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

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14
votes
4answers
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 ...
4
votes
4answers
186 views
+500

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 ...
1
vote
4answers
82 views

What does this sentence mean: “You watched his face crack open and your world shifted, …”?

quoted from: To Forget: The look on your son’s face when you accused him of taking fifty dollars out of your purse. You were so certain; nothing he said could sway you. You watched his face crack ...
34
votes
4answers
6k views

“Two yellow spots on its wings” vs “a yellow spot on both wings”

The bird has two yellow spots on its wings. versus The bird has a yellow spot on both wings. Do they mean the same? Which one describes more accurately the yellow spots of the following bird? ...
1
vote
2answers
4k views

“much too [something]” vs “too much [something]”

Which are the differences in meaning and usage between the two expressions "much too [something]" and the most common "too much [something]"? Are they completely interchangeable? i.e.: "much too ...
3
votes
7answers
650 views

A person who goes to gymnastics school — a 'student' or a 'pupil?'

I am trying to find an exact answer of this question: Is a person who goes to gymnastics school a 'student' or a 'pupil?'
0
votes
1answer
31 views

Is this an ambiguous pronoun?

In time, Steven got over his despair and he wanted to do something with his life. He went to the town mayor and asked for financial support for an education. It was never done at the time, but ...
-1
votes
0answers
25 views

Rating words by ambiguity [closed]

I'm currently working on software that needs to know how ambiguous a keyword is. I'm looking for a table of words similar to a dictionary without a description with a score, or even just ordered by ...
3
votes
7answers
290 views

How do I make “X is the thing I wanted to win” unambiguous?

When I say, StackExchange is the website I wanted to win (in an implied context of best website award), it sounds like I wanted to win (own) StackExchange, whereas I'm trying to imply that I wanted ...
0
votes
1answer
45 views

Is “I cannot recommend X too highly” negative or positive? [on hold]

In a yelp review that I was reading recently for a Dr's office, one person was described in this way: I cannot recommend her too highly. Would this be a positive or a negative recommendation. ...
5
votes
3answers
8k views

Difference between “take a taxi” and “get a taxi”

What is difference between the following sentences? I take a taxi/bus/train. I get a taxi/bus/train.
-1
votes
1answer
25 views

Ambiguity using because

Are you feeling hot because my lingerie is cool? What is the speaker asking here? Is the speaker offering advice to someone? Or, perhaps the speaker is asking a question about the cause of a ...
0
votes
0answers
31 views

Is “Positions will be filled starting from August 1st, 2015.” unambiguous?

This is from a job listing for multiple positions, with a submission deadline of May 30th. Does this have an unambigious meaning? I can interpret it in two ways: They will decide upon the suitable ...
10
votes
7answers
33k 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 : ...
5
votes
2answers
67 views

Never perhaps did any man suffer death with more justice, or deserve it less

Source: From Alexander Hamilton to Lieutenant Colonel John Laurens, 1780 October 11 ... [Major John André] he ought to be considered as a spy and according to the laws and usages of nations to ...
2
votes
4answers
78 views

Is there a name for this: an idiom that ambiguously refers to itself?

Two examples I can think of: The athlete's Achilles heel was her Achilles heel. The chef's bread and butter is his bread and butter. In both cases, the order of the idiom and the thing it ...
0
votes
1answer
25 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 ...
0
votes
2answers
51 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 ...
0
votes
2answers
111 views

Who does “who” apply to in this example?

His governors, some of them incompetent and tactless, quarrelled bitterly with the people, who were constantly demanding greater political control. In this sentence, who are demanding greater ...
-1
votes
2answers
338 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?
1
vote
2answers
135 views

Antecedent of “its” in “the dog attacked the cat and its friends” [duplicate]

The dog attacked the cat and its friends. Does the sentence imply that the dog attacked the cat and the cat's friends, or that it attacked the cat and the dog's friends? How would one properly ...
-6
votes
1answer
195 views

Antecedent of “naked” in “I would like to paint a picture of you naked”

You’re such a pretty person, I would like to paint a picture of you naked. Does this mean "you’ll undress while I get my brushes", or does it mean "strike a pose while I take my clothes off"?
2
votes
2answers
80 views

Antecedent of “velocity u” in “particles moving in a medium with macroscopic velocity u”

In the following sentence, whose velocity is u—the particles or the medium? For particles moving in a medium with macroscopic velocity u: The normalized Maxwell’s distribution function (Eq. ...
-3
votes
1answer
43 views

Writing a sentence being less ambiguous [closed]

I have following paragraph with two corrections. A- In the 1980s the largest single provider of day care for children was the federal government, which offered B- The federal government was the ...
-1
votes
2answers
55 views

Etymology: 'pray in aid'

I wish to delve into the definition, which I already understand and so ask NOT about. I already tried the OED; it doesn't explain 'between the lines'. (See 1913 Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary ...
1
vote
2answers
184 views

The meaning of ETA - to origin or to destination?

