Expressions with Turn
I find the word “turn”, its usage, and its derivatives tricky at times. Can we elaborate on “turn” please?
My first reaction to this reader’s suggestion was, “what can possibly be said about turn that would fill a post?”
But then I started typing all the “turn” expressions I could think of and came up with dozens. Next I went to the OED online edition and despaired of ever scrolling to the bottom of the entry for turn as a verb. In my Compact OED print edition, I counted 34 columns devoted to turn.
What a word! Let’s look at a few of its uses of turn as a verb.
The verb turn has been in English for a thousand years. Old English tyrnan and turnian came from Latin tornāre, “to turn in a lathe.” Latin got it from a Greek word for a carpenter’s tool used to draw circles.
In modern English, the basic meaning of turn is “to cause to move around.” A wheel turns; faucets turn. Carpenters turn wood on a tool called a lathe.
Idioms used with turn can have many different meanings, both literal and figurative.
Sleepers turn over in bed. People with a decision to make turn it over in their minds. In January, many people turn over a new leaf, and in April, taxpayers turn over a portion of their earnings to the IRS.
Weary folk turn in for the night, vampires turn into bats, and informers turn against their associates and turn them in.
Lights and machinery are turned on and turned off. In historical novels, criminals are also “turned off,” i.e., hanged.
Old people turn up the heat; their children turn it down. Hotel maids turn down bedspreads, and wealthy actors turn down roles. When we think we have nowhere to turn, something always turns up and things turn out for the best.
Turn is often coupled with body parts.
Politicians turn a deaf ear, beautiful women turn heads, angry people turn their backs, a misstep causes someone to turn an ankle, bad smells turn our stomachs, and–when we die–we turn up our toes.
Readers (and people wanting a fresh start) turn the page, farmers turn the soil, resourceful heroes turn the tables on their enemies, and entrepreneurs turn a profit.
Now it’s your turn.
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