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The Colours of English and Russian Idioms

Olga A. Burukina Moscow State Linguistic University, Russian Federation Idioms, like many other collocations of different languages, describe the reality differently due to certain reasons. We can call idioms cuts of languages diachronic development. Idioms and their connotative fields reflect the public consciousness of nations, as well as peculiarities of their mentalities. The subject of this presentation is the divergence of the connotative fields of English and Russian idioms due to a number of reasons, including traditional-historic, semantichomonymic, semantic-evaluating and perception-stipulated factors. In our research idioms can be seen as a key to examining and understanding the connotative fields of colours within the British/American and Russian cultures and languages. Analysing coloured idioms (including a certain colour: blue, red, green, etc.) in the given languages, we can see that the connotative fields of some colours are not always integral within the same culture they diverge. Thus, the connotative field of the green colour in the English language contains both positive and negative connotative conceptions identified easily enough through the green colour idioms: green with envy; to look through green glasses to envy, to be jealous; Do you see any green in my eye? meaning Do I seem nave or inexperienced to you?. Yet, the meanings of the expressions to get the green light, to give the green light are quite positive, as well as the meaning of the idiom to have green fingers (in British English) or to have a green thumb (in American English). Its worth mentioning that these expressions with positive meanings came into the English language and culture not so long ago in comparison with the previously mentioned group. The meanings and positive connotations of the idioms from the second group coincide with those used in the Russian language as they were borrowed by Russian from English and/or French. We can say that in the Russian language and mentality the connotative field of the green colour is more positive than that in English, though Russians are not happy either about those who get green with anger, meanness, famine, or exhaustion. As regards to the connotative fields of the red colour in the Russian and English languages and cultures, we can see that they do not even overlap they are polar, which is stipulated by traditional-historic and semantic-homonymic factors. Historically, the Russian word red had a homonym meaning beautiful, fine. And the Russians still understand and use idioms connected with this understanding of red: the Russian language calls red a bonny lass, a glorious summer, gorgeous sunshine, a witticism, a maximum price (top dollar Amer.), a new paragraph, etc. Vice versa, in the English language red as revealed in the idioms has mainly a negative meaning: to be in the red, to see red, red tape, to catch (someone) red-handed. So, the author of the presentation comes to a number of conclusions she is ready to offer to your favourable attention. Another serious problem connected with idioms is the problem of their translation into foreign languages. As far as we understand, idioms have their own connotative fields, and the connotative fields of idioms based on certain colours largely depend on the connotative fields of the colours.