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

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0answers
810 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 ...
5
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9answers
3k 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
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4answers
192 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 ...
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2answers
501 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 ...
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4answers
722 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 ...
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5answers
262 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 ...
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4answers
1k 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 ...
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1answer
832 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 ...
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4answers
1k views

Arguable (“susceptible to doubt”) vs arguable (“susceptible to being supported”)

According to dictionary.com, the adjective arguable has two definitions susceptible to debate, challenge, or doubt; questionable: Whether this is the best plan of action or not is arguable. ...
3
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2answers
337 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 ...
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1answer
548 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 ...
5
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4answers
398 views

What's the proper interpretation of: “I was kissed by a girl twice”?

The other day I experienced two distinct but similar events. I wanted to convey this to a friend and this is what came to mind: "I was kissed by a girl twice." My question is, does this sentence say, ...
2
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8answers
10k 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 ...
1
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4answers
286 views

What does this mean: “Avoid oral calcium, dairy products, shark cartilage & exercise during the medication.”

I found this behind a medicine. At first thought, the sentence looks like it suggests avoiding exercise during the medication. However, I remember reading somewhere that in US English, when there is a ...
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8answers
9k views

Which one is correct? “A teacher of English” or “An English teacher”? [on hold]

I want to know which is correct teacher of English or English teacher.
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10answers
2k views

Ambiguity of “Dogs must be carried on this escalator”

In the words of the old joke, I wanted to go up to the next floor of a department store, and I saw an escalator with a sign saying Dogs must be carried on this escalator. But I didn't have a ...
7
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8answers
4k views

Is “Four times more” grammatically correct? And, if so, what precisely does it mean?

I have 10 beans. Jim has four times more. Is this a valid sentence? And, if so, does it mean Jim has 40 or 50 beans?
32
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4answers
19k views

How to answer a negative question without ambiguity?

I faced a problem to answer a negative question, for example When someone ask you: Don't you have any money? It's a yes/no question but how should one answer the question without ambiguity? ...
4
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2answers
804 views

Ambiguity when a sentence contains multiple possessive pronouns

I have a question related to another one that I have asked. In the following sentence, whose father is being referenced? Billy’s friend and his father were there. In the following re-structured ...
6
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3answers
173 views

Interpreting ambiguous agreement

We're proud of our tortilla chips and we hope you'll agree. It may seem trivial but I've seen similar remarks on other products and it just doesn't feel like a valid sentence because I can't ...
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6answers
8k views

What is the difference between “archetype” and “prototype”?

I'm very confused by the difference between "archetype" and "prototype", and even more baffled when to use which. Can someone clarify?
4
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4answers
496 views

An ambiguity problem with “the first thing you remember”

I'm having an ambiguity problem with the following sentence: What's the first thing you remember? If I'm right, it may mean either: 1) What is the first thing you can recall, the furthest in ...
4
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2answers
495 views

Is “We embraced.” a complete sentence?

Can someone write "we embraced" to mean "we embraced each other?"
6
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3answers
218 views

“May not” — no choice vs. mere restriction

This is from the tabletop game Warhammer 40k rulebook: The turn Marines arrive they may not assault. I always assumed it means they are not allowed to assault. But the meaning "they may choose not ...
4
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4answers
11k views

Meaning of “I feel so helpless”

What is the phrase "I feel so helpless" supposed to mean? Is it "I feel as though I am unable to offer help" or "I feel as though no one could help me?" I saw it in a movie, and always thought it ...
3
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3answers
1k views

Should “that” or “it” be used in this sentence?

People say things like ‘all publicity is good publicity’ but that isn't always true. Should that in the sentence above be replaced with it? It's sort of ambiguous as to what that is referring to, ...
3
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3answers
322 views

Does “someone appeared to help me” have two meanings?

