Tagged Questions

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

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1
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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'? ...
2
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2answers
3k 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
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4answers
31k 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
258 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
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6answers
7k 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
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1answer
132 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
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3answers
1k 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 ...
12
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3answers
475 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
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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
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1answer
474 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
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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 ...
3
votes
2answers
396 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
413 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
646 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
320 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
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1answer
1k 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
629 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
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2answers
19k 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
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5answers
579 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
838 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
960 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
920 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
votes
9answers
4k 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
194 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
506 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
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4answers
780 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
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5answers
263 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 ...
0
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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 ...
2
votes
1answer
900 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 ...
4
votes
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
votes
2answers
357 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 ...
1
vote
1answer
560 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
votes
4answers
401 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
votes
8answers
12k 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
vote
4answers
290 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 ...
0
votes
8answers
10k views

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

I want to know which is correct teacher of English or English teacher.
18
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10answers
3k 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
votes
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
votes
4answers
21k 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
votes
2answers
853 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
votes
3answers
174 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 ...
25
votes
6answers
9k 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
votes
4answers
513 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
votes
2answers
528 views

Is “We embraced.” a complete sentence?

Can someone write "we embraced" to mean "we embraced each other?"
6
votes
3answers
235 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
votes
4answers
12k 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
votes
3answers
2k 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
votes
3answers
325 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 = ...
7
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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 ...
0
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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 ...