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

learn more… | top users | synonyms (1)

3
votes
2answers
517 views

“Heard of anything” or “heard anything”

I always think when you use hear, of should follow it like heard of anything. But I saw I haven't heard anything from him. Is that correct, or should it be I haven't heard of anything from ...
3
votes
3answers
560 views

Difference between “ad hoc” and “impromptu” [closed]

Is there any difference between "ad hoc" and "impromptu"? Can you find sentences where only one of the words is acceptable and the other is not? And where they are interchangeable? What about the ...
3
votes
2answers
459 views

“Even that she left lying”

In a story titled "Prelude" written by "Katherine Mansfield" I came across the following sentence in this paragraph: The fireplace was choked up with rubbish. She poked among it but found ...
3
votes
3answers
1k views

Ambiguous use of infinitive after “It's needed”

After writing this sentence, I found myself thinking that its meaning may be a little confusing to other people: It’s needed to make clear some issues regarding absences. I used the phrase to ...
3
votes
3answers
1k views

Should “that” or “it” be used in this sentence?

People say things like ‘all publicity is good publicity’ but that isn't always true. Should that in the sentence above be replaced with it? It's sort of ambiguous as to what that is referring to, ...
3
votes
3answers
289 views

Does “someone appeared to help me” have two meanings?

Someone appeared to help me. If I get it right, this sentence can either mean: "It seems like someone was helping me." (seems like = appear to) "Someone showed up to help me." (show up = ...
3
votes
2answers
351 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 ...
3
votes
1answer
143 views

It was established on a rocky foundation [closed]

It was established on a rocky foundation. Does it mean steady or shaky?
3
votes
5answers
538 views

Does this type of grammatical construction give an ambiguous meaning?

A girl was found in a house belonging to one of two criminals; is it correct to express this in the following way: The girl was found in one of the criminals' houses. Does the plural use of 'house' ...
3
votes
4answers
188 views

Parse tree of “the ports of Santo Domingo and Cartagena in present-day Colombia”

There is a Wikipedia article with the following line: Drake sailed to the New World and sacked the ports of Santo Domingo and Cartagena in present-day Colombia. Never mind the facts as we might ...
3
votes
4answers
261 views

Meaning of “The Lord is on our side”

Written in 1836 in Texas P.S. The Lord is on our side—When the enemy appeared in sight we had not three bushels of corn—We have since found in deserted houses 80 or 90 bushels & got ...
3
votes
2answers
366 views

Where to put an adjective to avoid ambiguity?

The essence of this question is not about style. It is foremost about avoiding ambiguity. The sentence is "She called me." If I want to use the word "sniffling" to describe the caller, where should I ...
3
votes
7answers
440 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?'
3
votes
2answers
383 views

Is “I don't work here” literal or does it mean “I am not an employee of this establishment”? [closed]

Part of my work involves visiting retail establishments during business hours. Often, when mistaken for an employee of the store, I am asked a question about where to find something in the store, to ...
3
votes
2answers
333 views

Non-idiomatic “would be a rare X that Y”: “…would be a rare hurricane that…”

In following, a writer quotes and summarizes Bill Read's remarks regarding Hurricane Irene: “This is not just a coastal event,” said Bill Read, director of the National Hurricane Center. He said ...
3
votes
3answers
175 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 ...
3
votes
3answers
137 views

Counting stops without ambiguity

A typical conversation on a bus: Alice: Have we reached our stop yet, Bob? Bob: No, Alice. Two more stops to go. Alice: Do you mean "two more stops, then ours" or "one more stop, then ...
3
votes
1answer
1k views

Interpreting the meaning of 'but' as an implication for exclusion/inclusion

I often find it difficult to interpret the meaning of but in some of the sentences where it is used to imply exclusion/inclusion. For example: Drink everything you want but alcohol. Also, sometimes ...
3
votes
2answers
83 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. ...
3
votes
2answers
119 views

Antecedent Precedence?

Background: I was working on a project and was having a colleague of mine proof-read a piece of documentation. He said that one sentence was ambiguous because he couldn't determine what the antecedent ...
3
votes
2answers
198 views

Is ”If I leave, it’s because Bob has arrived” ambiguous?

If I leave, it’s because Bob has arrived. Does this mean: Bob has not arrived yet. When Bob does arrive (shortly), I may leave. Bob is here now and requesting my attention. Therefore, I may ...
3
votes
1answer
272 views

Interpretation of the adjective “outstanding”

In my holidays I met a woman who is originally from Australia. She told me she lived in many places due to her husband's work and also traveled much around the world. Although she's already seen many ...
3
votes
4answers
939 views

Semantic or pragmatic ambiguity?

