Talk:watch like a hawk

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It has been against our policy to have similes (according to reliable sources). This is one of the 143 headwords in Category:English similes. DCDuring TALK * Holiday Greetings! 22:38, 27 December 2009 (UTC)

Similes are helpful in the encoding direction, helpful in sentence composition. Similes can be translated as similes, and the translation is non-trivial, not a word-for-word one.
Some similes seem not wholly sum-of-partish: in "grin like a Cheshire Cat", the modifying effect of the term "like a Cheshire Cat" cannot be derived from what the term says. Still, grin like a Cheshire Cat at OneLook Dictionary Search finds almost no dictionaries.
The [[Cheshire cat]] example illustrates how we ought to handle the truly piecewise untintelligible, except that it lacks a usage example with the simile. DCDuring TALK * Holiday Greetings! 11:51, 28 December 2009 (UTC)
Now to the specific entry: how does the hawk watch? The definition in watch like a hawk tells me: "to observe (someone or something) closely and keenly". Is it part of the concept of "hawk" that is watches closely and keenly? Simile-extensions such as "like a hawk" do not always strengthen the meaning of the modified adjective or verb but sometimes weaken it. In Czech, "servírujete jak babička", when applied to "servírujete" in the game of tennis, means that you do it poorly.
What does "(according to reliable sources)" mean? In a wiki, sources can be hyperlinked to, the policy is public, and its clauses can be quoted :p.
Should not this be better discussed in Beer Parlour?
For completeness, if it happens that similes get voted out of Wiktionary, their definitions should better be copied to Appendix:English similes. --Dan Polansky 10:14, 28 December 2009 (UTC)
"It has been against our policy to have similes" err really? Never seen it, and since we have 143 entries just in English (and {{simile}}). Keep unless someone can give a reason to delete it. Mglovesfun (talk) 10:44, 28 December 2009 (UTC)
The observation came up rhetorically in an application of paromologia to a recent (RfD) discussion about including metaphors.
As is always the case, there is a question of whether there are any actual limits on inclusion of examples of the class. It is handy to have rules that allow for accelerated handling of matters, but we don't seem to respect the one's we have, so every issue of inclusion now apparently needs to considered from first principles and slogans. It is hard to determine what the difference is between BP and RFD. We are well on the way to eliminating any boundaries between cases and policies, between votes and rational discussion, between whim and reasoned position. Lastly, if rules aren't to be respected, why would one devote any effort to crafting and enforcing them?
"Hawk" is an element of cultural knowledge. The word "like" is clearly an indication that one should look up hawk or w:hawk. "As" serves a similar function. The potentially salient features of "hawk" in the simile is narrowed down dramatically by the verb "watch" which suggests visual characteristics. I suppose there is ambiguity as to whether one is mimicking the hawk's observational capability or watching the hawk because it might be dangerous. But a search on Google books shows that there are other similes in the form of "be watched like", eg a thief, the grammar thus narrowing the range of interpretations.
In any event, this kind of interpretive effort is characteristic of all efforts to gain meaning from sentences. Grammar and general knowledge are part of understanding. A lexicon has an important role, but cannot substitute for interpretive effort. DCDuring TALK * Holiday Greetings! 11:51, 28 December 2009 (UTC)
Keep The first principle I would apply here is that it's a set phrase. Yes, it's a simile, but not one that could be used with replacement of the key noun hawk. No one says that they're going to "watch you like an owl", or "watch you like a fish". It's almost always "watch like a hawk". It is thus a set phrase and idiom that should be included. I feel the same way about drink like a fish and eat like a bird. They are fixed idioms in English. --EncycloPetey 22:15, 28 December 2009 (UTC)
In order to keep these discussions from constantly repeating themselves, we would do well if we had operational definition of "set phrase". Accepting that this is a good example of a set phrase, it provides a chance to calibrate some quantitative measures of what "set phrase"-itude might be. At COCA there are 66 instances of a form of "watch Y like a(n) X". About 11 are not relevant (punctuation, X not the watcher, etc), leaving 55. "Hawk" is in 32 instances, only one of which had a modification ("chicken hawk"). All but 2 of the other nouns were embedded in noun phrases for a more elaborate, nuanced simile. The exceptions were one instance each of "cat" and "tigress", which also occurred with modifiers, though not more than twice each.
Some kind of no-modifier test would seem to be a good one to identify true set phrases as opposed to merely common collocations. In this case "hawk" seems to occur in more than 90% of the instances where an unmodified noun was used and was used unmodified more than 90% of the time. Might this be reasonable evidence that something was a set phrase?
I'm not so sure what would be good evidence that something was not a set phrase. Perhaps we can find another test case.
Keep based on strong corpus evidence that "watch like a hawk" is a set phrase rarely admitting modification of "hawk". DCDuring TALK * Holiday Greetings! 23:25, 28 December 2009 (UTC)
When discussion of this particular entry concludes, we might move this discussion to a subpage of CFI where "tests" can be hashed out. I agree that having a battery of checks for set phrases, with examples, would help simplify CFI-related discussions here. All too often we don't follow up on these, so at least having a separate "tests" page would provide a central point where these can accumulate until an idea reaches the point of maturity. --EncycloPetey 23:55, 28 December 2009 (UTC)
Excellent idea. I can only hope that there will some other ideas about this kind of thing so that it can reach some kind of maturity and use. DCDuring TALK * Holiday Greetings! 01:24, 29 December 2009 (UTC)
I like where this proposition is going, and agree wholeheartedly. One small point though, re modified nouns in similies. There are in fact many examples, such as thick as two short planks. -- ALGRIF talk 14:00, 29 December 2009 (UTC)
Admittedly, pure set phrases are easier than snowclones. I would be happy to settle the "easy" cases first. We could well stand some success in explicitly resolving issues that we actually are likely to have consensus on. Several runs have been made at the most general formulation of snowclones. The result has been a pile of broken lances. But we have some partial solutions to presentation (use of "someone/somebody", "one", or "something"; redirects; or usage examples) and not too much disagreement on inclusion of some kind of entry that should help many users searching for it.