information is also evident in the extensive addition of elements within the final constituent, which may also result in syntactic reshaping:

End-focus / Same syntax

End-focus / Different syntax

Once bitten, twice as ready

First come, fist-served

Long time, no learn English

And now for something not so completely different

Frankly, my dear, I still don’t want a dam

Once bitten, Parker isn't shy about bargains

Long time, no word of what has been found

Frankly, my dear, British get here

May the force bring peace and love

25The end-focus is also noticeable within the first constituent of the double-barrel fixed expressions, whereby the overall syntactic pattern can be either kept or reshaped, as can be seen from the following examples, some of which are repeated from previous sections:

End-focus within the first constituent / Same syntax

End-focus within the first constituent / Different syntax

Once bombed, twice shy

Once divorced, twice shy

First applied, first served

First called, first served

Once Biden, twice shy

First scrum, first served

Easy rum, easy go

26The initial focus is strikingly rare – it has been attested in only 6 instances:

Twice bitten, never shy
Sleazy come, easy go
Izzy come, easy go
Lifetime, no see
Prankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn
Franko, my dear, I don’t give a damn

  • 7  The role of information processing in the recognizability of an expression as a variant of the ori (...)

27Given that the construction and interpretation of a modified idiosyncratic expression imply the recognition of the original form-meaning-use correspondence and that processing new information which is given initial focus requires more cognitive effort, the initial focus in modified expressions is typically licensed by stronger linguistic motivation (in particular prominent similarity in the phonological form of the replaced and the novel element), so that the overall configuration of the idiosyncratic expression remains easily recognizable.7

5. Theoretical considerations

5.1 On the constructional productivity of fixed expressions

28The data show that language users employ a variety of modification strategies to extend the highly idiosyncratic fixed expressions beyond their original form and function, which means that lexically filled constructions yield themselves to productive generalizations regardless of the low-level schematicity. The constructional productivity of fixed expressions may not be as apparent as that of partially filled or fully schematic constructions, but its role in the constructional architecture of the language is not less important. As pointed out by Goldberg (2006: 63‑63), the recognition of the importance of co-existence and interaction of item-specific knowledge and generalizations, corroborated by ample evidence in both language and categorization studies, is in fact essential to usage-based models of language. The role of lower-level schemas has also been stressed by Hampe and Schönefeld (2006) in their treatment of creative uses of verbs in complex-transitive constructions, where the syntactic leaps across argument structure constructions are shown to result from the lexical manipulation of “master collocations” which serve as models for analogous uses. The present considerations of the constructional productivity of fixed expressions corroborate these views, in line with the emphasis that Langacker (1987, 2000) places on the role of low-level schemas in his definitions of a usage-based approach, as well as in his discussion of the interface between convention and usage, and can be summarized by his observation that conventional units provide an essentially unlimited range of symbolic potential for the speaker to recognize and exploit (Langacker 1987: 66).

5.2 Fixed expressions as constructional frames

29That the variation found in fixed expressions often follows unpredictable routes and is too wide-ranging to be captured by a unified schematic representation has been repeatedly acknowledged in literature (cf. e.g., Moon 1998, Langlotz 2006, Philip 2008), and the expressions analyzed here are no different in this respect. As the data show, modification can concern virtually any lexical item, syntactic structure, and the overall semantic content and pragmatic function (e.g., Easy come, easy buy; Easy come, never go; Easy rum, easy go; Easy.Com, easy go; Sleazy come, easy go). In order to modify an element of a fixed expression, and in order to understand the modified expression, one has to grasp the whole multifaceted configuration in which the modified element fits: linguistic form (phonological, morphological, lexical and syntactic form), meaning (the meaning of the whole and the meanings of the parts) and use (context and situation sensitive). Each fixed expression is in fact a gestalt that involves a complex network of interrelated linguistic and encyclopedic knowledge (see also Moon 1998: 121, Langlotz 2006: 283).

