Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Stand & Deliver!: The Importance of Context for Idioms

In my previous post I referred to Steve Adubato’s web site titled "Stand & Deliver" http://www.stand-deliver.com/home.asp He started his company with that name in 1999. Variations of that phrase have been used as the title for several books about speaking and presentations.

In 2006 there was Jocelin Kagin’s, "Stand & Deliver: your guide to dynamic presentations".
In 2002 there was Philip Khan-Panni’s "Stand and Deliver: leave them stirred, not shaken" (a sly reference to the fictional secret agent James Bond and his martinis).

Of course, "Stand and Deliver" also was the title of a 1988 movie about Jaime Escalante teaching calculus to students in East LA.

However, if you mention the phrase "stand and deliver" to an audience of Englishmen as being related to public speaking you may expect to be greeted by peals of derisive laughter. That phrase also has a VERY different older meaning related to highway robbery (or "income redistribution"). Stand means to come to a stop, and deliver means to hand over your wallet or purse. The phrase uttered by a highwayman typically was "stand and deliver - your money or your life".

Can you find the meaning for an entire phrase? Sure! Go to a library and look in a dictionary of idioms. The McGraw Hill Dictionary of American Idioms says that "stand and deliver" means "to give up something to someone who demands it (originally used by highway robbers asking for passengers valuables)"

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