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

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2
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3answers
86 views

What is the definition of definition?

Does a definition need to provide a unique or near-unique description or can non-unique descriptions also be categorized as definitions? For example: Is the statement "An apple is a fruit" a ...
5
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3answers
5k views

What is the difference between “illness” and “disease”?

Are there any differences when those words are used? By whom they are used? Google n-gram All English English fiction: I would guess that "illness" is rather a term which is used in spoken ...
0
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2answers
113 views

How best to use the word “best”?

The word best means: Best: of the most excellent, effective, or desirable type or quality It seems that we only use best for the top highest quality of a certain thing. For example, there are ...
0
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3answers
28 views

“Do not … and …” grammar confusion

I recently read this sentence: Do not declare this callback function with a void return type and cast the function pointer to LPTHREAD_START_ROUTINE when creating the thread. and wasn't sure if ...
0
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0answers
38 views

Different words with the same meaning [on hold]

I need help with different words that have about the same meaning ( to me ), when would you use: feared frightened scared afraid anxious terrified Are there specific cases or are some just ...
1
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2answers
2k views

Meaning of the word “FOR” used at the beginning of a sentence

I have encountered the word "for" many times. But, even if I use the dictionary, I can not understand the meaning of this word used at the beginning of a sentence. Here is an example: It would be an ...
0
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0answers
42 views

Meaning of smileys [on hold]

I understand a lot of purists will try to kill this question within seconds, but I recently received a text message from a friend telling me "I'm afraid my girlfriend dumped me ;)". At first, I told ...
12
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8answers
41k 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 : ...
0
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1answer
28 views

Precise interpretation of “in excess of”

I'd like to have some precision on the meaning of "in excess of" in following sentence. Commissions in excess of 180% of quota in a given fiscal year will be calculated at 0.3x of the base rate. ...
0
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2answers
54 views

Writing one academic year to another academic year [closed]

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?
1
vote
1answer
650 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 ...
1
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2answers
31 views

Ambiguity of “… is not to …” [duplicate]

The purpose is not to dance like an elephant. I see two ways of interpreting this sentence: It is incorrect to say that "dance like an elephant" is the goal. The objective is to prevent dancing ...
0
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0answers
19 views

The front and back door(s) are red [duplicate]

If I have only one front door, and only one back door, and they are both red. Which is correct: The front and back door are red; The front and back doors are red. I feel that (1) looks ...
12
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3answers
4k 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
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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 ...
1
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2answers
82 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. ...
7
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3answers
252 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 ...
0
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3answers
68 views

“Wizards” in software. “A wizard who” or “A wizard that”

Is a wizard in software design animate or inanimate? More of a philosophical question I guess.
0
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0answers
58 views

Enlighten the difference between phrasal verb and the verb followed by a preposition

I can't help getting confused! Though the question has been asked, the coherent answer describing why sometimes two names (ie phrasal verb and prepositional verb) are given to the same ...
5
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4answers
281 views

Is “crash into a bend” BrE and must there be a structure at the bend in order to use the phrase?

Includes 10 uses, showing it is far from a one-off phrase. Numbers 4 & 5 (bicycle) and 7, 8, 9, 10 ("everyday usage") are the uses I am most interested in. Question 1 If a vehicle ...
2
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2answers
61 views

What does “all not” mean exactly in this context?

All DriveTest Centres do not provide car rentals to applicants. The sentence above is taken from here. In my understanding, it means some DriveTest Centres may provide car rentals while others ...
1
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2answers
45 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 ...
0
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2answers
101 views

Is a handful of rice the amount of rice that fills up one or two palms? [closed]

If we say “we only have a handful of rice, then technically do we only have the amount of rice that fills up just one palm alone, or is it the amount that fillms the palms of both hands? Is there ...
0
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2answers
75 views

Differences between expressions including [not/no + more/less + than~]

I have read an article on English expressions of comparison on a website in Japanese, however I am still unsure about the content and would like to check if it is correct. It gives 4 examples as ...
5
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3answers
99 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 ...
0
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2answers
39 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 ...
0
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1answer
70 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 ...
1
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2answers
154 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 ...
0
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2answers
641 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.
-1
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2answers
110 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 ...
3
votes
3answers
108 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 ...
1
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1answer
63 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?
-1
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1answer
115 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 ...
6
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2answers
56 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 ...
-1
votes
2answers
398 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?
6
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3answers
151 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
votes
2answers
271 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 ...
4
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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 ...
24
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3answers
35k 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
vote
1answer
103 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 ...
1
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3answers
215 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 ...
0
votes
2answers
105 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
votes
5answers
391 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 ...
1
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2answers
36 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 ...
0
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3answers
93 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 ...
1
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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 ...
1
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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
166 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 ...
0
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1answer
76 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 ...