Topics having to do with multiple meanings of a word or phrase.

learn more… | top users | synonyms (1)

8
votes
3answers
1k views

Does “speak in a low voice” refer to volume/loudness or to pitch?

Does the low in Speak in a low voice! He said in a low voice. refer to the volume/loudness or to the pitch? Does it mean quiet, or low-frequency? EDIT: After understanding from your ...
0
votes
2answers
230 views

I promise not to do it, I swear not to do it. Is there a double meaning here?

"I promise [pause] not to do it" seems to me equivalent to "I promise I won't do it". However, "I promise not [pause] to do it" seems to me equivalent to "I do not promise I will ...
-1
votes
1answer
108 views

Megalomania vs narcissism? [closed]

They look very similar. It's hard for me to discern the difference. Is there any difference between the two?
3
votes
2answers
121 views

<Grammar/Style> Ambiguous “it”

I recently stumbled upon this joke employing some grammar: Q: How can you drop an egg on a concrete floor without cracking it? A: Any way you want, concrete floors are very hard to crack. ...
0
votes
3answers
41 views

Does this sentence make any sense to you?

"Never play the podcast from anywhere but the start" What does this sentence mean to you? By podcast I mean a house music episode that is one hour long.
7
votes
1answer
250 views

Are “was/were able to” and “could” interchangeable?

In a grammar book, the claim was made that in the following sentences one cannot substitute "was/were able to" with "could." The fire spread through the building very quickly, but everyone was ...
1
vote
2answers
55 views

Formatting two adjacent footnote indicators in the body of the footnoted text

I've run into an issue using Microsoft Word 2013. In the following example, there is no way to know whether or not there exists one reference to footnote 12, or two references to footnotes 1 and 2: ...
1
vote
4answers
235 views

What's the difference between “title” and “name”?

I'm not sure when it's appropriate to use word "name", and when to use word "title". For example, "file name" feels right, "file title" doesn't; "document name" and "document title" seem ...
3
votes
4answers
92 views

Regions and reasons for the usage of “sleep” as “go to sleep”

This question is very closely linked to this english.SE question, which discusses the usage of "sleep" as a verb meaning "go to sleep" and inspired by this ell.SE question, in which the accepted ...
-2
votes
1answer
55 views

What to use : “that” or “who”? [duplicate]

Consider this sentence : "I was going down the hill and on my step down I saw a guy who appeared to be disguised". "I was going down the hill and on my step down I saw a guy that appeared to be ...
2
votes
2answers
129 views

What is opposite of “Love”? [closed]

In a argument with my friend who lost her love, I came across her experience of life and what she said is : Opposite of love is NOT Hate. why, Because in love people have feeling and think about ...
2
votes
3answers
336 views

Does “native Japanese” indicate Japanese people or indigenous people in Japan?

I want to simply indicate that I was born and raised in Japan. I think I can say "I am a native Japanese", but when I google the expression, the results include information about indigenous people in ...
6
votes
1answer
135 views

Shakespeare's “slow as the elephant”

I am reading Shakespeare's Troilus and Cressida, in Act 1 Scene 2 Alexander gives the following portrait of Ajax: "[...] he is as valiant as the lion, churlish as the bear, slow as the elephant; ...
6
votes
8answers
598 views

How to rephrase “Deliberate failure”?

I have a document that I'm drafting that, at the moment, has a sentence that reads something like: Remove X from all company computers. Deliberate failure to do so constitutes grounds for ...
5
votes
5answers
784 views

3 meter square area vs 3 square meter area

A. 3 meter square area B. 3 square meter area I’m wondering what the easiest way is to clearly express the difference between A and B above. In A, one side is 3 (meters). In B, one side is ...
1
vote
3answers
182 views

More confusion with relative pronoun ambiguity

What does the relative pronoun refer to in this sentence? It was probably on the darker/smoother side of things, compared to, say, the Sony ZX-1, which I prefer. To me, his preference isn’t ...
1
vote
2answers
98 views

Is “Can you carry this book?” acceptable? [closed]

Is it grammatically correct to say: Can you carry this book? I said this to a friend and this person commented that I need to learn grammar. To me the statement seems grammatically correct and ...
2
votes
3answers
539 views

Is “out” a preposition or an adverb in these sentences?

