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

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3
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2answers
326 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
2answers
362 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
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2answers
324 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
121 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
3answers
984 views

Difference between “take a taxi” and “get a taxi”

Which of the following is correct? If both are correct, do they have different meanings or usage? Take a taxi/bus/train OR Get a taxi/bus/train
3
votes
2answers
801 views

Can “show-stopper” have a negative connotation?

If not, what word do I mean to use when I use "show-stopper" negatively? It seems that in high-tech culture a show-stopper is a development problem that prevents forward progress, or an unacceptable ...
3
votes
1answer
894 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
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1answer
230 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
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4answers
800 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
287 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
62 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
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2answers
101 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
1answer
161 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
242 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
188 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
3answers
189 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
2answers
164 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
2answers
7k views

Are the expressions: “You needn't” and “You don't need to” different in meaning? [duplicate]

While doing some research on a comment I had read on ELL I read the following excerpt from a website called e.grammar You needn't listen to him. (You don't have to listen to him.) x You don't ...
3
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1answer
168 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
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2answers
113 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 ...
2
votes
4answers
713 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
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6answers
2k 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
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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?
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7answers
7k 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
226 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
484 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 ...
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5answers
355 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
133 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
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2answers
2k 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
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2answers
71 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
169 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
153 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
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4answers
316 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
1answer
131 views

“My late friends” — they're not dead!

Context: We're discussing about how we used to get penalized in school for being late to classes, many years ago. I wanted to say: In my old school, it was hilarious to see my late friends get ...
2
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2answers
159 views

And/or in total negation: “Some people are not able to interpret and/or analyze”

In the following sentence, the “and/or” seems odd in a case of total negation: Evidently some people are not able to interpret and/or analyze at that deeper level. Because the sentence says “are not ...
2
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1answer
117 views

Parse tree of “several more successful books”

Let us consider the following sentence: After that first attempt, she wrote several more successful books. Does this mean she wrote several additional books that were also successful? Or that ...
2
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3answers
477 views

How to denote a larger distance

Suppose I have some measurement with interferometer number 1, let's call the result A, and another measurement with interferometer number 2, let's call that one B. Suppose that always A>B (in some ...
2
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1answer
266 views

Distinguish contraction of “ain't”

I know the contraction of am not, is not, are not, has not, have not, do not, does not, and did not can be represented as ain't. How can I understand correctly which contraction the speaker meant?
2
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2answers
93 views

Use of Like/Unlike (Double negative)

What is the correct way? Birds are not mammals like cats. Birds are not mammals, like cats. Birds are not mammals, unlike cats. *Just in case, reminder: Cats are mammals. Birds are not mammals.
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2answers
150 views

Ambiguous? “someone lives between place A and place B” [closed]

Is this sentence: “someone lives between place A and place B” ambiguous? Depending on the cities, I wonder whether it means: "someone lives in a place C between A and B" Or, "someone keeps ...
2
votes
2answers
173 views

What is the term for this ambiguous sentence?

I apologize that I don't know how to search for this question--it may be a duplicate, or maybe I just should have learned it in English class! I'm a teacher, and in another StackExchange, I wrote the ...
2
votes
3answers
352 views

Multiple 'as' (subordinate conjunction) in the same sentence [closed]

Performance is poor as losses have increased and are projected to remain negative going forward as the company works through problem assets and realizes related expense. Is this sentence correct? ...
2
votes
4answers
950 views

Words with multiple uses

I was posed a question the other day: "Can you think of a word that can be used as a Noun, Verb or an Adjective?" One such word would be "light". Is there a rule for identifying such words? (See ...
2
votes
1answer
110 views

“Feeling well” adverb ambiguity

Am I just crazy, or is there some ambiguity in the phrase "feeling well"? Example: Billy has a genetic defect that causes him to lose sensation in his fingertips every few days, or so. "How are you ...
2
votes
1answer
212 views

“sallow complexion”

In Isaac Asimov's Foundation series, in several places he describes people having a "sallow complexion". According to Collins dictionary: Sallow (esp of human skin) of an unhealthy pale or ...
2
votes
1answer
393 views

Justice as a title … where does it come from?

In the US supreme court judges, among others, are called "justice [name]". Where is this use rooted? Obviously the term comes from Latin "justitia" originally, but that means justice as in the the ...
2
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4answers
367 views

Does the word “Loyal” have other meaning than “remaining faithful to somebody/something and supporting them or it?

I found the following definition in the answer to “What are pimps and hoes?” in Music Genres Questions in Wiki.answer.com.: “A pimp is a loyal person who pimps out girls of so called hoes ...
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3answers
118 views

Phrase meaning “To have passed or currently be at”

I have 40 characters, (broken up into two lines of 20,) to send hints to users about the location of a "prize" buried somewhere in a grid. There is ambiguity when I tell the user if, at any time ...
2
votes
1answer
110 views

What does a “visiting writer” mean?

From wiki page about Michael Crichton": In 1988, Crichton was a visiting writer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology What does exactly the term visiting writer mean? Does it mean he ...
2
votes
1answer
1k views

What does “get to” mean?

I know there are a lot of meanings to the verb "get", so I am unable to understand which one is used in the following sentence: They had a baby which was different, so it got to live. I know ...