Wiktionary:Idioms that survived RFD
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This is a list of generally multiple-word entries whose meanings may appear to be sum-of-parts (SoP) but have survived a request for deletion (RfD) specifically because they are identified as idiomatic.
Note: Please do not add a term to this list unless there was discussion during RfD that concluded in keeping it, initially doubting the necessity of including the term but arriving at a consensus of idiomaticity.
Tests of idiomaticity
Where possible the list is partitioned by test, in each case listing under the most applicable test for idiomatic status. Tests can be used as guides during RFD, but they are not hardfast rules and are subject to interpretation, and thereafter change.
Tests are proposed by contributors as a way to rationalize how and why some terms are idiomatic when others are not. Besides original basis on the Pawley List, these tests are derived from the list of terms that survived RFD, not the other way around.
These tests are considered inclusive and incomplete, meaning that each needs to be narrowly written so as not to include any non-idiomatic terms. Please do not add tests before discussing whether that criterion is met.
In a jiffy test
Terms which would have passed at some point in history under current criteria for inclusion. For instance, in a jiffy can be understood by looking up the individual words, but the word jiffy (“short time”) once only existed within, and derives from, that phrase. Thus, in a jiffy passes under historical rules. (This is not a grandfather clause. If criteria for inclusion change, a term can be re-evaluated.)
Fried egg / Egyptian pyramid / tennis player test
Terms that imply certain social knowledge that could not be derived from any of the constituents, nor from their combination; or terms for which specific restrictions to the meaning of constituents are made that could not be surmised pragmatically.
- arrow key
- breakfast in bed
- computer chess
- light bulb joke
- lighthouse keeper
- light roller
- must have killed a Chinaman
- tennis player
In hospital test
Formerly known as the "fancy dress" test. Terms that are not recognized in a different dialect although all constituents are understood.
Once upon a time test
Terms that are irregular or archaic syntactically.
Prior knowledge test
Terms that have a specific technical meaning in a certain field.
Terms that have entries in specialized dictionaries.
- genuine issue of material fact
- technological unemployment
- seafloor spreading seafloor spreading at OneLook Dictionary Search
- prime number
In between test
Terms that are tightly bound, in which a pause cannot be inserted, or for which concatenation seems natural, if not standard.
Rocking chair test
Terms signified as logical units by unusual patterns of stress or intonation.
The following terms are among those that have passed RFD but have not been or cannot be identified under any of the above tests.
For comparison, here is a list of some examples that failed RFD because they are not idiomatic:
- art exhibition = art + exhibition
- broken English = broken + English
- go for a drive = go for + a drive
- intelligent being = intelligent + being
- invisibility cloak = invisibility + cloak
- legendary progenitor = legendary + progenitor
- mackinaw shirt = mackinaw + shirt
- mesh with = mesh + with
- middle voice verb = middle voice + verb
- ROM image = ROM + image
- smoking fetish = smoking + fetish
- vulgar slang = vulgar + slang
In some cases a term will be reduced to a minimal idiomatic part, such as: