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

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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.
5
votes
2answers
207 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”, ...
4
votes
2answers
385 views

“Has reported” as present perfect vs. “has” as present + “reported” as a noun

In the following sentence below, I want to use the word reported as a noun, but it looks like I’m using the present perfect form has reported. How can one be clear when constructions like this ...
57
votes
14answers
4k views

How to avoid ambiguity in “I am renting an apartment in New York”?

Does the sentence: I am renting an apartment in New York. imply that I am the landlord or the tenant? How can I unequivocally communicate that I am the tenant (or the landlord)?
13
votes
5answers
913 views

What to call it when someone takes something the most negative possible way

Is there a word for the situation when someone takes something said in the most negative possible way, basically stretching what is said to fit the negative meaning that they desire it to mean. ...
0
votes
2answers
686 views

Can “myself” stand for both “me” and “I” in “my mother and I/me”? [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: When is it correct to use “yourself” and “myself” (versus “you” and “me”)? In one of my older questions I asked for an ...
1
vote
3answers
5k 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. ...
4
votes
3answers
443 views

“Principle” or “Principal”?

I was solving a grammar exercise from the book, Word Power Made Easy, when I came across this question A feeling of one's worth is one of the principle/principal goals of psychological therapy. ...
2
votes
0answers
596 views

Words that contain other words but which aren't anagrams [closed]

What are words that contain other, often contradictory words or phrases, such as "manslaughter" ("man's laughter") or "therapist" ("the rapist")? I found "to get her" ("together") on another site. No ...
3
votes
2answers
810 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 ...
5
votes
1answer
681 views

Is it offensive when using the word 'animals' (in this context)?

I have read this question on Travel.SE, and I am kinda confused about the use of the word animals in that question: These are entirely different classes of travel. Portugal+Spain is an easy trip ...
7
votes
5answers
2k views

Difference between “robot”, “machine”, and “automaton”

What is the difference in meaning between a robot, a machine, and an automaton? I was inspired to ask this because I really can’t understand the subtle (or not so subtle) difference in meaning here. ...
4
votes
6answers
472 views

“Obstacles along the road to success” vs. “obstacles across the road to success”

My sister got this question for one of her tests. There are many obstacles __ the road to success. Her options were: across along I initially thought that across would make more ...
0
votes
6answers
566 views

Can “the man from Earth” mean “caveman”? [closed]

There is a movie called "The Man from Earth" and someone told me that the title is referring to "caveman" because "Earth" meant "cave". I doubt that. I can't find any dictionary supporting that ...
1
vote
2answers
3k views

The etymology of “religion” comes from “legere” meaning to read + “re” meaning again. Or does it? (more inside) [closed]

The etymology of religion as mentioned in the title comes from Etymonline. And that's very interesting. It makes sense too. My question is, how do the phrases, "to read", "to choose", "to gather", ...
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
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 ...
6
votes
5answers
1k views

Is “SSA triangle problems may have zero or two solutions.” an ambiguous statement?

A test I took included the question True or false: SSA triangle problems may have zero or two solutions. SSA triangles, as was taught in the lesson, can have zero solutions, one solution, or ...
3
votes
4answers
2k views

What's the meaning of 'squared away' here?

We had a death in the family this weekend, so I haven't had the time to spend on this... We've the funeral next weekend, so hopefully we can get squared away before Friday... Looking it up at ...
0
votes
2answers
3k views

How would you parenthetically cite an author that appears twice in a works cited page? MLA

How would you parenthetically cite an author that appears twice in a works cited page? I would like to cite Wachs. Here is a piece of my works cited: Wachs, Juan, Helman Stern, Yael Edan, Michael ...
5
votes
6answers
12k views

“To be in limbo”: Explanation needed

I have asked an English well versed friend to translate an usual expression in my mother tongue (as is, not so relevant for the post) who prompted me: To be in limbo. The only relevant point is that ...
1
vote
2answers
825 views

“adjective noun noun”: which noun does the adjective refer to (“electrical system operators”) [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: How does the hyphen change the meaning in expressions like “high performance” and “high-performance”? Is there a grammar rule behind the hyphen in the phrase 'one-act play'? ...
2
votes
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 ...
4
votes
4answers
21k views

Does the term “within 7 days” mean include the 7th day? [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: Is “in [some period]” different from “within [some period]”? The title states it all: When an author says "within 7 days", does the author mean ...
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 ...
9
votes
6answers
5k views

Meaning of “game of thrones”

What exactly does game of thrones mean? It is being translated into my native language (Czech) as a game in which one might win one of the many thrones, but to me it sounds more like a game in which ...
2
votes
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 ...
1
vote
3answers
889 views

'Supposing', 'Let us suppose': differences in hypothetical sentences

Are there differences in meaning between the sentences below? Supposing they had taken your car without asking you, what would you have done? Let us suppose they had taken your car without ...
11
votes
3answers
434 views

Is this an example of a zeugma?

