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

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2answers
127 views

Antedecent of “its” in “the dog attacked the cat and its friends” [duplicate]

The dog attacked the cat and its friends. Does the sentence imply that the dog attacked the cat and the cat's friends or that it attacked the cat and the dog's friends? How would one properly ...
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1answer
70 views

deep roll of blue at the tops

I want some help with my question about the meaning of “deep roll of blue at the tops”: "The men were dressed in blue, of the same shade as their hats, and wore well-polished boots with a deep ...
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1answer
242 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?
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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 ...
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3answers
270 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 ...
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2answers
913 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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2answers
44 views

Stay/keep abreast of

Somewhere in my essay it goes as follows: There is a shared assumption that English is estranging people from their own language, inclining them to subordinate it to English. Even so commonly ...
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2answers
67 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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1answer
41 views

Using the pronoun 'one' twice in a sentence for the same person

I often read sentences that use the pronoun 'one' twice to refer to the same hypothetical person, but I've always felt reluctant in using it myself. Here's an example: One's experiences shape ...
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1answer
53 views

'Ambiguous Nuts' or 'To Shell or not to Shell'

How does one remove the ambiguity of shelled peanuts? Must one just not use the adjective 'shelled' in relation to peanuts, or other nuts, or shellfish?
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1answer
114 views

“falling due” vs “due”

What's the definition of falling due and how did its sense materialise? Please compare it against "due"? I'm mindful that it's an accounting/business term: here are its matches on Google Books. I'm ...
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2answers
182 views

Meaning of “I had just finished year 10 and summer break had begun”

I had just finished year 10 and summer break had begun. What's the meaning of that year 10? Does it mean his age is 10? Or does it mean it's his tenth year of his school?
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2answers
228 views

Settle you in vs Get you settled in [duplicate]

As GET has so many meanings, it is hard for me to distinct between them and understand the nuances. Are these sentences all correct? Would you understand the same thing by them? I will settle you ...
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2answers
175 views

“My job is not to worry about those people” — what does “not” refer to?

In the famous leaked video, Mitt Romney says My job is not to worry about those people An equivalent sentence probably is It is not my job to worry about those people Some media in my home ...
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3answers
323 views

Is “have not worked here for a long time” ambiguous?

I have not worked here for a long time/for many years. Is it ambiguous? Which of the two below is the correct meaning? I have been working here, but only for a short period of time. I once ...
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1answer
2k 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 ...
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1answer
240 views

What is the average number of meanings for a word in English?

Many words have multiple meanings. Sometimes they are related (like "theory" as opposed to "practice", versus "theory" as in "scientific theory"), but sometimes they’re completely different (like ...
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1answer
542 views

Word-order and meaning - which is correct for this notice? [closed]

I'm creating some signs for the office car park, and one of these signs is to control access. What I'm trying to get it to indicate is that cars aren't permitted between 10 am and 4pm except for ...
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3answers
71 views

Turn “in to” or “into” a lonely lane?

I have a sentence I'm writing where I describe making a turn, as I run, into an empty alleyway. Here is how I would like to say it: I turn into a lonely lane... The problem I find is that it ...
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1answer
38 views

Ambiguity in the statement of an Indian politician.

Derek O' Brien is celebrity turned politician in India. Recently in a TV debate on a National TV channel he was recorded saying that he was a Christian first, before that an Indian. (Watch the video ...
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2answers
71 views

Ambiguous relative clause

In the following expression, whom does 'who' refer to? The friends of the participants or the participants themselves? "The friends of the participants who were told to order soft drinks" This was ...
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1answer
171 views

Do the words 'gift' and 'present' have the same meaning? [closed]

As the question says, do these two words have the same meaning?
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1answer
203 views

Is there ambiguity in this sentence?

Further to fathom Aquinas on this matter, however, it is useful to remember that, when he explains what goodness is, he typically says that to be good is, quite generally, the same as being ...
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1answer
215 views

What is the difference between “brush aside” and “brush off”?

He brushed her ideas / accusations aside He brushed her ideas / accusations off She brushed him off / aside after breaking up What's the difference between brush off and brush aside? I looked the ...
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1answer
152 views

Is there a technical term for when verbs in a sentence appear as if they have been swapped around? [closed]

Is there a technical term for when verbs in a sentence appear as if they have been swapped around as in the example here? 'her fingers creased in gold [and] her body ringed in folds' In this ...
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1answer
102 views

For the title alone

Someone has voted for one of my questions with this comment: +1 for the title alone. Which of these two possible meanings is the most correct: The title itself is so nice that I would have ...
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2answers
1k views

How to interpret this kind of sentence?

