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

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6
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9answers
1k views

Does a “fact” have to be true?

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 ...
7
votes
1answer
8k 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 ...
1
vote
2answers
58 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
votes
1answer
60 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 ...
1
vote
1answer
95 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 ...
0
votes
1answer
61 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 ...
0
votes
2answers
59 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
votes
2answers
92 views

A sentence with double negative [on hold]

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, ...
1
vote
1answer
38 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 ...
0
votes
1answer
35 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?
1
vote
3answers
448 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. ...
0
votes
0answers
14 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
votes
3answers
4k 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?
2
votes
2answers
105 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 ...
1
vote
1answer
48 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. ...
2
votes
2answers
170 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 ...
0
votes
1answer
27 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
votes
1answer
47 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?
1
vote
0answers
60 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 ...
0
votes
2answers
21 views

Role Title Word That Conveys a Sense of Direction/Command as well as Engagement of Particular Skills in Work

I'm looking for an eloquent word, if one exists, for a role in one's profession whereby they direct and mentor a team with a particular set of skills, but also clearly engage in work with said skills ...
1
vote
3answers
58 views

Ambiguity of “last” [closed]

I find "last" ambiguous in the following context: I destroyed his report in our last meeting. IMHO, both of the following interpretations make sense: "He can get however pissed he wants; ...
0
votes
4answers
93 views

“learnings” to talk about things that were learned but that were not taught

I understand that the use of learnings is very controversial. Some say you can't use it, while others say, "there is nothing wrong with teachings, so why with learnings?". I want to use learnings not ...
0
votes
3answers
107 views

What word would best represent a combination of being alive, thinking differently, and having atmosphere [closed]

I know it sounds pretty hard to find such a word, but I'm needing a title that flows and is pretty, and attractive. This is a title for a project. The word I'm trying to think of would try to express ...
4
votes
6answers
100 views

In the phrase “No more than two cats or dogs”, how many total pets are possible?

It seems this phrase can be read in two ways: A) No more than 2 (cats or dogs) [2 total] B) No more than 2 cats or (2) dogs [4 total] Does this phrase have a singular meaning, or is it ambiguous?
0
votes
1answer
607 views

The use of “actually” and “whatsoever”

The word, actually means to "emphasize a fact or a comment, or that something is really true." So why is whatsoever used in this sentence You have no right whatsoever to read what is written ...
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 ...
5
votes
4answers
226 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 ...
1
vote
4answers
108 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
699 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?'
3
votes
7answers
304 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 ...
5
votes
3answers
9k 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
26 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
40 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
35k 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 : ...
6
votes
2answers
80 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 ...
3
votes
4answers
89 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
40 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
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
358 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
202 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
82 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
53 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
67 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
205 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
64 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
54k 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
47 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 ...