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I have recently stumbled upon somebody saying:

I have decided to turn over a new leaf.

I was already aware of a similar expression with "page" instead. I have also heard of "leaflet" meaning (as far as I can tell) "flyer" or somesuch.

So can a leaf mean a page? In Finnish they can be interchanged in some rare cases. I had never heard of this in English though.

"Leaf" seems to be defined here as a double-sided page from a piece of paper folded vertically (courtesy of a quick bit of Googling):

http://www.indiana.edu/~libpres/manual/treatments/glospages/folio.html

Can the words be interchanged in general usage?

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  • It's great that you found one of the answers helpful but you may want to wait a few days before accepting an answer - see Not so fast! (When should I accept my answer?) on meta for some reasons why.
    – ColleenV
    Mar 2, 2016 at 22:20
  • OK, this is my first question on any linguistics stack exchange.
    – Mörkö
    Mar 3, 2016 at 5:15

2 Answers 2

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In short, no they can't be generally interchanged.

According to this dictionary, leaf can mean

Bibliography. a unit generally comprising two printed, blank, or illustrated pages of a book, one on each side.

So that's like a book open on a table, and when you flip the page, you're revealing a new leaf.

If you just have a single paper on a table and flip it over, it isn't revealing a new leaf (because it was never a leaf in the first place)

Thank you for asking this question though! I'd actually never really thought about the phrase, and always generally assumed it was talking about a leaf like on a tree (why you would turn over a new one I never considered).

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  • Thanks. In Finnish "leaf" is somewhat more broad: it can even mean "newspaper".
    – Mörkö
    Mar 2, 2016 at 21:24
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In:

I have decided to turn over a new leaf.

turn over a new leaf is an idiomatic usage. See turn over a new leaf:

Fig. to begin again, fresh; to reform and begin again. (Fig. on turning to a fresh page. The leaf is a page—a fresh, clean page.)
I have made a mess of my life. I'll turn over a new leaf and hope to do better. Why don't you turn over a new leaf and surprise everyone with your good characteristics?

leaf also has a number of page related definitions. This can be checked in a dictionary.

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