Eric Albanese

(Not So) Idiosyncratic Idioms

The Scholar: Eric Albanese

The Project: (Not So) Idiosyncratic Idioms

What I Studied: “Much of my project was creating etymologies, connecting phrases, and translating, but the main idea was that the messages were the same. That’s what I was connecting, the ideas that these idioms were communicating. We use letters to build a word to say a simple idea. When I say ‘purple chair,’ the image that comes to your mind is, well, a purple chair. But what if I wanted to do something more complex? Say I wanted to talk about the point of ‘arguing to a crowd that already agrees.’ That’s kind of wordy and frankly doesn’t have a good ring to it. Or I could condense that down and say, ‘preaching to the choir.’ Now, I’m not actually preaching to a choir, I’m sitting here and telling you about a group that I’m arguing to that agrees with me. But we’ve all agreed that that’s the meaning. That’s the power of an idiom. It communicates a complex idea without necessarily going through all the process of describing it in detail.”

What I Learned: “One thing I learned from this project was that we’re very much the same people today as we were 2,000 years ago.”