This tag is for questions about the meaning of a longer passage of English.

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4answers
3k views

Difference between “voters”, “electorates” and “constituents”

I'm reading an English text about politics, and in one paragraph I found "voters," "electorates" and "constituents." Now I would like to know if they are absolutely the same, or if they have slightly ...
6
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2answers
631 views

What's the connection between “Holy Grail” and “Killer Rabbit”? [closed]

This article says: If there's a Holy Grail, there's a Killer Rabbit. I can understand that to be "even if there's a good solution, there's a catch to it", but what does Killer Rabbit have to ...
6
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2answers
2k views

What does it mean to call something Leviathan in comparison to others?

Wordweb describes Leviathan as: The largest or most massive thing of its kind Monstrous sea creature symbolizing evil in the Old Testament A recent Economist article (see The drug war ...
5
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4answers
2k views

Which is more affirmative: “I think” or “I guess”?

In South Asia, we tend to use "I think" when we are almost sure about something; or sometimes use it ironically like in example "I think you should have done this yesterday". "I guess", on the other ...
4
votes
3answers
1k views

What kind of human character or regional trait does the habit of “the g-dropping” represent for?

Further to the question I posted today about the meaning of the expression, “treat somebody pretty ugly,” which appeared in New York Times’ article (September 17) titled “Rick Perry, Uber Texan,” I ...
4
votes
1answer
471 views

What’s the usage of apostrophes in “ ‘Bye, ‘bye ”?

I’d like to know what effect an apostrophe has which is before a word and doesn’t work as an omitter. (Not like C’mon or ‘Course, but like ‘bye, ‘bye.) I have three questions as follows, but any ...
3
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2answers
592 views

Is “put together” an adjectival phrase?

When someone says "He is smarter than I and she put together," what is the function of the phrase "put together"? Is it considered an adjective?
2
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2answers
4k views

When is between inclusive and when exclusive?

It seems that the exact meaning of between is very tied to its specific usage. What should I assume in a general situation about the inclusivity of between. Consider: "Pick a number between 1 and ...
2
votes
2answers
286 views

How should I understand this “that” clause?

The following sentence is from an article of Harry Frankfurt who is a professor from Princeton University: It must be part of the point of saying that humbug is "short of lying," that while it has ...
2
votes
3answers
3k views

tailored to someone needs VS tailor-made

I wrote a text about our company's services and added that we also can offer products tailored to the needs of our clients. One of my colleagues insisted that the expression was wrong and I should say ...
14
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2answers
3k views

Meaning of “But I repeat myself” in Mark Twain's quote?

There is the following sentence in the conversation between Florentyna Rosnovski, the heroine of Jeffrey Archer’s novel, The Prodigal Daughter, who was first elected as the Congressman of Illinois and ...
13
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9answers
45k views

What does “double-down” mean when used in a context other than Blackjack?

I saw the phrase “double-down” in the following sentence of the Washington Post article (June 28, 2011) titled “Why Michele Bachmann is no Sarah Palin.” “Palin is notorious for doubling-down on ...
12
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5answers
3k views

Difference between “commit suicide” and “suicide”

One of the examples in my English composition book (for learning to write my language's sentences in English) was "Why he committed suicide under such a good circumstance is an unsolved question.", ...
11
votes
4answers
51k views

What does “10-4 ” mean?

I could have asked this question personally to my respected colleague who gave me a valuable answer to the question, “Is the ‘tame the infinite becoming an idiom or a popular phrase,” which I posted ...
9
votes
1answer
789 views

“You were already having been going to do that!”

From one of the Futurama episodes: Farnsworth A: You people and your slight differences disgust me. I'm going home. Where's that blue box with our universe in it? Farnsworth 1: Oh, ...
8
votes
2answers
1k views

Meaning of “duck”

This is an extract from the subtitles of a television series (Bones) in which Brennan have a talk with Booth: Booth: The director will create a special unit. If I line my ducks up, I can head it ...
8
votes
4answers
617 views

“Back up data” or “back data up”?

Which is correct? To back up data. To back data up. The context is the following: He was careful enough to perform tests and [back up data | back data up] to avoid any problems.
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5answers
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Meaning of “to get stuffed”

What does the phrase to get stuffed mean in the following passage taken from my IELTS reading exercise? One of London Zoo’s recent advertisements caused me some irritation, so patently did it ...
7
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5answers
433 views

A single added word that changes the meaning of a question [closed]

At work today, I took an FSA test that asked the question: "You can only give advice to a customer if they ask for it" True OR False? Now, considering our organisation cannot offer advice under ANY ...
6
votes
1answer
7k views

Origin of the term 'bastard sword'

In many computer games (usually role playing games), there is an item called a bastard sword. Why is this name used, and does it bear any relation to the usual meaning of the term bastard?
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6answers
6k views

“When Adam delved and Eve span, who was then the gentleman?”

What do delve and span mean in this quotation from John Ball's sermon addressing the rebels of the Peasant's Revolt? When Adam delved and Eve span, Who was then the gentleman? It doesn't seem ...
6
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6answers
956 views

What does “I’m like, c’mon guys. I’m the president of the United States.” imply?