30In that they involve a stored knowledge structure that relates linguistic and conceptual entities associated with a particular situationally and culturally bound context, fixed expressions can be seen as constructional frames. Different slots in the frame can relate to different lexical items, occasionally also involving the reshaping of the syntactic pattern, affecting the overall semantic content and pragmatic function to varying degrees, including the interplay between literal and metaphorical interpretation, but generally keeping the global form-meaning-use correspondence to the original lexically filled construction recognizable. The notion of constructional frames shares correspondences to Moon’s (1998) notions of “lexicogrammatical frames” and “idiom schemas”, Langlotz’s (2006) notion of “idiomatic activation-sets”, and Philip’s (2008) notions of “idiomatic themes”and “palimpsest effects”. Being very broad in scope, it is intended to emphasize the intricate interrelations of the linguistic and encyclopedic knowledge involved in the processes of meaning construction and interpretation triggered by idiosyncratic form-meaning-use amalgams, as can be illustrated by the the following segment of the modifications within the once bitten, twice shy [a negative experience makes you more careful] constructional frame:

Once bitten, twice bold
Once bitten, twice kissed
Once bitten, twice show
Once bitten, twice smitten
Once bitten, twice as angry
Once bitten, never shy
Once stung, twice shy
Once married, twice shy
Once Biden, twice shy
Twice bitten, never shy   etc.

31The small-scale analysis undertaken in this paper has highlighted certain trends in the variability of fixed expressions, such as the relatively high degree of syntactic reshaping, the important role of phonological motivation in addition to the pervasive semantic motivation, and the strikingly high degree of end-weight in the distribution of new information. These trends are not meant to be predictive, but reflective of the motivations underlying the modification of fixed expressions. The potential of a low-level idiosyncratic linguistic chunk to accommodate novel linguistic and conceptual input in creative ways is virtually unlimited, just like the human creative capacity itself. At this point it is worth emphasizing that establishing the precise nature of the linguistic and conceptual interaction involved in the variation found in fixed expressions, as well as the degree to which a fixed expression can be modified and still be recognizable, is a highly complex task that would require comprehensive corpus-based and experimental research.

5.3 Modified idiosyncratic expressions, conceptual blending and intertextuality

  • 8  For accounts of idiom modification within the framework of the conceptual blending theory, see Lan (...)

32Modified idiosyncratic expressions under examination can be fruitfully interpreted in terms of the conceptual blending theory (Fauconnier & Turner 2002),8 whereby the input mental spaces are multi-layered and include:

  • the fixed expression as a constructional frame in its entirety (idiosyncratic form-meaning-use correspondence);

  • the context which is in some way compatible (analogous or disanalogous) to the conventional one and which triggers modification;

  • the form and meaning of the element of the fixed expression selected for modification;

  • the form and meaning of the novel element from the compatible context.

  • 9  It should be noted that this is one of the possible interpretations of long time, no buzz, arrived (...)

33The mappings across these input mental spaces result in the modified expression which contains selected aspects of form, meaning and use from each input space and has its own emergent structure, reminiscent of the constructional frame of the fixed expression itself, as can be illustrated by the conceptual integration network for Long time, no buzz:9

Figure 1: Conceptual integration network for Long time, no buzz

34Conceptual blends involving the fixed expression Long time, no see as an input space can  have the emergent structure “Long time, no X”, whereby X can be a verb or a noun. The mappings between the constructional frame constituted by the aphoristic sequence Long time, no see conventionally used in situational contexts of the type “It has been a long time since we last saw each other” and an analogous context “It has been a long time since...” profile the verb see as the element of the fixed expression selected for modification. The analogous context input space provides a novel element to be mapped onto the selected element of the fixed expression. That mapping may conform to the odd syntactic pattern of the fixed expression, in which case the novel element will be a verb (e.g. Long time, no write), or it may involve a noun, triggered by the compatibility with the syntactically regular “no N” structure, in which case the overall syntactic pattern of the modified expression in the blend will be changed (e.g., Long time, no news).