I'm writing an application with the embedded Uber taxi app functionality. In short, when the user points to a point near his or her location in our app, a Uber button appears, with the following text: ...
2
votes
1answer
39 views

“Do not rely” on something, does rely focus on never using “something”?

So, I was talking with a friend of mine a little while back about what "relying" on something means. His take was that to "rely" on something was to completely depend on the "something", as in only ...
14
votes
6answers
51k 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 ...
2
votes
1answer
43 views

Should “unmeasurable” be used to describe missing data due to obstacles in obtaining measurements?

I am seeing the term "unmeasurable" used occasionally to describe measurements that could not be taken due to unusual circumstances. For example, audio qualities might not be measurable if there is a ...
1
vote
2answers
96 views

Why are ambiguous phrases like “ain't no something” still used? [duplicate]

There are some phrases in English that lead to nothing but unnecessary confusion and frustration, especially for non-native speakers. For instance, I've seen the phrase ain't no something being used ...
0
votes
2answers
36 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 ...
2
votes
1answer
184 views

Charles Bukowski's “best dick” [closed]

I am reading Charles Bukowski's Pulp and as non-native English speaker I am finding decoding certain expressions challenging. For example the main character, Nicky Belane, often refers to himself ...
6
votes
3answers
1k views

Why are the notes or protocol of a meeting referred to as its 'minutes'?

A minute is 60 seconds. Something 'minute' is small, minor, perhaps short. Now, what about the minutes of a meeting or a session? As in, its written protocol? Are they called that because: The ...
3
votes
1answer
129 views

Does 'extraordinary', 'exceptional', 'outstanding' always carry positive connotations nowadays?

When I take the word 'extraordinary', 'exceptional' and 'outstanding' literally, it simply means something 'out of the ordinary', 'rare and/or unusual', or something which 'stands out from the rest', ...
0
votes
3answers
45 views

How to determine the right meaning of 'no not I' ? (1762, UK)

Source: The original Miller of Dee from Bickerstaffe's "Love in a village" (1762) There dwelt a miller, hale and bold, beside the river Dee; He danced and sang from morn till night, no lark so ...
10
votes
3answers
8k views

Use of “Or”, inclusive or exclusive?

My wife and I are playing a game where you roll dice and move so many spaces in a grid "vertically or horizontally". In the use of English it is very common to say, this or the other when it comes ...
0
votes
2answers
58 views

Using “Oldtimer” for items?

Can I use oldtimer for a place or an item that people get used to using during certain times? For example: That photo booth has become an oldtimer for the fair goers.
-1
votes
1answer
120 views

Words to use instead of 'because' because 'because' is inherently ambiguous

What alternatives do we have other than 'because'? 'Because' guarantees you will be partially understood at best because unmodified uses of the word 'because' could mean 'solely because' or 'partly ...
1
vote
3answers
161 views

Is the sentence given below an example of syntactic ambiguity?

The shelf can support a heavier load compared to the others. Would this sentence be considered ambiguous? To me, the pronoun others could refer to either other shelves or other loads, but I wanted to ...
2
votes
1answer
50 views

Memorable or Recall or what

I used in a sentence: your most memorable dream. I meant it as the dream I thought of first. It was interpreted as the dream which is remembered with the most detail. Memorable means, "worth ...
3
votes
2answers
367 views

One sentence with two meanings! “The door was locked”

I'm learning English. I think the sentence "The door was locked" has two meanings!. I'm very confused. First of all, let's look at this example: I broke the glass (Active) The glass was broken ...
1
vote
4answers
360 views

Does 'affect' imply negative effect?

when I say A affects B, does it imply that A has a negative effect on B?
-3
votes
2answers
66 views

a word that is commonly used as either an adjective or a noun [closed]

I'm trying to come up with some sort of play on word, but for that I need a common word that can be used as either a noun or an adjective. here is what I am trying to write: you are a little [word] ...
0
votes
2answers
68 views
2
votes
3answers
162 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 ...
12
votes
9answers
1k views

Safer alternative to “opaque”?

As a child I was taught that opaque means doesn't let any light through at all, as opposed to translucent (lets some light through, but diffused/frosted) or transparent (completely clear, lets you see ...
-3
votes
2answers
75 views

Idiom or phrase meaning

I can not find the meaning of this phrase: perished of fits. What does it mean? It is an idiom? Thanks for help and understanding.
0
votes
0answers
28 views

“Sales” ambiguity

I'm a software developer and for a store system I need to have two tabs in a menu. One tab for listing all the "sales" (a list of every time some items have been sold) and another tab for listing ...
1
vote
2answers
87 views

because I am funny, not good-looking [duplicate]

a. He likes me because I am funny, not good-looking. b. He likes me because I am funny, not because I am good-looking. In which case am I good-looking? In which case is it possible that I am ...
2
votes
3answers
77 views

I can make it, I will leave. What's the precedence and ambiguity?

Here's a scenario. I am confounded when after a discussion with a friend, they arrive at my place on Saturday, here's the transcript. her: I can make it on Saturday. me: Ok, see you then anytime! ...