Idioms - The power of living language - german/english
Posts 1-7 of 7
Rüdiger Zirkel26 Jan 2012, 12:46 pm
Volume 3 of the Millennium series 1-3.
The Geman meaning is - jemand in der Hand haben.
I like to ask myself where the images of idioms come from. In the above example I would think of the military area.
I would like to know what images native speakers associate with this expression and of course German speakers as well.
I think there are a lot of English expressions having the meaning of German jemand in der Hand haben.
Perhaps some of the readers can contribute other expressions with the same meaning.
Anton Schäfer Premium Member26 Jan 2012, 1:28 pm
though I have never seen this expression before I can imagine the origin of it:
I do not believe in the military use, because "over a barrel" does not make sense with a gun-barrel. I think the origin is a real barrel, where in former times culprits where put and fastened upon to be flogged. So once you had someone over a barrel he was completely in your hand to do with him whatever you thought appropriate.
If anyone has a better explanation ... feel free to bring it forward (no threat of flogging, cursing or anything else!)
Rüdiger Zirkel26 Jan 2012, 1:38 pm
laid over it and with arms and legs fastened to the ground with ropes.
I must admit the idiom is new to me as well, but I was fascinated by the wonderful translation into a picture of the German to have someone in one's hand.
If the expression is really of current usage and widely known I can't say. At least I find the expression in Collins (Sony Reader) and in the electronic dictionary of Casio - without any remark such as 'dated' or the like. So I take it the expression is current usage - especially as I found it in Stieg Larrsson novel which was translated from Swedish into English in 2009.
It is possible that in the Middle Ages it was a custom to flog someone in punishment by fastening the person over a barrel. Would be an interesting research on the internet as to methods and ways of punishment.
I thought of the military field of this barrel-method for torturing an enemy soldier to get information out of him. A soldier lying over a barrel naked and threatened with the point of a sword or knife will easily give any information wanted.
There would be another possiblity: soldiers raping caught women.
What I'm most interested in is what native speakers make of this expression - if they have the same
associations or perhaps totally different ideas.
Rüdiger Zirkel26 Jan 2012, 2:15 pm
If someone should be interested in the text of the song Locomotive Breath - here's the link
By the way thanks for your giving a text source of the expression. Interesting song text.
Rüdiger Zirkel26 Jan 2012, 2:20 pm
Or if someone would like to know a good part of this special sector in the dictionary how many idioms should someone know to get a feeling for this kind of vocabulary?
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