35The high incidence of variation in the idiosyncratic linguistic sequences examined in this analysis shows that fixed expressions actually lend themselves quite readily as input spaces in conceptual blending of this kind. Why should this be so? In search of an answer to this question, it may be useful to turn to the notion of intertextuality. The concept of intertextuality, which was introduced by Julia Kristeva in the late 1960s and has featured prominently in semiotic and literary studies ever since (cf. Kristeva 1967, 1980), essentially implies that every literary text is produced not exclusively from an author’s head, but from other literary texts, whose presence can be tracked not only in direct quotations but above all in reminiscences and allusions.

  • 10  It should be noted that, although the notion of intertextuality itself, as well as the Bakhtinian (...)

36The intertextual model of language competence is advocated by Gasparov (2004), who takes the notion of intertextuality outside the domain of artistic production and into everyday language use:10

The process of speech can be described as intertextual, in a sense that every new fact of speech, however novel in appearance, is always superscribed over recollections of previous speech experiences. The very fact that new configurations emerging in speech can be traced to their recognizable prototypes lays out the foundation for their interpretation by speakers.  (Gasparov 2004: 45)

37The intertextual approach to everyday language use draws on the ubiquity of prefabricated language chunks (“communicative fragments” in Gasparov’s terms), maintaining that in the process of language production and perception language users do not assemble sentences from basic units every time, but rather operate with ready-made templates whose form, meaning and use they modify to suit the current communication purpose, whereby previous linguistic experience turns out to play a more important role than fixed general rules.

38The findings of the present analysis corroborate this view, which is also in line with the interface between convention and usage and the importance of low-level schemas stressed by Langacker (1987, 2000), as well as with the usage-based approaches to language in general (Goldberg 2006). Just as a new text is informed by other texts which the reader has read and by the reader's own cultural context, a novel construction that a language user produces/interprets is informed by the form, meaning and use of other idiosyncratic constructions stored from previous language use. The role of intertextuality in the institutionalization of fixed expression has been observed by Moon (1998: 42) in her discussion of the ways in which catchphrases drawn from cinema, television, politics, journalism etc. establish themselves as ritualistic fixed expressions through repeated use. But the explanatory potential of the notion of intertextuality, as discussed by Gasparov (2004), deserves to be applied on a larger scale. The notion of intertextuality goes hand in hand with constructionist approaches to language insofar that it highlights the special role which concrete expressions memorized by speakers have for producing and interpreting novel expressions.The idea of linking construction grammar and intertextuality also shares correspondences to Croft’s evolutionary model of language change (Croft 2000) and has recently been employed in phraseology research by Hohl Trillini and Langlotz (2010).A continuous informed dialogue between linguistic and literary theories could therefore prove to be beneficial to both, since the points of convergence are numerous and significant.

6. Concluding remarks

  • 11  Different aspects of variation examined are inevitably intertwined and imply gradience, which make (...)

39The degree and kind of variation licensed by the fixed expressions under examination can be summarized in the following quantitative overview of the data analyzed:11

Fixed expressions considered

Modified expressions found

Number of instances

8

306

Modified expressions keeping the same syntax

Modified expressions resulting in different syntax

Number of instances

219

86

Percentage

71.90%

28.10%

Modified expressions motivated by the similarity in the phonological form of the novel and the replaced element

Number of instances

31

Percentage

10.16%

Modified expressions with end-focus (external/internal)

Modified expressions with initial focus

Number of instances

300

6

Percentage

98.04%

1.96%

40Balancing between fixedness and flexibility, between routine and innovation, idiosyncratic, lexically filled linguistic sequences manifest inherent constructional dynamism, which can accommodate variation along both lexical and syntactic dimensions and can be exploited as a powerful mechanism of constructing new meanings.

41However we choose to interpret the modification of fixed, idiomatic expressions, the fact remains that it is a strategy which is readily employed by language users in order to achieve special effects in communication. This kind of creative language use definitely calls for more systematic attention. Converging insights from constructionist approaches to language, conceptual blending theory and the intertextual model of language competence hold promise of accounting for it in a comprehensive way, thus shedding fresh light on the constructional architecture of the language.