When one says "Do you want a cup of coffee?" he can mean: either an informative question — "Do you feel a desire to a cup of coffee?", or a polite offer — "I can make you a cup of coffee if you ...
3
votes
1answer
331 views

Using the word “difference” in the meaning “result of subtraction” taking into account the negative values

The result of subtraction is called "difference". At first glance it might seem that it shouldn't cause an ambiguity over the value denoted by this word; until we stumble upon subtractions that ...
3
votes
2answers
135 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 ...
3
votes
1answer
190 views

“Tabled”, US vs UK [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: What is the meaning of the expression “We can table this”? Here's an example snippet for some context. Ann had an idea. We tabled her idea. In the UK this means ...
3
votes
1answer
470 views

“to not get” vs “not to get”

I came across this sentence in an article, "As she speaks of her family, friends and life, it's difficult to not get that 'feel good' mood." I'm wondering if the following sentence could also mean ...
3
votes
1answer
215 views

Adjective for “can't think of it now, but I'll know it when I see it”?

This happens when someone asks you about a fairly new song. You can't remember the lyrics or the music, but when it comes on the radio, you'll know that's the one. What adjective would describe that ...
3
votes
2answers
292 views

If/when in this example?

I am struggling with understanding when I can use if/when interchangeably. The situation is like this, I meet my friend outside who is heading to the dentist. I say (in that situation, knowing he is ...
3
votes
1answer
180 views

Scan Method vs Scanning Method

The question here is what is the meaning of the two: Scan Method Scanning Method My assumption is that the interpretations are, respectively: A method which describes how the scanning procedure ...
3
votes
1answer
122 views

What do you call the linguistic ambiguity in an assertion "Blah is the Best X?

I don't know the correct name of the following characteristic or phenomena to search for it on Google for further study and exploration: Someone says they live in the "Best Democracy" and they ...
3
votes
4answers
79 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
4answers
781 views

Is “once you stop to think about it” ambiguous?

I tripped over a phrase in a book similar to "Once you stop to think about it, the existence of rainbows is pretty amazing." Now, in context, it is pretty clear that I am supposed to stop my usual ...
2
votes
6answers
3k views

What does “don't shoot yourself in the foot” mean? [closed]

What does "Don’t shoot yourself in the foot" mean? Unfortunately, most salary decisions are based on perceived performance, not on actual performance. Don’t shoot yourself in the foot.
2
votes
2answers
3k views

The meaning of: “Why don't you just beat it?”

I would like to know what does this phrase means: "Why don't you just beat it?" My dictionary says only that: beat it: get lost Can you beat it? : Do you get it?
2
votes
8answers
9k views

Does “until [date]” mean “before that date”?

What does until mean in the following? You need to deliver this product within 2 days (until August 18, 2011) to meet your deadline and get paid. Does this mean that I have to deliver the ...
2
votes
4answers
237 views

“I want it rather than him”?

What's a good way to write a sentence like the following: I want it rather than him. where I mean that "I want (to have) it rather than him (having it)," and don't want the sentence to be ...
2
votes
1answer
654 views

Usage of “make it” in this context [closed]

Consider the following sentence . My boss (say Mr X) wrote this to me in an email and before this paragraph he actually gave a list of items that I need to work on : We will have a Webex meeting ...
2
votes
5answers
374 views

“the same” and “that particular one”

Consider I'm driving the same car. It sounds like me and someone else share one and the same car. But I could mean that my car is just another copy of the same model of the car. How do I express ...
2
votes
2answers
180 views

Commision on stock market

Is it correct to use word commision as a synonym to order on stock market? In meaning: an instruction from customers to brokers to buy or sell on the exchange. I know that commision is a fee or ...
2
votes
2answers
3k views

Close to home = quite accurate?

Citing Wikipedia: Many actuaries were unhappy with the stereotypical portrayals of these actuaries as unhappy, math-obsessed and socially inept people; others have claimed that the portrayals ...
2
votes
2answers
4k views

When is between inclusive and when exclusive?

It seems that the exact meaning of between is very tied to its specific usage. What should I assume in a general situation about the inclusivity of between. Consider: "Pick a number between 1 and ...
2
votes
3answers
6k views

A word to describe a situation where something said has multiple meanings? [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: A word with a wide range of meanings Is there a word that describes a situation where someone says something that has multiple meanings? or can be taken multiple ways. ...
2
votes
5answers
132 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?
2
votes
2answers
97 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 ...
2
votes
1answer
48 views

What does 'disk box' mean here?

The expression is mentioned under the number 1 of the list at the bottom of the picture. The search over the internet hasn't given me a more or less clear idea of what it could be for it to match ...
2
votes
1answer
177 views

When a sentence contains both “not” and “or”, which one has priority?

I am changing a piece of text which current reads: Payment not deducted to also include the situation where payments are withheld. The suggested revision of text given to me is Payment not ...
2
votes
2answers
157 views

How to determine if an attribute applies to a group or a specific individual

I am in the middle of an argument, and therefore trying to figure out the breakdown of the definition: a member of a military group devoted to engineering work which appears in Merriam-Webster's ...
2
votes
4answers
333 views

Ambiguity of “We discourage X from doing Y by using Z” [closed]

Given the sentence, We discourage people from committing crimes by using law enforcement, religion and education. I see two possible interpretations: [We discourage people by using law ...
2
votes
3answers
249 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 ...