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

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1answer
244 views

Charles Bukowski's “best dick” [closed]

I am reading Charles Bukowski's Pulp and as non-native English speaker I am finding decoding certain expressions challenging. For example the main character, Nicky Belane, often refers to himself ...
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2answers
94 views

Antecedent of “velocity u” in “particles moving in a medium with macroscopic velocity u”

In the following sentence, whose velocity is u—the particles or the medium? For particles moving in a medium with macroscopic velocity u: The normalized Maxwell’s distribution function (Eq. ...
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2answers
183 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 ...
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1answer
2k 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 ...
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2answers
277 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 ...
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2answers
1k 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'? ...
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1answer
199 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 ...
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3answers
1k 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 ...
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1answer
496 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?
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2answers
96 views

“Each” in potential subject position in compound sentence always pronoun?

This question is related to: "Each" — pronoun or adverb The sentence in that question is: M and W are letters and each has 4 strokes In that sentence, how do we know that “each” is a ...
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2answers
278 views

Ambiguity in Negation: “John did not come because of the rain”

John did not come because of the rain. This sentence seems to allow the following two completely different interpretations. John did not come. And the reason was the rain. John came. But the ...
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3answers
7k 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."
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1answer
203 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 ...
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2answers
717 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
337 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 ...
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2answers
226 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 ...
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2answers
14k views

Are “that's it” and “that's all” interchangeable?

Are "that's it" and "that's all" interchangeable? Is there any specific case where I should use one instead of the other?
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3answers
633 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? ...
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4answers
1k 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 ...
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1answer
554 views

Is this sentence ambiguous?

I was reading my apartment lease recently, and I came across this sentence in the rent section: "Lessee will pay a penalty of $16.00 for rent that is unpaid before the 6th of the month." The ...
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2answers
52 views

Does this sentence regarding “coleopteran” make sense? [closed]

There's some ambiguity between Polish and English ( as far as beetles are concerned). Please help me determine if this sentence makes any sense at all. Thank you. I know that a (forest) dung ...
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3answers
183 views

Reading Comprehension question [closed]

Here is a GRE practice question that I have an issue with. It is given here, Question #7. Passage: French cuisine is highly regarded all over the world. Yet in Paris there are more ...
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2answers
124 views

“She left small pins in the shoes he wore to injure his feet” – is this ambiguous?

She left small pins in all the shoes he wore to injure his feet. I wrote this sentence and I thought it was fine. When I re-read it, the meaning became unclear to me. I want it to mean that she ...
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2answers
453 views

why say “take” when we really mean “leave” (a piss, etc.)

The use of "take" in colloquial expressions of urination and defecation continues to both confound and amuse even the youngest of language enthusiasts. Just ask my son, who will insist with a smile ...
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3answers
73 views

How to resolve the ambiguity of “two day classes”

Two day classes will take place this week. Here, "day classes" is a compound. I don't want it to sound like it's just one class that goes on for two days.
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1answer
124 views

Ambiguity of “bag down for a better ride”

Today I saw a sign on the train that said Bag down for a better ride. There was an accompanying picture of someone carrying a large bag on his back, possibly causing inconvenience to others: ...
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2answers
177 views

“A healthy amount” of sugar… so… no sugar? =( [closed]

I've always heard and used the expression "a healthy amount" to mean "a lot". But as I stirred my coffee this morning, I realized that's exactly how I described the sugar that goes in my coffee, and ...
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1answer
688 views

What is the meaning of “cooling relations”?

Sometimes relations between nations can be considered to be "cooling"? What does this mean? I can't tell if it means: The relationship is getting better because it's "cooling-off" from "hot" ...
2
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1answer
178 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 ...
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1answer
1k 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 ...
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1answer
1k 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 ...
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4answers
1k 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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100 views

What does “all not” mean exactly in this context?

All DriveTest Centres do not provide car rentals to applicants. The sentence above is taken from here. In my understanding, it means some DriveTest Centres may provide car rentals while others ...
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2answers
124 views

How do you reconcile these definitions of the word 'cynical'?

From the Google Search dictionary (similar definition at oxforddicationaries): 1.believing that people are motivated purely by self-interest; distrustful of human sincerity or integrity. ...
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1answer
97 views

tenant vs lodger meaning

What is the difference between a tenant and a lodger? Both words seem to mean the same, so when is one preferred over the other, or is it a case of different terms to name the same thing?
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3answers
210 views

I can make it, I will leave. What's the precedence and ambiguity?

Here's a scenario. I am confounded when after a discussion with a friend, they arrive at my place on Saturday, here's the transcript. her: I can make it on Saturday. me: Ok, see you then anytime! ...
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1answer
172 views

When did “to forgive” lose its primary meaning for pardoning and become solely about an emotional response?

During a recent debate I was having with a peer, I was shocked to find out that the word "forgive" no longer carries a primary association with the act of pardoning another individual (i.e., ...
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1answer
809 views

Is there a word or phrase to describe ambiguous sarcasm?

To be specific, this statement refers to a phrase in which the writer/speaker's intention of being sarcastic is not disclosed to the reader/listener (deliberately or accidentally). The effect strongly ...
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2answers
96 views

What is the definition of definition?

Does a definition need to provide a unique or near-unique description or can non-unique descriptions also be categorized as definitions? For example: Is the statement "An apple is a fruit" a ...
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3answers
279 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 ...
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2answers
7k views

“much too [something]” vs “too much [something]”

Which are the differences in meaning and usage between the two expressions "much too [something]" and the most common "too much [something]"? Are they completely interchangeable? i.e.: "much too ...
2
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1answer
2k 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 ...
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1answer
34 views

whether - followed by positive or negative form?

''Pascal attempted the experiment of seeing whether, with the aid of the most incisive knowledge, everyone could not be brought to despair: the experiment miscarried, to his twofold despair.'' ...
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1answer
67 views

Religious vs spiritual?

Is there a difference beween being religious and being spiritual? Or for that matter, is there any such thing as a "Spiritual Atheist"? Writings supporting the idea that the two are different: ...
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2answers
149 views

“I saw him playing football”

In this sentence, is "playing football" a participle phrase describing the object "him", or is "him playing football" all a gerund phrase functioning as the object? The problem with English grammar ...
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1answer
330 views

“Do not rely” on something, does rely focus on never using “something”?

So, I was talking with a friend of mine a little while back about what "relying" on something means. His take was that to "rely" on something was to completely depend on the "something", as in only ...
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1answer
108 views

Should “unmeasurable” be used to describe missing data due to obstacles in obtaining measurements?

I am seeing the term "unmeasurable" used occasionally to describe measurements that could not be taken due to unusual circumstances. For example, audio qualities might not be measurable if there is a ...
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1answer
101 views

Memorable or Recall or what

I used in a sentence: your most memorable dream. I meant it as the dream I thought of first. It was interpreted as the dream which is remembered with the most detail. Memorable means, "worth ...
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1answer
121 views

Ambiguity of “just” in a context

I know that there are similar questions, but I'd like to know what's the "preferred" meaning of "just" in a specific sentence in this context. I was watching a GTA V movie, called "Meltdown". In a ...
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1answer
81 views

What does this sentence mean generally? [closed]

"I am off it" What does this sentence mean generally? I am not well, interested etc?