Appendix

423.1 Lexical modification (same syntax)

Aphoristic sequences

Popular quotes

Once bitten, twice Adj

Once bitten, twice wise

Once bitten, twice bold

Once bitten, twice dead

Once bitten, twice live

Once bitten, twice sensitive

Once bitten, twice bankrupt

Once bitten, twice dashing

Once bitten, twice V-en

Once bitten, twice bitten

Once bitten, twice denied

Once bitten, twice tried

Once bitten, twice blessed

Once bitten, twice kissed

Once bitten, twice felched

Once bitten, twice hammered

Once bitten, twice registered

Once bitten, twice slimed

Once bitten, twice derived

Once bitten, twice removed

Once V-en, twice shy

Once burned, twice shy

Once bombed, twice shy

Once banned, twice shy

Once beaten, twice shy

Once electrocuted, twice shy

Once strip-mined, twice shy

Once divorced, twice shy

Once married, twice shy

Once betrayed, twice shy

Once tapped, twice shy

Once trapped, twice shy

Once Adj, twice shy

Once dead, twice shy

Once organic, twice shy

Once glitzy, twice shy

First come, first V-en

First come, first seated

First come, first sold

First come, first bought

First come, first taken

First come, first paid

First come, first hosted

First come, first released

First come, first published

First come, first examined

First come, first processed

First come, first relieved

First V-en, first served

First indexed, first served

First arrived, first served

First applied, first served

First paid, first served

First left, first served

First called, first served

First seen, first served

First come, NumOrd/AdjSup served

First come, second served

First come, best served

Easy come, easy V

Easy come, easy do

Easy come, easy play

Easy come, easy gain

Easy come, easy give

Easy come, easy buy

Easy come, easy pass

Easy come, easy fail

Easy come, easy lose

Easy come, easy die

Easy come, easy downgrade

Easy come, easy pretend

Long time, no V

Long time, no hear

Long time, no write

Long time, no say

Long time, no speak

Long time, no talk

Long time, no chat

Long time, no teach

Long time, no read

Long time, no play

Long time, no sing

Long time, no scream

Long time, no buy

Long time, no sell

And now for something completely Adj

And now for something completely ridiculous

And now for something completely hilarious

And now for something completely personal

And now for something completely simple

And now for something completely nerdy

And now for something completely random

And now for something completely digital

And now for something completely topical

And now for something completely diffuse

And now for something completely unrelated

And now for something completely unimportant

And now for something completely irrelevant

And now for something completely grotesque

And now for something completely Shakespearean

And now for something completely Christian

And now for something completely V-en

And now for something completely wasted

And now for something completely stolen

And now for something Adv different

And now for something quite different

And now for something substantially different

And now for something Adv Adj

And now for something really dangerous

And now for something really cute

And now for something really scary

And now for something seriously sick

And now for something seriously sick

And now for something absolutely gorgeous

And now for something infinitely interesting

And now for something far more important

And now for something a bit more pleasant

Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a N

Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a link

Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a winnie

Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a blip

Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a tweet

Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a blitz

Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a clam

Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a grand

Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a bath

Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a Frank

Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a Toot

Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a Dharma

Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a Daimler

Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a Stein

Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a Guam

Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a Google

Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a dredd

Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a quack

Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a meow

Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a ham-ham

Go ahead, make my N

Go ahead, make my Monday

Go ahead, make my evening

Go ahead, make my birthday

Go ahead, make my millennium

Go ahead, make my honeymoon

Go ahead, make my holiday

Go ahead, make my duel

Go ahead, make my deal

Go ahead, make my dinner

Go ahead, make my curry

Go ahead, make my ring

Go ahead, make Poss N (day)

