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

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-3
votes
2answers
3k views

Only then or then only?

I am not a native speaker. I have seen people at my place uses similar kinds of sentences interchangeably. If he comes, only then I will go. If he comes, then only I will go. Which of these ...
5
votes
5answers
735 views

She was carrying twins and a bulky bag in her hands [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: Using verbs with multiple meanings I am not sure if this is Indian English but the verb carry is often used in India to speak of a pregnant woman and often without an ...
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 ...
-1
votes
2answers
944 views

“Least expected” or “least unexpected”

When I was talking to my girlfriend, she mentioned an incident where one of her friends surprised her with a gift. She said something like that least unexpected ... after which we got into a debate ...
1
vote
1answer
607 views

Guidelines for interpretation of “all but a few”

For a clause of the type [all but a few X] [Y], there seem to be two possible interpretations. The first one is "Y is the case for all things/people/places, except for a few X," as in the following ...
-1
votes
3answers
1k views

“Within” and “in” when referring to time

I know that both can mean "inside" but what I don't have clear is whether both mean the same when talking about time. For example: The party is in two days = The party is within two days ?? ...
8
votes
2answers
4k views

Use of “Or”, inclusive or exclusive?

My wife and I are playing a game where you roll dice and move so many spaces in a grid "vertically or horizontally". In the use of English it is very common to say, this or the other when it comes ...
5
votes
1answer
802 views

When is Christmas Eve Eve?

I have recently seen weather forecasters making predictions for Christmas Eve Day, Christmas Eve Night, and for Christmas Day. One also reads of Christmas Eve Eve, with two eves. Are those all ...
1
vote
1answer
185 views

Meaning of “Apply at 4–6 weekly intervals”

I purchased some fungicide. The instructions on the back of the bottle say "Apply at 4–6 weekly intervals." Does that mean it should be applied 4–6 times a week? Or every 4–6 weeks?
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 ...
4
votes
1answer
1k views

What is the meaning of “sanity” in “sanity check”?

The phrase "sanity check" comes up often in programming, e.g. It's a good sanity check before attempting to decrypt the key. Usually, its context is one in which a commonly assumed state (e.g. ...
-2
votes
1answer
51 views

“ground occupied..” meaning

I cannot figure out the meaning of this sentence: There is a ground in between the voluntary and the involuntary occupied by expressions that were once learned but come to operate ...
-2
votes
2answers
431 views

What is the meaning of “empty of joy”? [closed]

Please go through the below excerpt from "The Story of My Life" from "Helen Keller" I have met people so empty of joy, that when I clasped their frosty finger tips, it seemed as if I were shaking ...
5
votes
3answers
583 views

Ambiguity of “to be” + gerund

I would like to ask about a basic sentence that really confuses me. My favorite sport is swimming. I think it is strange. "Swimming" can be interpreted as a gerund ("I like to swim; it is my ...
1
vote
3answers
2k views

Meaning of “saved my sanity” [closed]

What is the meaning of the phrase saved my sanity? I attempted another sip and winced. He smiled and poured more water in my drink to dilute it. It ruined the scotch but saved my sanity. The ...
0
votes
3answers
339 views

Is “increment” perfectly synonymous with “increase”? [closed]

My advisor replaced all the occurrences of "increment" with "increase" in one of my papers. Is it true that "increment" can always be replaced with "increase"? If not, please show me some examples.
1
vote
3answers
243 views

additional local and domestic long distance minutes are $0.10 per minute [closed]

All airtime is billed by the second after the first minute, additional local and domestic long distance minutes are $0.10 per minute. My phone company and I are arguing over the use of the word ...
5
votes
4answers
3k views

What is the correct definition and usage of “for all I know”?

I saw some sentences using this phrase "for all I know" but wasn't quite sure what is its exact definition and also whether a modal verb such as "could, may or might" expressing uncertainty must be ...
3
votes
2answers
409 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
1answer
17k views

Nerd vs. Geek vs. Dork [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: Which term correctly identifies those who enjoy programming/technology: “geek” or “nerd”? I'm somewhat perplexed on the usages of these terms. Most references appear an ...
8
votes
6answers
2k views

“No head injury is too trivial to ignore”

I was looking at the book Introduction to Mathematical Thinking by Keith Devlin, and came across a question where the reader is asked to reformulate this sentence to avoid the unintended second ...
2
votes
0answers
400 views

Shakespeare: “Asses are made to bear” [closed]

When Petruchio invites Katherine to sit on his lap, she replies, "Asses are made to bear, and so are you." (Taming of the Shrew Act II, Scene 1.) The denotation is clear, donkeys (Equus africanus ...
0
votes
3answers
133 views

Does inserting a comma change what is modified?

