What is collocation?

In my last post I set a challenge that required you to understand the concept collocation, but later it occurred to me that you might not understand what it is.

  • We say “Merry Christmas.”
  • We say “Happy birthday.”
  • We never say “Merry birthday.”

There is no grammatical reason why we cannot say Merry birthday. In fact the only explanation is that, well, that’s just the way it is! Welcome to the frustrating world of collocation.

How to define ‘collocation’?

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Katrok and Cat Rock!

You may be wondering why this post carries a photo of a cat playing rock guitar in a traditional village setting!

Well, I’m using this image as an example of a mnemonic. Mnemonics is a memorisation technique that actually has many applications. At school I used the phrase Old Harry And His Old Aunt to remember the mathematical formulae for Sine (O/H), Cosine (A/H), Tangent (O/A). At music college I used FOOLS and the 2 ‘R‘s to learn the rules for harmonisation in Bach chorales (Fifths, Overlapping, Octaves, Leading note, Spacing, Range, Repetition). And more recently I’ve been telling students that the preposition following increase is in (not of) just like the first two letters of increase!

In the example that I’m going to share in this post, I show how I use images to ‘visualise’ words and phrases so as to make them ‘stick’ in my memory.

Visualising words using mnemonics

I used mnemonics to learn the Indonesian slang word katrok. Actually the final k in katrok is often silent, but it’s difficult for students of Indonesian to hear the absence of the final k. If there is a k at the end, we have something that sounds similar to the English cat rock.

Already this is an unusual image – catrock. I pictured a cat playing an electric guitar. And when I added the meaning of katrok, which is an adjective used to describe an uneducated, uncultured, possibly village person, I pictured in my mind the cat playing the electric guitar in a primitive village scene.

Now I never forget the word katrok!

If you have tried this technique, please share your experiences by adding a comment below!