Go ahead, make Obama’s day

Go ahead, make Clint’s day

Go ahead, make a homeless pet’s day

Go ahead, make our midnight

Go ahead, make our daybeds

Go ahead, make a N

Go ahead, make a mess

Go ahead, make a mistake

Go ahead, make a wish

May the force V with you

May the force stick with you

May the force stay with you

May the force bear with you

May the force sing with you

May the force buy with you

May the force hang tight with you

May the force exercise with you

433.2 Addition / Subtraction

Addition

Subtraction

Once bitten, twice as angry

Once bitten, twice as ready

Once bitten, not so shy

Once bitten, twice not shy

Once bitten, but still not shy

Long time, no see you

Long time, no tell my stories to you

Long time, no learn English

And now for something not so completely different

Frankly, my dear, I still don’t want a dam

Go ahead, make my 200 seconds

Go ahead, make my next four years

Go ahead, make my video game

Go ahead, make their first day

May the green force be with you

May the ground Force be with you

May the peroxide force be with you

May the Kudzu Force be with you

May the force and minty-Fresh Breath be with you

And now for something different

And now for something positive

And now for something newd

And now for something integral

And now for something else

And now for something cheesier

And now for something lighter

443.3 Syntactic reshaping

Aphoristic sequences

Popular quotes

Once bitten, twice N

Once bitten, twice Ed

Once bitten, twice V

Once bitten, twice watch out

Once bitten, twice read more

Once bitten, twice show

Once N, twice shy

Once Biden, twice shy

First come, first (to) V

First come, first kill

First come, first sue

First come, first go

First come, first get

First come, first takes

First come, first to unbind

First N, first served

First scrum, first served

Easy come, easy N

Easy come, easy money

Easy come, easy pop (music)

Easy come, easy lace

Easy come, easy Clico

Easy come, easy Google

Easy N, easy go

Easy-plug, easy-go

Easy lover, easy go

Long time, no N

Long time, no news

Long time, no message

Long time, no e-mail

Long time, no date

Long time, no fun

Long time, no job

Long time, no video

Long time, no comment

Long time, no blog

Long time, no buzz

Long time, no break

Long time, no release

Long time, no update

Long time, no post

Long time, no geek

Long time, no bento

Long time, no meme

Long time, no SIFR

Long time, no incoherence

Long time, no conjecture

And now for something completely NP

And now for something completely Madonna

And now for something completely video

And now for something completely Monty Python

Frankly, my dear, NP Vintr

Frankly, my dear, the musical doesn’t work

Go ahead, make  O  OC

Go ahead, make me stay

Go ahead, make me pay

Go ahead, make me buy

Go ahead, make me laugh

Go ahead, make him play

Go ahead, make me over

Go ahead, make me gay

Go ahead, make Mario mad

Go ahead, make Texas a blue state

May the force be SC

May the force be better behaved

May the force be over

May the force VtrP

May the force not beat you up

454.1 Phonological and semantic motivation

Phonological motivation / Same syntax

Phonological motivation / Different syntax

Once bitten, twice sly

Once bitten, twice high

Once smitten, twice shy

Once bitten, twice smitten

Easy come, easy glow

Easy come, easy tow

Easy come, easy grow

Easy come, easy throw

Easy come, easy blow

Long time, no ski

Long time, no sail

Go ahead, make my play

May the force beat with you

May the force beep with you

May the source be with you

Once bitten, twice fly

Once ‘bittern’, twice shy

First come, first surf

Easy come, easy snow

Easy come, easy (cash) flow

Easy come, easy Gaughin

Easy some, easy go

Easy rum, easy go

Easy.Com, easy go

Long time, no sea

Long time, no C

Long time, no seat

Long time, no seen

Long time, no tea

Long time, no me

May the force beer with you

Semantic similarity

Semantic oppositeness

Once stung, twice shy

Easy come, easy leave

Easy come, easy depart

And now for something totally different

Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a a darn

Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a fig

Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a fuck

Once bitten, never shy

First come, last served

First come, first disserved

Easy come, easy stay

Easy come, difficult go

Easy come, hard to go

Easy come, never go

And now for something completely similar

And now for something relatively different

Go ahead, make my night

Frankly, my dear, I do give a damn

Frankly, my dear, I do give a hoot

Frankly, my dear, I do give a dang

May the force be without you

  • 12  Examples illustrative of both lexico-syntactic variation and end-focus in information structure ar (...)

