In our last post we had a recipe that called for

1 chili pepper, seeded, minced

 

Usually, mince means to chop finely with a sharp knife, which makes sense in the above line. However, quite often it is synonymous with grind. So, both minced meat and ground meat can refer exactly to the same type of meat:

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However, while minced meat can mean ‘ finely chopped’, as already explained, ground meat is always put through a meat grinder, as you can see in the picture on the left above.

Though we are discussing verbal collocations, a striking difference between American English[1] and British English[2] can be seen when ground and minced are used as adjectives:

[1] Data retrieved from the COCA corpus (http://corpus.byu.edu/coca/ ).

[2] Data retrieved from the BYU-BNC Corpus (http://corpus.byu.edu/bnc/). It must be remembered that this corpus only contains 100 million words while the Corpus of Contemporary American English totals 520 million words.

 

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As you can see, in American English ground is preferred as a collocate of meats, with the exception of fish, shrimp and bacon, probably because it may be easier to ‘chop them finely’, that is, to mince, these ingredients. In British English ground is hardly found in these combinations, where minced is clearly the most common adjective. Interestingly, though, ground fish occurs 3 times while minced fish only occurs once. This difference might call for further research… You are kindly invited to pursue it.

 

But let me call your attention to a term that might mislead you: mincemeat. Believe it or not, there is no ‘meat’ in ‘mincemeat’. In fact, it is a mixture of dried fruit and spices and is the main ingredient of a mince pie, a traditional Christmas dish in the United Kingdom.

 

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Now let’s take a look at the nouns that collocate up to two words to the right of the verb to grind³ :

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Although most collocates refer to grains, spices or nuts, which are usually ground, there are a few nouns that call our attention. Teeth is the first one as it is the most frequent collocate:

  • At night you grind your teeth so loud I hear it in my sleep.
  • Tucked neatly in his mouth was a custom-made mouth guard so he didn’t grind his teeth.

 

Obviously, in this context grind cannot be translated as ‘moer’. In Portuguese we say ‘ranger os dentes’.

The next one is grind one’s way, meaning to achieve something with effort.

  • I grind my way up the steep, hot Burro Trail.
  • Higher ticket prices are already a fact- but not necessarily for the ordinary bands that grind their way through small and medium-size venues.
  • We walk back to the truck, Schearer puts it in low, and we grind our way up into the higher elevations.

 

Bones in position 6 really struck me:

  • Let him be alive or let him be dead, I’ll grind his bones to make my bread.
  • If we are lucky, he will encounter only the children who have spent the past year tormenting us, and he will grind their bones for bread.

 

Interestingly, the collocation is usually related to ‘bread’. And here is why: it comes from verses in the English fairy tale Jack and the Beanstalk (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fee-fi-fo-fum)

Fee-fi-fo-fum,
I smell the blood of an Englishman,
Be he alive, or be he dead
I’ll grind his bones to make my bread.

 

The reason cup appears in position 11 is because of its occurrence in recipes – but it does not form a collocation with grind: Finely grind 1/2 cup pecans.

 

When collocating with glass and lenses the meaning of grind is the same, something like ‘lapidar’ in Portuguese: 

  • She was learning how to grind glass in her own little corner of the shop.

 

Later, alone in the dark, after he’d learned how to grind better lenses, Galileo pointed his instruments skyward to reveal uncomfortable truths about the universe.

 

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The last one we’ll look at is grind people which, as you will see, does not have a literal meaning. Rather it means something like ‘force’:

  • It’s the kind of situation calculated to grind people down, to discourage them into giving up any hope of returning to their homeland.
  • Contract does not mention unemployment, inequality, and other social factors that grip and grind people into poverty.

 

Just sidetracking a bit, can you guess the meaning of daily grind? Take a look at the examples:

  • The job includes not just say-cheese glamour but the daily grind, too.
  • Try adding a few of these tips for living better with less to your daily grind.
  • Successful couples find remarkably unremarkable ways to snap each other out of daily grind

 

Yes, it refers to a somewhat boring routine.

To conclude, let’s look at the collocates of the verb mince. Again, we’re looking at nouns that occur up to 2 positions to the right of the verb:

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Another surprise is that by far the most common collocate is words, with a frequency of 200 occurrences, followed by garlic with just 25 occurrences. All the other nouns cannot be said to form collocations. But let’s move back to mince words:

 

  • Let’s not mince words: It’s a criminal act.
  • She’s not the global spokeswoman for all working moms, but Fey doesn’t mince words about loving her job as both writer and actor.
  • Wolf, let’s not mince words. This was a monumental act of rudeness act by Neil Munro.
  • When besieged by a crisis, it is not a time for us to mince words. So let me be transparently honest.
  • He wasn’t one to mince words, especially when he was drinking.

 

Notice that the collocation is always used in the negative or in a negative context. The Portuguese equivalent is ‘medir palavras’ and is also often – but not always – used in a negative context as can be seen in the examples below from the Corpus do Português (http://www.corpusdoportugues.org/web-dial/)

 

  • Não preciso usar de desculpas, nem medir palavras para dizer o que penso.
  • Ele quer apenas se sentir livre, quer poder ser ele mesmo sem medir palavras.
  • Curiosamente, a própria ONU não precisou medir palavras para condenar o massacre no Cairo.
  • Ele é complicado e não mede palavras para ofender e magoar.

 

  • A gente tem que medir as palavras sim, afinal não é como lidamos com nossas relações diárias?
  • Temos que medir nossas palavras, ainda que seja para dizer o óbvio.
  • Devemos nos esforçar em medir palavras a fim de nunca perdermos o foco.

 

Hope this post has been a release from your daily grind

smile

 

Stella E. O. Tagnin
Stella E. O. Tagnin professora associada do Departamento de Letras Modernas, FFLCH, da USP. Embora aposentada, continua orientando em nível de pós-graduação nas áreas de Tradução, Terminologia, Ensino e Aprendizagem, sempre com base na Lingüística de Corpus. É coordenadora do Projeto CoMET.e-mail: seotagni@usp.br.