My question pertains to the usage of comma after a list of clauses of the form "X, Y, and Z (,) to/in order to <do something>" Example: Apply Equation 1, use Lemma 2, and exploit Theorem ...
2
votes
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 ...
2
votes
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 ...
5
votes
1answer
453 views

How do you disambiguate phrases like “killing doctors” when you can't use an article? [closed]

In singular, indefinite articles help to disambiguate some phrases, like for example: a killing doctor Would be a doctor who kills people. versus killing a doctor Would be an act of ...
3
votes
2answers
398 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 ...
8
votes
5answers
363 views

Nationality modifier vs. Language modifier

"Chinese writer Mo Yan wins Nobel literature prize" (USA Today) "Chinese author Mo Yan wins Nobel Prize for Literature" (BBC) Q. Are we to understand that Mo Yan wrote in Chinese, that he was a ...
4
votes
4answers
12k views

“A good memory” vs. “good memories”

If I say, "I don't have a good memory of my childhood", would it imply that I cant recollect it or that I have bad memories (bad stories, unhappy) childhood? I think that "good memories" implies the ...
21
votes
3answers
4k views

What is the origin of “hot” as “good-looking” or “attractive”?

I'm not sure if "hot" as "warm" or "heated" existed before "hot" came to mean "good-looking" or "attractive", but if so, how did this new meaning come to be?
-1
votes
2answers
87 views

What is the meaning of "foldin’ your Fruit of the Looms”?

in the quotation below, what the meaning of "foldin’ your Fruit of the Looms” is? “There’s got to be more to life than sittin’ here watchin’ ‘Days of Our Lives’ and foldin’ your Fruit of the Looms.” ...
6
votes
1answer
236 views

Implication(s) of “Though you wouldn't think it”

(This question arose because on some other SE many of us tried to translate this expression. It turns out it was not so easy, and it would certainly help if we had a better grasp on it.) I believe ...
5
votes
1answer
413 views

What does “state” in “State University” refer to? [closed]

There are many universities and colleges in the United States with names such as "... State University". The word state has many distinct meanings, but pertinent to this question are: government, ...
0
votes
2answers
96 views

Who does “who” apply to in this example?

His governors, some of them incompetent and tactless, quarrelled bitterly with the people, who were constantly demanding greater political control. In this sentence, who are demanding greater ...
0
votes
2answers
238 views

Disambiguating of dialogue

Let us read the dialogue below between two people, A and B: A :   Have you even eaten squid fried? B :   Yes. A :   How was it? B :   Better ...
-2
votes
4answers
125 views

“(both)/(either) only available to men (and)/(or) women under pension age” [closed]

Let us suppose we are writing a legal document in which it must be stated that benefit are available to: (1)  men under pension age; (2)  women under pension age. Which of the following ...
4
votes
2answers
390 views

Is “proximity” a real grammatical rule?

(a)  "The daughter of the colonel who had a black dress left the party." (b)  "The daughter of the colonel who had a black mustache left the party." (c)  "The daughter of the ...
0
votes
1answer
81 views

Is on/before 15 July better than by 15 July if I want to be precise and unambiguous? Which is the more common form?

When the last day of registration is, let's say, 15 July, we currently say "please confirm your registration before 16 July" but students often send their confirmation on 16 July, rather than 15. I ...
-1
votes
3answers
530 views

“You didn't build that” — but what was Obama referring to by “that”?

During the opening night of the Republican National Convention, many speakers took to the podium and took advantage of a phrase spoken by President Obama that some are calling a grammatical error. In ...
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 ...
3
votes
3answers
995 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
2answers
250 views

Is “Betty learned that Albert telephoned after Isaiah visited” ambiguous?

Betty learned that Albert telephoned after Isaiah visited. Can anybody explain whether "after Isaiah visited" tell us: (1) when Betty learned something about Albert or (2) when Albert telephoned? ...
10
votes
4answers
612 views

Ambiguous connotation of “just” - How do natives interpret these?

First of all, these questions are a bit related but not what I'm actually asking about: Is “I just spent all my money” grammatically incorrect? “I just ate them” and “I've just eaten them” - What's ...
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? ...
5
votes
10answers
428 views

How to avoid ambiguous wording: “Each has the same number of each type of flower”

I'm editing a math word problem that has the following ambiguous set up. A florist has 18 carnations, 24 daisies, and 12 lilies. She wants to make flower arrangements that each have the same ...
2
votes
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
485 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
1answer
126 views

Ambiguity in “free shipping of the product” [closed]

Trying to write a mail in English I have a problem with the following sentence: Only free shipping of the product will be asked I tried many ways to tell that using other words, other ...
2
votes
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.
5
votes
2answers
206 views

What does the phrase “a fine one” mean in this context?

In one one Daniil Kharms' short stories, Tikakeyev “insults” Koratygin by saying: A fine one you are! This causes a fight between the two. When I first read this, I didn't see the “insult”, ...