464.2 Information structure12

End-focus / Same syntax

End-focus / Different syntax

Once bitten, twice as ready

Once bitten, twice as angry

Once bitten, not so shy

Once bitten, twice not shy

Once bitten, but still not shy

First come, fist-served

Long time, no see you

Long time, no tell my stories to you

Long time, no learn English

And now for something not so completely different

Frankly, my dear, I still don’t want a dam

Frankly, my dear, I don’t have aknit

Frankly, my dear, I do give a dime

Frankly, my dear, Russians dogive a damn

Go ahead, make my 200 seconds

Go ahead, make my next four years

Go ahead, make my video game

Go ahead, make their first day

Long time, no word of what has been found

Once bitten, Parker isn't shy about bargains

Once bitten, Irish still fight shy of stocks and shares

Once bitten, Brighton East teen still panda-shy after attack

Once bitten, Camera Obscura not twice shy

Frankly, my dear, British get here

Frankly, my dear, you are a bit blurry

May the force come uponyou

May the force bring you candy

May the force bring peace and love

May the force break your leg

May the force treat you kindly

End-focus within the first constituent / Same syntax

End-focus within the first constituent / Different syntax

First indexed, first served

First arrived, first served

First applied, first served

First paid, first served

First left, first served

First called, first served

First seen, first served

Once burned, twice shy

Once bombed, twice shy

Once banned, twice shy

Once beaten, twice shy

Once electrocuted, twice shy

Once strip-mined, twice shy

Once divorced, twice shy

Once married, twice shy

Once betrayed, twice shy

Once tapped, twice shy

Once trapped, twice shy

Once smitten, twice shy

Once stung, twice shy

Once dead, twice shy

Once organic, twice shy

Once glitzy, twice shy

First scrum, first served

Easy-plug, easy-go

Easy lover, easy go

Easy some, easy go

Easy rum, easy go

Easy.Com, easy go

Once Biden, twice shy

Once ‘bittern’, twice shy

Initial focus

Twice bitten, nevershy

 Lifetime, no see

 Sleazy come, easy go

 Izzy come, easy go

 Prankly, my dear, we don't give a damn

 Franko, my dear, I don’t give a damn

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Bibliographie

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Notes

1  The paper is based on a talk given at the Third International AFLiCo Conference “Grammars in Construction(s)”, 27-29 May 2009, Paris. I would like to express my gratitude to Adele Goldberg, Hans Boas, Maarten Lemmens and Bert Cappelle for their insightful feedback on the talk. My sincere thanks also go to the two anonymous CogniTextes reviewers for their very valuable comments on an earlier version of this article. It goes without saying that the remaining shortcomings are mine.

2  For a detailed account of the status of lexically filled and partially lexically filled constructions within and outside the construction grammar framework see Schönefeld (2006).

3  The expressions selected for the analysis in this group feature prominently in the American Film Institute’s Top 100 Movie Quotes of All Times (http://www.afi.com/tvevents/100years/quotes.aspx), according to which Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn has been voted the most memorable film quote of all times.

4  It is interesting to note that long time, no see has been attributed different origins in etymological lexicography: usually it is described as a calque from either Chinese or native American Indian (cf. e.g. Oxford English Dictionary, Online Etymology Dictionary).

5  An insightful discussion of the restrictions concerning the collection of data on variant forms of fixed expressions and the theoretical implications of studying phraseological variation, as well as a a procedure for retrieving such data in general reference corpora (which, regrettably, exceeds the scope of this paper) is presented by Philip (2008).