The following joke is well-known for its ambiguity, with some variation in the animals used: Would you rather a bear ate you or a snake? When the answerer responds something along the lines of, ...
5
votes
1answer
2k views

Is “to have to do something with” ambiguous?

I am struggling with understanding of this structure. So here is something I would need to explain: It has to do something with the car. [It is related to the car somehow.] But what if I want to ...
5
votes
1answer
450 views

Ambiguity of “Lindsey told Jessica that she had cancer”

Lindsey told Jessica that she had cancer. Who had cancer? Is there any rule in English to claim it definitely?
2
votes
4answers
952 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 ...
3
votes
2answers
328 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
8answers
406 views

Nested parentheticals — restructuring for clarity

It's widely known that the name "JavaScript" is trademarked by Oracle (formerly a trademark of Sun, formerly a trademark of Netscape). What was formerly a trademark of Netscape? Sun? Oracle? ...
2
votes
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
votes
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?
0
votes
1answer
936 views

Is “in [some period]” different from “within [some period]”?

Q1: "I'll finish this job within 5 days" definitely means the job is expected to cost 5 days or less. However, does "I'll finish this job in 5 days" mean exactly the same? Q2: Can we say, "I'll ...
-2
votes
1answer
456 views

In Legal English (law) is there an authoritative meaning to “over the age of ‘X’”? [closed]

[This is a question about Legal English, that is, English language used in legal writing, not about strict usage of English outside of legal writing. —DN] In Legal English what does “over the age of ...
1
vote
2answers
15k views

What does “Let me know if the problem persists” exactly mean? [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: When are “if” and “whether” equivalent? Which one is the correct meaning of "Let me know if the problem persists."? Or is it ambiguous? If the ...
3
votes
5answers
489 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' ...
2
votes
4answers
718 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 ...
0
votes
4answers
708 views

“Everything is not…”

I keep hearing people say everything is not… which frustrating because it is ambiguous. It could mean either Nothing is… (for the set of all things, no thing is…) or Not everything is… (for ...
1
vote
0answers
689 views

A good example wanted of noun-adjective ambiguity [closed]

A well-known feature of the English language is that you can use nouns as adjectives: football player, relativity theory, car tyre, army chaplain, house keys, etc. etc. However, some nouns already ...
3
votes
7answers
2k views

Usage of “East Indian” to distinguish from “Native American”

I know someone who uses the term "East Indian" to refer to people from India, or whose ancestors are from India, lest they be misunderstood to mean Native American. This struck me as unusual and ...
3
votes
4answers
185 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 ...
7
votes
2answers
490 views

Is “can't” a euphemism or is it ambiguous?

People often say can't to mean won't. I am not referring to lying, but in cases where it is very clear to the listener that the speaker intends to mean won't. For example: I can't continue in this ...
8
votes
4answers
669 views

Killer Queen. The usage of noun sequences of length two and more. Ambiguity of nouns phrases in English

I have a question about nouns triplets like "sofa box container" and I'll formulate it at the end. I have some reasoning and I want to make sure I'm correct. First of all consider the following ...
6
votes
5answers
259 views

Meaning of “more original computer science”

If I write Knuth has written more original computer science than anybody else does it mean computer science that is more original or more computer science that is original? It seems like it ...
1
vote
3answers
863 views

“All X are not made equal” - ambiguous meaning?

A phrase commonly heard in English (at least informal English) is something like the following: Well, this car is good, but all cars are not made equal! This would be commonly understood by most ...
2
votes
1answer
768 views

Phrase and word-order meaning

I know that "only" and "just" and word-order are oft-mentioned topics on here, but word-order for phrases and meanings - don't both of these mean different things? Here is an example of how word ...