【明報專訊】Idioms and metaphors are difficult to use and awkward to learn. They use cultural references and unusual words. However, they make language more interesting. Some people take the desire to be interesting too far. I strongly suggest that one sentence should not have more than one idiom or metaphor.
Consider the idioms in this sentence: ''Pupils become little princes at home with their parents often at their beck and call, all to be able to provide them with a comfortable place to rack their brains.''
First, the sentence above contains a metaphor. A little prince is a spoiled child in a rich family. Of course such a child grows up to be egotistical, rude and demanding. The Chinese-English version is a little emperor.
Second, the word beck is (a noun) related the word (verb) beckon. To beckon someone is to call them over to serve you, often using a hand signal. A beck is an obsolete word meaning such a hand signal used to summon a servant. However, the fossil word beck is known and used by very few people. The idiom, beck and call, is fairly common among native speakers; it means to have control over every action that person takes and to command their constant attention.
Third, to rack one's brains is to try very hard to remember something. However, to rack someone meant to put them on a large medieval torture device. The idiom rack one's brains (wit, memory) means that the person is thinking so hard it's as uncomfortable as being tortured. Most people use this idiom without really understanding it.
Try to avoid using more than one idiom or metaphor in a single sentence. Sometimes flowery language is interesting, but too much together makes your sentence difficult to understand.
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