6  Related to the linguistic phenomenon discussed in this paper is the notion of “snowclones”. The potential of idiosyncratic linguistic chunks which are deeply entrenched in mainstream culture to spin off new expressions modelled on the same general format was explicitly recognized on the LanguageLog linguistics blog in 2003 by Geoffrey Pullum, who described this kind of language use as a special type of cliché – “multi-use, customizable, instantly recognizable, time-worn, quoted or misquoted phrase or sentence that can be used in an entirely open array of different jokey variants by lazy journalists and writers” (http://itre.cis.upenn.edu/~myl/languagelog/archives/000061.html). Such templates have meanwhile been dubbed “snowclones” (the term was coined by Glen Whitman, bearing on the formula If Eskimos have N words for snow, X have Y words for Z) and have been dealt with on a number of linguistics websites (e.g. http://snowclones.org) and blogs (including examples such asIn space, no one can hear you X; X is the new Y; I'm not an X, but I play one on TV; X is my middle name etc.). The present discussion of the variability of different kinds of fixed expressions is concerned with describing and explaining linguistic and conceptual mechanisms governing the modification in question, rather than with evaluating this kind of language use. However, it should be noted that the data collected and the theoretical position taken here suggest that the phenomenon under examination actually overrides the negative connotations of the notion of cliché, contributing to the process of meaning construction in complex and creative ways.

7  The role of information processing in the recognizability of an expression as a variant of the original fixed expression can also be related to the findings concerning the issue of the recognizability of lexical blends, discussed in detail by Gries (2004): the number of the segments of the beginning of the word participating in a lexical blend is found to contribute to its recognizability more than the same number of segments of its end.

8  For accounts of idiom modification within the framework of the conceptual blending theory, see Langlotz (2004), Delibegović, Džanić and Omazić (2008).

9  It should be noted that this is one of the possible interpretations of long time, no buzz, arrived at on the basis of the context from which this modified expression was first retrieved, and it invokes the metaphorical meaning of buzz as‘an atmosphere of intense activity and excitement’. Other possible interpretations (also verified by the contexts in which the emergent expression can be found) involve other meanings of buzz, in particular ‘a signal of communication, as if by using a buzzer’ (cf. e.g. www.buzznet.com, www.google.com/buzz). Two important implications for the overall meaning interpretation of the emergent structure, which call for further scrutiny, can be observed: a) the modified idiosyncratic expression inherits the polysemy of the incorporated element, and b) the (non-)metaphoricity of the host expression does not condition a (non-)metaphorical interpretation of the novel expression.

10  It should be noted that, although the notion of intertextuality itself, as well as the Bakhtinian notion of dialoguing, was originally inspired by linguistic phenomena (crucial for the post-structuralist concept of intertextuality is the dialogic understanding of language, in particular the language of the novel), it has actually been widely exploited in literary and cultural studies, while its application in linguistic theory has been relatively scarce, with a few notable exceptions in the field of translation and discourse studies (e.g., Hatim & Mason 1990, Fairclough 1992).

11  Different aspects of variation examined are inevitably intertwined and imply gradience, which makes them resist strict quantification. This is particularly the case when it comes to semantic motivation, which is in fact a seamless cline (and therefore excluded from the quantitative overview), since the modification is essentially conditioned by the overarching constructional meaning of an idiosyncratic expression. Nevertheless, the quantitative overview can provide a useful insight into the general trends revealed in the analysis.

12  Examples illustrative of both lexico-syntactic variation and end-focus in information structure are repeated in this section.

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Table des illustrations

Légende Figure 1: Conceptual integration network for Long time, no buzz
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Référence électronique

Katarina Rasulic, « Long Time, No Buzz: Fixed Expressions as Constructional Frames », CogniTextes [En ligne], Volume 5 | 2010, mis en ligne le 20 décembre 2010, consulté le 17 décembre 2017. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/cognitextes/356 ; DOI : 10.4000/cognitextes.356

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Auteur

Katarina Rasulic

English Department, Faculty of Philology, University of Belgrade, Studentski trg 1, RS-11000 Belgrade, Serbia

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