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

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2answers
34 views

“piecemeal” (about a theatre prop)

I'm translating an American article on a theatre production that is really challenging for a non-native speaker. Here's a passage describing one of the props, a car: Indeed, the set, by Maria ...
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1answer
67 views

Commas for parenthetical info when against technicality and ambiguity

I write the following sentence as follows: "The lady spent a few seconds gently patting the two chocobos at the coach, a popular species of avian bred throughout the country". Where does one draw the ...
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2answers
138 views

What is an unambiguous term for a square standing on its corner?

I'm helping write descriptions for a catalogue of Pacific artefacts, and have stumbled upon a problem. A fan is shaped like a square, with a handle coming down from one of the corners. What is the ...
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2answers
161 views

Wording of the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation

The following bit of Lincoln's Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation of September 22nd, 1862 was quoted in the Emancipation Proclamation: That on the first day of January, in the year of our Lord ...
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1answer
42 views

Writing one academic year to another academic year

I am a bit confused. When do we write 2014-2015 and when do we write 2014-15? Are the two the same? If yes, which is more formal?
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2answers
621 views

Is “sh*t” rude, or can it be a compliment? [closed]

Is it rude to say shit? I heard someone say it today and I think they used it as a compliment. I think they said this: You look shit. I looked in the dictionary, but I couldn't find anything.
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2answers
84 views

how to use the word “Best” correctly?

Ok, in the dictionary, the word best has this meaning: Best:of the most excellent, effective, or desirable type or quality So, it seems that we only use best for the top highest quality of a ...
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2answers
84 views

Technically, “a handful of rice” is “the amount of rice that fills up just 1 palm of a hand or 2 palms of both hands”? [closed]

If we say "we only have a handful of rice", then technically, "we only have the amount of rice that fills up just 1 palm of a hand or 2 palms of both hands"? Is there anyone saying "technically, we ...
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2answers
94 views

Etymology: 'pray in aid'

P2. to pray in aid: (a) {intr.} to call on the assistance of (also †for), to make use of, esp. in proving an argument (now rare); (b) {trans.} (esp. Law) to ask for the assistance of (a person ...
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2answers
73 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. ...
3
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3answers
97 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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1answer
56 views

What is the difference between “regretting one's decision” and “ going back on one's decision”? [closed]

1- I regretted my decision to go there. 2- I went back on my decision to go there. Did the narrator go to that given place or not?
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1answer
102 views

What is 'less' about 'unless'?

[Etymonline:] unless (conj.) [:] mid-15c., earlier onlesse, from on lesse (than) "on a less condition" (than); see less. The first syllable originally on, but the negative connotation and the ...
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2answers
48 views

“… get just deserts.” Can ambiguity be syntactic and also semantic?

On the page, but not when spoken, this line has a double meaning: "Lost travellers in Egypt get just deserts." The key word is the homograph ( or homogram) deserts which can be abstract , (when ...
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2answers
383 views

Ambiguity in use of relative pronouns

The animal ate the father of Jay, who was an engineer. So who is the engineer here? Father or Jay? How can I use which, that, who to refer to the whole object or only to parts of the object?
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2answers
31 views

Options for disambiguating a sentence?

The phrase 'deliberation related to emotions and values about what’s good and bad' has a potential ambiguity about whether 'emotions' is to be understood generally or as also being about 'what's good ...
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3answers
142 views

“This page intentionally blank” … but it isn't!

We are all familiar with user manuals or documents with pages printed with "intentionally blank" ... but with those words on them, they are no longer blank! I'm pretty sure I saw a user manual once ...
2
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2answers
239 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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1answer
75 views

Moonlight raked the lawn

Years ago, I saw a discussion about a writer who had, allegedly without humorous intent, injected some surprising atmosphere into a story by saying that "moonlight raked the lawn". The contributors ...
23
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3answers
33k 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 ...
2
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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'? ...
1
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1answer
78 views

Reading Comprehension Question: How to narrow down to correct answer? [closed]

Passage (Its a bit long) The pioneers of the teaching of science imagined that its introduction into education would remove the conventionality, artificiality, and backward-lookingness which ...
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3answers
194 views

Could “giving aids” be ambiguous?

In Wiktionary the noun aid is defined as aid (plural aids) 1. Help; assistance; succor, relief.   He came to my aid when I was foundering. 2. A helper; an assistant.   3. Something which ...
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2answers
72 views

To be sound in doing something?

I've looked up each and every possible meanings of sound. I've reduced the options to two or so. But I still find it hard to ascertain the meaning of sound and the way its is used in this context. ...
3
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5answers
341 views

How do I pluralize the coffee drink “shot in the dark”?

