Ruthie confronts idiomaticity

The One Big Happy from March 3rd:

Ruthie doesn’t know which expressions are conventionalized (and have to be reproduced exactly) and which are fresh creations (possibly metaphorical, but made up on the spot) — whose parts can be varied by substitution.

In this case, the Green Thumb Nursery seems to be the proper name of a business, using the idiom:

noun green thumb: natural talent for growing plants: you don’t need a green thumb to grow them. (NOAD)

So near-synonyms and semantically related items can’t be plugged in for the parts: no moldy for green, no finger for thumb.

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