Description of kazakh and english idioms, including geographical names

Phraseology – from Greek language Phrasis – «expression» and logus – «teaching».

Idiom – a set of speech techniques and verbal expression, peculiar to a given language.

Each language has it’s ancient history. During this period of time it accumulates a huge number of expressions that are considered successful, witty, beautiful. Thus, there is a layer of language – phraseology. The study of languages, including English, widely circulated in our country. Knowledge of language is impossible without knowledge of it’s phraseology.

Currently, the issue of using elements of country studies in the process of learning a foreign language can be considered solved. A new dimension called geography has it’s own research material. Cross-cultural material contains not only information about the linguistic fact, but also helps learners to understand foreign language, national-historical features peculiar to different socioculture.

This article provides information about the origin of some Kazakh and English idioms, which contain geographical names of towns, villages, rivers, mountains, etc. Towns and other settlements from the beginning of their existence played an important political and economic role, were the centers of cultural and social life are associated with many significant, and sometimes funny events, which are reflected in the idioms. For example:

Kult�benyn basynda kunde �hyin – literally, on the hill of Kultobe every day to advise. About frequent meetings. The basis of this idiom is inspired by the legend that Tauke Khan gathered all Kazakhs on the hill Kultobe for the compilation of the seven arches justice. Zhety Zhargy (kaz. Жеті Жарғы) – the code of customary law of the Kazakhs adopted in Kazakh khanate under Khan Tauke. [1, 111]

Syrdyn suy sira�ynan kelmeidy – literally, the water of the Syrdarya doesn’t reach the tibia. All «tryn trava». Sea knee-deep. The Syrdarya river in Central Asia and Kazakhstan, originates in the mountains of Central Tien-Shan. Formed by the confluence of rivers the Naryn and Karadarya flow into the Aral sea. The Syrdarya river flows through the arid Ferghana valley. At the exit cuts through the Farhat mountains, then heading to the North-West, entering on the territory of Kazakhstan. Near Syrdarya opened the remains of ancient settlements of the Massaget (the VI-IV centuries BC) and traces of old irrigation canals dating back to different periods. It’s one of the deep rivers in a valley which collects the highest yield of rice. [1, 166]

Aktaban shubyryndy, Alka k�l sulama – historical, great calamity of incredible odds. The appearance of this idiom were disasters and hardship experienced by Kazakh people left their houses during the Dzungar invasions in the XVIIIth century [1, 20].

Ulytau�a bardyn ba, Ular kusty k�rdin be? – literally, did you go to Ulytau and see the bird Ular? Have you seen all in this world? Ulytau (1133m)

  • the system of low mountains, located in the SouthWest of Saryarka in Dzhezkazgan region. In these mountains there lives a rare bird Ular. Ulytau is rich in mineral resources: iron, manganese ore, coal, rare metals. On the slopes of Ulytau discovered archaeological monuments of ancient Kazakh urban culture.

Ka�y�urttyn basynda keme kal�an – literally, at the top of Kazygurt under religious tradition at the time of the flood landed the Noah’s ark. This mountain is located in the South-Kazakhstan region and this place is considered sacred for pilgrims.

All shi�-sha�e and Brist�l-fashi�n – in an exemplary manner. Since the XIV-XV centuries, the city of Bristol had become the second after London. It’s shipyard built great ships making multi-month voyages to the coasts of Africa and America. Deserved fame of the ships built in Bristol is reflected in this idiom. It should be noted that in modern English this phrase is used quite rarely. More frequent use is it’s modified version in a shi�-sha�e manner – neat, tidy [2, 76]

Brumma�em или brumma�em butt�n – a counterfeit coin. Brummagem – from Birmingham. In the XVIIth century in Birmingham became a large scale minting of counterfeit coins, as well as the production of cheap and tasteless ornaments that imitated real pearls. In the XIXth century the word Birmingham a new shade that was associated with the industrial revolution that occurred in England, and the changing appearance of many cities of the country. Grey industrial city with a smoking black pipes, among them Birmingham was one of the first industrial cities in England, became the personification of the vices of the new strange life, not taken by the supporters of the old rural England.

T� �rin like a Cheshire cat – grin, smile from ear to ear. Existing the following explanation of the origin of this idiom:

The English county of Cheshire has been famous for it’s cheese. At one time, the capitulums of

Cheshire cheese were shaped at the top like the head of a smiling cat’s mouth.

On the coat of arms of one of the famous family who lived in Cheshire, was portrayed the lion. Making multiple copies of the heraldic sign by local artists for all kinds of posters had led to the fact, that the «king of beasts» became like a grinning cat.

The expression «to grin like a Cheshire cat» became widely known thanks to Lewis Carroll, who used the phrase in his famous book «Alice in Wonderland». Component of a Cheshire cat idiom were interpreted literally by the author and turned into one of the characters in the story: … a large cat, which was sitting on the hearth and grinning from ear to ear. «Please, would you tell me … why your cat grins like that?» «It’s a Cheshire cat … and that’s why». [2, 77]

T� send smb. t� C��entry – to boycott somebody, to stop communicating with someone, to ignore someone. There are two versions explaining the origin of this idiom:

  1. During the English bourgeois revolution of the XVII century in the city of Coventry was a prison, where under custody were sent opponents of the new bourgeois power. Coventry, therefore, was a place of exile and banishment for the Cavaliers.
  2. The residents of Coventry had a deep aversion to soldiers stationed at the post in their homes. This feeling of animosity was so strong, that if a woman was seen in a company of the military, with her immediately broke all ties. The hostility of city residents was the reason that the service in Coventry was considered unpleasant and unwelcome duty, an expression of public censure, estrangement from other people.

A wise man �f G�tham – a man doing stupid things. Gotham is a town, located near the city of Nottingham. Nobody knows when and why the English wits elected heroes of their jokes and anecdotes about residents of Gotham. According to the version they did many stupid things, and they did it on purpose, to avoid their neighborhood with the king John, who was planning to build his castle-fortress near Gotham. Far-sighted residents of Gotham, realizing that the king would impose additional taxes on them, decided to go to the trick and pretended to be crazy. When the Royal messengers saw a lot of people commit senseless acts, they hastened to leave Gotham and convinced the king John not to build nearby his residence. Residents of Gotham therefore were credited with the expression «more fools pass through Gotham than remain in its» – there are more fools pass through Gotham than live in it.

As mentioned above, residents of Gotham invented a lot of jokes and anecdotes. In the sixteenth century was released the book «Merrie Tales of the Madmen of Gotham», which consisted of more than twenty funny stories about the inhabitants of Gotham. About three «wise men» of Gotham who went to travel by sea in a leaky basin, and what came of it, says a famous children’s poem:

Three wise men of Gotham Went to sea in a bowl;

If the bowl had been stronger,

My story would have been longer. [2, 78]



  1. Kozhahmetova H.K., Zhaisakova R.E., Kozhahmetova Sh.O. Kazahsko-Russkii frazeologicheskii slovar. – Alma-Аta: Mektep, 1988. – P. 219.
  2. Inostrannye yazyki v shkole. – M.: Prosvechenie. – №1. – 1987. – P. 76-78.
Magazine: KazNU BULLETIN
Year: 2015
City: Almaty
Category: Philology