I have a question related to an example sentence below. I always have slight doubt in interpreting sentences which have this kind of clauses being connected. Consider this sentence: The book ...
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1answer
507 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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0answers
43 views

Can “yell 'word' for passcode” be considered a wordplay? [closed]

Consider the following sentence: Yell "word" for passcode. Obviously it instructs one to yell "word" in order to get a passcode. To me it looks like the sentence could be read as a wordplay ...
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0answers
56 views

Is “nerd” really an abusive or hurting word? [closed]

Calling someone a nerd turns them off, although they are geeky sticking to computers and books all the time. Is it right to call someone a nerd or should we just go with diligent/studious (the very ...
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2answers
40 views

Formatting two adjacent footnote indicators in the body of the footnoted text

I've run into an issue using Microsoft Word 2013. In the following example, there is no way to know whether or not there exists one reference to footnote 12, or two references to footnotes 1 and 2: ...
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1answer
98 views

More confusion with relative pronoun ambiguity

What does the relative pronoun refer to in this sentence? It was probably on the darker/smoother side of things, compared to, say, the Sony ZX-1, which I prefer. To me, his preference isn’t ...
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1answer
307 views

Ask: “You don't think this is right”, Answer:“No, I don't”. What does that mean? [duplicate]

English sentences can be very fascinating... or downright confusing, depends on how you look at it. For example, if A asks B:"You don't think the Josh is right on this, do you", and B answers:"No, I ...
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1answer
335 views

Present perfect or past simple? [duplicate]

I know the basic rules about using PP and PS (like specified time in the past etc.) but in some cases, it is not clear to me: I have finished painting. - present perfect, I just announce that. I ...
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0answers
363 views

What does 'next Monday' mean? [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: Which day does “next Tuesday” refer to? Meaning of “last/this/next Monday” Scenario: You get a phone call on Wednesday, saying "you have to report to X next ...
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0answers
776 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 ...
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6answers
253 views

Does the professor think that I'm pregnant?

Yesterday, I handed my assignment to the professor as I was reaching the deadline. For some reason it took a while for her to check my paper, which made me uneasy, but eventually she looked at me in ...
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3answers
136 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 ...
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6answers
618 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 ...
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3answers
1k views

'Oldest' for age vs. length of time

This discussion arose around the statement "PersonX was my oldest high-school friend" The intention was to refer to length of time known (roughly the opposite of 'most recent') as opposed to meaning ...
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4answers
813 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 ...
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2answers
98 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 ...
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2answers
141 views

Valid? “The river is flowing.”

What is the meaning of the "the river is flowing?" Is this valid usage? Websters, #2: River: A large quantity of a flowing substance The river is already a flow by definition. Can the river be ...
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3answers
81 views

December 15th to December 16th

In general, if I say: From December 15th to December 16th Would you expect the range to be from 12/15 00:00 to 12/16 23:59 or would you expect it to be from 12/15 00:00 to 12/15 23:59?
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3answers
488 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.
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4answers
97 views

What's the difference between “title” and “name”?

I'm not sure when it's appropriate to use word "name", and when to use word "title". For example, "file name" feels right, "file title" doesn't; "document name" and "document title" seem ...
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3answers
164 views

Difference between “college” and “university”

I have seen the words college and university sometimes mixed in the same article. But there are lots of sources where only one is used. I've looked up them in various dictionaries, but couldn't figure ...
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3answers
89 views

“Students avoid boring professors” is ambiguity?

Wondering how “Students avoid boring professors” is ambiguity? I know there is one meaning of this sentence, "stay away from". Is there any other possible meanings?
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2answers
114 views

I promise not to do it, I swear not to do it. Is there a double meaning here?

"I promise [pause] not to do it" seems to me equivalent to "I promise I won't do it". However, "I promise not [pause] to do it" seems to me equivalent to "I do not promise I will ...
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2answers
47 views

Disambiguating fictitiousness

I think that confronted with the statement: The claim is fictitious. or even The claim is made up. most people would interpret it to mean, "The claim was actually made, but its content is ...