Is out a preposition or an adverb in these sentences? "We need to get the hell out of this place." "We need to get out and leave this place."
-1
votes
1answer
210 views

Is the glass half filled with water or half empty? [closed]

If someone asks me this, is there some proper answer according to English grammar? If there is, what is it? If not, shouldn't there be one? And which one? P.S. I am not asking this for fun. This ...
2
votes
0answers
178 views

Is language inherently circular? [closed]

I looked up "Hallelujah" in etymonline.com today, and the result, as often happens with etymological research, ended in following a rabbit warren of possibilities. Take the word "Hallelujah" for ...
1
vote
1answer
51 views

Ambiguity in the statement of an Indian politician.

Derek O' Brien is celebrity turned politician in India. Recently in a TV debate on a National TV channel he was recorded saying that he was a Christian first, before that an Indian. (Watch the video ...
0
votes
1answer
82 views

Figuring out what's wrong with the sentence

I took a quiz given in the BBC magazine. it had the following sentence. The Queen arrived at the castle with the King by her side, in a dress adorned with hand-sewn embroidered dragons. please ...
2
votes
5answers
137 views

“Find ten apples and oranges” Do I find 10 or 20?

If I read the sentence Find ten apples and oranges. Do I need to find ten or twenty pieces of fruit?
1
vote
4answers
101 views

How do I pluralize the coffee drink “shot in the dark”?

For those that do not know, there is a coffee drink that it sometimes called a shot in the dark. It consists of an espresso shot poured in a regular cup of Joe. Suppose that I would like to order two ...
1
vote
3answers
111 views

When an author lets you decide what happened?

Is there a word to describe when an Author doesn't fully explain a particular scenario, and leaves it rather ambiguous, so that the reader may decide what happened? SPOILERS for Mockingjay and Life ...
2
votes
1answer
121 views

Is it accurate/correct/proper to call an abusive dictator a megalomaniac?

The definition of megalomania indicates that it is the delusion of power, wealth, greatness, importance, etc. So when talking about malicious dictators, especially those known for mass murder of ...
3
votes
7answers
511 views

A person who goes to gymnastics school — a 'student' or a 'pupil?'

I am trying to find an exact answer of this question: Is a person who goes to gymnastics school a 'student' or a 'pupil?'
0
votes
1answer
382 views

“Life is short. Work somewhere awesome.” Is it ambiguous?

At a company some HR person put a label on the wall with a slogan: "Life is short Work somewhere awesome " /+ Name of the company The question is: May this label sound conversational? Like I ...
0
votes
1answer
59 views

meaning of edge in this sentence

belligerent speeches by leaders of the Soviet Union and the United States throughout the Cold War were keeping the world on edge.
0
votes
1answer
44 views

When distinguishing 'in which' and 'which' is ambiguous

I'm a Korean high school student (who really likes reading English novels), and I'm curious regarding the usage of 'in which' and 'which' in a sentence. Which one do I have to use in the following ...
2
votes
3answers
500 views

“Small Latin and Less Greek”

About a third of the way through his poem "To the Memory of My Beloved the Author, Mr. William Shakespeare and What He Hath Left Us," Ben Jonson writes: And though thou hadst small Latin and less ...
3
votes
2answers
281 views

What does “feeling a little precious” mean? [duplicate]

I ran across this phrase in a video made by an Australian walking the Camino de Santiago. He describes a horrible sleep-deprived night and suffering from food poisoning, and states that he's feeling a ...
-5
votes
1answer
165 views

Antedecent of “naked” in “I would like to paint a picture of you naked”

You’re such a pretty person, I would like to paint a picture of you naked. Does this mean "you’ll undress while I get my brushes", or does it mean "strike a pose while I take my clothes off"?
0
votes
1answer
422 views

Does saying 'then' after 'sorry' imply reluctance?

