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

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4
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4answers
518 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
550 views

Is “We embraced.” a complete sentence?

Can someone write "we embraced" to mean "we embraced each other?"
6
votes
3answers
242 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
votes
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
votes
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 ...
9
votes
5answers
25k 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
votes
5answers
382 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
votes
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
votes
4answers
267 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 ...
12
votes
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, ...
1
vote
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 ...
18
votes
2answers
21k 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
votes
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 ...
7
votes
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
votes
7answers
44k 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?
15
votes
2answers
22k 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 ...
1
vote
1answer
523 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
votes
2answers
416 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 ...
13
votes
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 ...
2
votes
5answers
410 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 ...
14
votes
4answers
41k 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
votes
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
votes
8answers
5k 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 ...
23
votes
5answers
12k 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 ...
5
votes
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 ...