Someone appeared to help me. If I get it right, this sentence can either mean: "It seems like someone was helping me." (seems like = appear to) "Someone showed up to help me." (show up = ...
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4answers
1k views

“Connotation” vs. “Definition”

There seems to be some ambiguity between the connotation and definition of a word / word group / phrase. The dictionary entry seems to be that a definition is more of a primary description of a word ...
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2answers
1k views

“Miami installed the first ATM for rollerbladers”

This is Snapple Real Fact #851. Is this sentence ambiguous between They installed the first ATM specifically for rollerbladers, and They installed the very first ATM, coincidentally for ...
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5answers
21k views

What is the meaning of the expression “We can table this”?

This came up in an email discussion - we are arguing about the merits and demerits of a certain approach, and I mentioned what I thought was a drawback to a scheme. To that, my colleague replied : ...
7
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5answers
368 views

“Gadhafi forces retreat” - how do you understand that?

Our local newspaper had the headline today "Gadhafi forces retreat" and I read it with "retreat" as the verb instead of "forces" as the verb. I know it is a poorly written headline, but which way is ...
3
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1answer
1k 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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4answers
261 views

Meaning of “The Lord is on our side”

Written in 1836 in Texas P.S. The Lord is on our side—When the enemy appeared in sight we had not three bushels of corn—We have since found in deserted houses 80 or 90 bushels & got ...
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3answers
3k views

How can I distinguish “can” & “can't” from pronunciation?

It's very difficult for me to separate them. I was just listening to some video and it said "Fat cells can’t reproduce themselves." What I thought I've heard is "... CAN reproduce ..." Frankly, ...
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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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2answers
17k views

“All but” idiom has two meanings?

Here's two ways I've seen the "all, but" idiom used: "Close all tabs but this one" (Any modern application with a number of tabs might have this as an option.) It means "close all the tabs, but not ...
5
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2answers
1k views

Is it wrong to say “The sun's rays are primarily responsible for skin damage.”

The sun's rays are primarily responsible for skin damage. To me this sounds like it means that the primary activity of the sun's rays is damaging skin. However the intention is obviously that ...
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3answers
2k views

How much exactly is increased when it is “increased by 1.1”?

I saw it in a text book, and a similar problem that also appeared in the book is "3 times faster", which is already asked. Simply speaking, the book says: Unfortunately, it increases the CPI by ...
15
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7answers
36k views

What is the difference between “nothing but”, “anything but”, and “everything but”?

What is the difference between these phrases? When is it valid to use which? Should they be avoided as being ambiguous?
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2answers
17k views

“X times as many as” or “X times more than”

Suppose John has 5 sweets. Is there any difference between the following two sentences? Jack has 3 times as many sweets as John. Jack has 3 times more sweets than John. I prefer the first ...
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1answer
512 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 ...
4
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2answers
403 views

Books and other things with the same name

Is it proper to say "the book and movie Of Mice and Men" even though the two identical terms "Of Mice and Men" do not refer to the same entity? An alternative would be "the book Of Mice and Men and ...
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3answers
1k views

How are pronouns resolved?

Are pronouns in English resolved syntactically or semantically? Do they always refer to the closest matching noun? A wikipedia article has these examples: We gave the bananas to the monkeys ...
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5answers
379 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 ...
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4answers
35k views

How should “midnight on…” be interpreted?

From what I understand, the word "midnight" is usually interpreted incorrectly. Midnight is written as "12am" which would imply that it's in the morning. Therefore, it should be at the start of the ...
4
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2answers
1k views

Double meaning?

Taken from "A Quiver Full of Arrows": "The flowers have lasted well," she teased, and left him to make the coffee. Does the sentence clearly imply that she left to make the coffee? Or could ...
11
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8answers
4k views

Ambiguity of “quite”

The adverb "quite" has the following meanings according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary: 1: wholly, completely ("not quite finished") 2: to an extreme : positively "quite sure" —often ...
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5answers
10k views

How should I address someone with a known name and unknown gender?

When communicating with foreign cultures, the gender of the addressed person is not always clear from the name. What would be a professional way to address someone in this situation. (Dear Mr or Ms ...
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1answer
2k views

What can I use to remember the difference between “well” and “good”? [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: What is the difference between “good” and “well” Okay, I actually have no idea when it's okay to say well or good but once again I vaguely ...