For those that do not know, there is a coffee drink that is sometimes called a shot in the dark. It consists of an espresso shot poured into a regular cup of Joe. Suppose that I would like to order ...
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4answers
2k views

Meaning of the full title of Darwin's “On the origin of species”

The full title of Darwin's work "On the origin of species" is: "On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life". My ...
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2answers
34 views

How far 'outside' was 'beside'?

[Source:] Note that the substitute of “beside” for “outside” was perfectly appropriate since, at that time (although today obsolete), “outside” was one of the well-used meanings of “beside,” having ...
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3answers
78 views

Does vacillation imply intention or a mind? Can non-intelligent things vacillate?

A friend and I are arguing about this. Does vacillation imply a mind? Can a non-intelligent thing vacillate? In the context of video games my friend mentioned that his ping was vacillating. I argued ...
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3answers
5k 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
3k views

Why do they say “may not” for things which people shouldn't do

I have seen in so many place where they would have mentioned "You may not.." etc for the things people shouldn't do. For eg: in companies where USB is not allowed, they will mention like this "You may ...
10
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3answers
164 views

notionistic education / teaching?

What's the right word to indicate a type of education based on memorizing facts or a superficial understanding of things, without real insight or critical mind development? In my native language ...
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1answer
51 views

What does the phrase “deceptively spacious” mean? Spacious or not? [duplicate]

This is a phrase oft-used by real estate agents. Their use of it typically implies a positive connotation i.e. a deceptively spacious house is really spacious, perhaps surprisingly so. But really this ...
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0answers
31 views

How is 'notwithstanding' governed by some preposition that is the 'subject of the verb'?

Source: p 993 of the book itself (but p 497 of the online viewer with the scroller at the bottom), An Etymological Dictionary of Modern English, volume 2 (1921), by Ernest Weekley: ...
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11answers
4k views

Does a “fact” have to be true? [duplicate]

I'm struggling to decide whether to jettison use of the word fact, because the definition appears to be not solid enough to support continued usage. What do I mean by that? Look at one "meaning ...
2
votes
2answers
97 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 ...
8
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1answer
10k views

Controversy over verb choice in “neither you nor I {is/am/are} in control”

I was watching the film A Game of Shadows starring Robert Downey Junior and Jude Law when this line came up, "...neither you nor I is in control..." (I can’t remember the exact words that ended the ...
2
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2answers
87 views

To which 'court' does 'courtyard' refer?

courtyard (n.) 1550s, from court (n.) + yard (n.1). Strangely, the OED forgoes the etymology. Wikipedia also is ambiguous. So please disambiguate the meaning of court? I know that court ...
3
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1answer
67 views

Is a dark polka dot necktie dark?

In The Syntactic Phenomena of English, McCawley considers the phrase "a dark blue necktie", and concludes that "blue" in that phrase is simultaneously a noun and an adjective. It modifies the noun ...
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1answer
96 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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2answers
67 views

Does “unexpectedly” apply to one or both following verb phrases?

We're having a discussion in a forum on rulings in duplicate bridge. In duplicate bridge, each partnership has their own set of bidding system agreements, and there are regulations that specify that ...
3
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2answers
108 views

A sentence with double negative [closed]

I came across the following sentence in Kurt Vonnegut's book Slaughterhouse Five. “Trout would have gone upstairs if Billy hadn't asked him not to.” If this sentence is considered independently, ...
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1answer
52 views

Etymology of 'inexorable' : What does 'out' + 'pray' mean?

inexorable (adj.)    1550s, from Middle French inexorable and directly from Latin inexorabilis "that cannot be moved by entreaty," from in- "not, opposite of" (see in- (1)) + exorabilis "able ...
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3answers
790 views

How do you write the expression of disgust that sounds like “er”?

My daughter said to me this morning (the context is irrelevant): Er, it's all wet! The interjection I have written here as Er was synonymous with Yuck. Its wetness did not cause great happiness. ...
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0answers
17 views

“elected” vs. “selected” [duplicate]

The board has elected the team members OR The board has selected the team members. Is there a difference between elected and selected in this sentence?
3
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3answers
5k views

The meaning of: “Why don't you just beat it?”

I would like to know what does this phrase means: "Why don't you just beat it?" My dictionary says only that: beat it: get lost Can you beat it? : Do you get it?
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2answers
110 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 ...
2
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2answers
174 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
34 views

Meaning of for in this poetry

The word for creates ambiguous ideas in my native language, so I really can't understand the main objective in this phrase: "Why does she sing her sad songs for me, I'm not the one" It is a verse of ...
2
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1answer
53 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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0answers
62 views

What is the correct interpretation of “The state of Computer Vision and AI: we are really, really far” [closed]

There was a recent blog post created with the title "The state of Computer Vision and AI: we are really, really far" which I originally did not think of as ambiguous (I interpreted it as 'we are not ...