A did something wrong but didn't realize it. B explained to A why what (s)he did was wrong. Then A said: "Sorry then". Is A really sorry? Literally, "sorry then" (in my head) means in light of the ...
0
votes
3answers
197 views

Difference between “college” and “university”

I have seen the words college and university sometimes mixed in the same article. But there are lots of sources where only one is used. I've looked up them in various dictionaries, but couldn't figure ...
1
vote
2answers
88 views

Ambiguous relative clause

In the following expression, whom does 'who' refer to? The friends of the participants or the participants themselves? "The friends of the participants who were told to order soft drinks" This was ...
3
votes
3answers
311 views

Is the verb “hustle” used mostly positively or negatively these days?

I am confused about the uses of the word hustle. According to the dictionary, to hustle means a lot of negative things, like: force (someone) to move hurriedly or unceremoniously in a specified ...
0
votes
2answers
51 views

Disambiguating fictitiousness

I think that confronted with the statement: The claim is fictitious. or even The claim is made up. most people would interpret it to mean, "The claim was actually made, but its content is ...
0
votes
2answers
83 views

Specific use of “where”

Do these two sentences convey the same meaning? What is more I detailed the difficulty that arises in such an investigation where it is one person's word against another. What is more I ...
0
votes
2answers
123 views

Why does i.e mean that is? [closed]

I learned that i.e means : that is or in other words but how does this make sense? shouldn't it be: t.i in this case?
1
vote
3answers
120 views

“Half” for unequal divisions

A topic came up today concerning the usage of the word "half". I was describing a separation of labour into two obviously unequal groups. A colleague corrected me, saying that the word "half" ...
0
votes
3answers
134 views

What does “be proactively available to help others” mean?

Actively going to others to provide help even if they don't need it? Being available actively to help others whenever they need it? Or something else?
0
votes
2answers
91 views

Using source as a verb to mean “to provide a citation”

Recently on the meta for English.se, I used the following sentence: Personally, I think we should source answers if possible, but this is also sensitive to the level of the asker. My question ...
0
votes
1answer
41 views

Task definition and its instances

I have a system which allows to set tasks for users. Each task has to be completed everyday and has a recurring due time. To keep the history of completions/failures, there is another entity: a task ...
2
votes
2answers
120 views

How do I say “to record” meaning “to audio and video record” (in contrast to “to audio record”)?

The context here is "You should record your speech". I mean you should record both your audio (the speaking) as well as the visual (gesticulation, etc.), but the context of this sentence strongly ...
3
votes
2answers
451 views

SAT Writing ambiguous pronoun error?

Can anyone please explain why this sentence is incorrect? When Russell Wallace and Darwin independently proposed similar theories, Darwin had already accumulated extensive evidence with which ...
0
votes
1answer
170 views

The problem with the word “quite” [duplicate]

"Quite" is probably the most ambiguous word in the English language. Merriam-Webster defines it three ways: 1: completely, wholly, totally (quite mistaken) 2: to an extreme : positively (quite ...
0
votes
1answer
115 views

Can “did not” be used instead of “should not”?

I'm trying to read "Harry Potter and Methods of Rationality" (Chapter 25), and I'm puzzled with the following phrase: And furthermore, Harry said, his voice emphatic and his right hand thumping ...
32
votes
4answers
6k views

“Two yellow spots on its wings” vs “a yellow spot on both wings”

The bird has two yellow spots on its wings. versus The bird has a yellow spot on both wings. Do they mean the same? Which one describes more accurately the yellow spots of the following bird? ...
0
votes
3answers
105 views

“Students avoid boring professors” is ambiguity?

Wondering how “Students avoid boring professors” is ambiguity? I know there is one meaning of this sentence, "stay away from". Is there any other possible meanings?