phrases, sayings, idioms and expressions at

Take exception to

Posted by Brian on September 17, 2009 at 07:43

I have been a teacher of English as a Second/Foreign language in Japan for 11 years and have found that, while students understandably struggle with comprehending and using English phrases and idioms, when they know the origins of the phrase or idiom in question, they are more able to incorporate the expression into their active vocabulary and then more likely to attempt to use it in future discourse.

As one student recently put it, when trying to understand the expression 'take exception to ~something~,' he simply couldn't take the collocation of the verb 'take' and preposition 'to' with the noun 'exception' "into his heart." I have sensed this for many years, but to hear the student state the problem so eloquently, got me thinking more seriously about etymology and its importance in Second Language Learning.

Quite often, the origin of a particular phrase is easy to find from sites such as this. However, often only the more esoteric phrases are provided and the origins of more mundane expressions like 'take exception to' are nowhere to be found. In such cases, I am left to my own imagination in coming up with plausible origins, which seem to satisfy the student but not me! For example, I suspect that the expression 'take exception to' has a legal origin in which an objectionable statement or motion by an opposition counsel is 'taken to the judge' for a ruling on its admissability, as the statement seems to run counter to the law or ruling in force. Perhaps I'm wrong, but on that particular day in my classroom it got the job done. I just wish I could find out if I was at least in the ballpark (an idiom clearly derived from the world of sports - perhaps baseball:)