The Washington Post (April 14) reported President Obama's off-the-cuff remark during a meeting with donors in Chicago held on April 13th under the title: "Obama riffs with donors: Where are the cool ...
5
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5answers
831 views

She was carrying twins and a bulky bag in her hands [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: Using verbs with multiple meanings I am not sure if this is Indian English but the verb carry is often used in India to speak of a pregnant woman and often without an ...
5
votes
5answers
695 views

“One of those is flags”

Jeff Atwood ♦ has just posted something that I'm confused about Stack Overflow, due to its size, has some unique problems. One of those is flags I'd say that those and flags are both in ...
4
votes
2answers
161 views

What does “sheafs” mean in “The rays cut straight sheafs”?

This sentence is from Atlas Shrugged, depicting rays of light running through coils of steam enveloping a building: The rays of a few strong lights cut straight sheafs through the coils. Could ...
4
votes
1answer
961 views

Fall Hard For Something

I am trying to find the right definition of "hard" in this piece of writing: newspaper Looking for a tranquil hideaway after years as a paparazzi magnet, Mr. Frazier bought the single-level ...
4
votes
1answer
863 views

How does “off” fit in this sentence?

I was just studying the various meanings of 'off' on http://english.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/off and I stuck up at just the second example sentence: She dashed off to her room. The ...
4
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2answers
9k views

What does ‘play a blinder’ mean? Is it a popular phrase?

I came across the phrase ‘played a blinder’ in the following paragraph of the New York Times’ December 12 article, titled “British Euro Farce,” dealing with British Prime Minister David Cameron’s veto ...
4
votes
3answers
454 views

What does “wicking” mean in “aircraft quality wicking”?

I read the following from an aircraft magazine where it describes a product: XXX Product is Aircraft Quality Wicking!! The product is a polishing product that one can use to polish something ...
3
votes
1answer
228 views

Is absence of the person needed in “On someone's behalf”?

In the middle of a conversation he had with my father, [Mr. X] asked him: “What does your son want to do in future?”. “He wants to do religious studies,” my father replied. He talked on my behalf ...
3
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3answers
641 views

What does “vampiric” mean in this context? [closed]

In Sam Harris's blog he writes Most of us have been around this block often enough to know that many “former atheists”—like Francis Collins—spent so long on the brink of faith, and yearned for ...
3
votes
4answers
332 views

How should the word “brutal” be used in marketing?

I noticed that some companies use the word brutal for marketing their products. Examples: brutal performance – a data storage software markets itself with this, they mean that their software is ...
3
votes
1answer
726 views

Is “and then some” an offensive expression?

I started an internal email discussion with the title "Editorial: link issues, some spelling issues and then some". However, upon rereading my own mail, it occurred to me that this might express ...
3
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2answers
3k views

What exactly is meant by “This is not to say it's not a bad system”?

Someone on a forum wrote This is not to say it's not a bad system. With some context, This is not a component system. This is not to say it's not a bad system, but in this case you should be ...
3
votes
3answers
647 views

What does the “leave” mean in “parental leave” and “unpaid leave”?

Reading an article on The Washington Post I found this: "The study pointed out that the United States is the only OECD country that does not have a national paid parental leave policy. Some ...
3
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4answers
2k views

What does “to bleed something” mean?

In Bloomberg magazine, I saw this sentence: Rust Belt states that have bled manufacturing jobs. Does it mean they have lost the jobs or gained more jobs?
2
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2answers
312 views

Meaning of “top” in “to sleep as sound as a top”

From "The Early Bird", by George MacDonald. A little bird sat on the edge of her nest; Her yellow-beaks slept as sound as tops; Day-long she had worked almost without rest, And had ...
2
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4answers
1k views

Tea for the Tillerman

In the song "Tea for the Tillerman", there are two things that baffle me. The pronunciation of the word "Tillerman". It sounds to me that he is saying /tilman/. Why is that? What does a tillerman do ...
2
votes
3answers
8k views

“To this effect”

What does "to this effect" in the following sentence mean? (This sentence is in a reply of an application). However, if you are not successful, we will inform you to this effect. Does this mean, ...
2
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0answers
88 views

Is “do something by date X” inclusive? [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: Does “notified by [date]” include the end date? For example, if John says: Return it to me by March 24th. Does it mean that I need to return it to ...
2
votes
2answers
511 views

Is ‘beetle-black eyes’ expressing their owner’s character?

Hagrid's real intention, however, was to talk to Harry away from the rest of the class. He waited until everyone else had set off with their skrewts, then turned to Harry and said, very seriously, ...
2
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2answers
1k views

“However, this book is anything but” meaning

What's the structure and meaning of this sentence in the following text: A friend lent this to me before I headed over to Italy and France this summer. I was a bit skeptical at first as he's ...
2
votes
1answer
226 views

What is the difference between “Prince William and Kate Middleton Marry” and “Prince William and Kate Middleton were married”?

In today’s New York Times (April. 30th) I saw the following line under the caption of “Royal Wedding”: “Prince William and Kate Middleton Marry: Prince William and Kate Middleton were married on ...
2
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5answers
764 views

Meaning of “brave my fire”

As in these Rome - To Die Among Strangers lyrics: the whores of rome and the kings of france have tried to brave my fire now the snakes curl up, the curtains part will you try ...
1
vote
1answer
97 views

What is the structure of “a goal remote in the pursuit is so easy to lose sight of”?

A goal remote in the pursuit is so easy to lose sight of. What does "a goal remote in the pursuit" mean here? I don't understand it structure-wise.
1
vote
3answers
100 views

What's the “case” in “basket case”?

The following is a passage from an article on the origin of the idiom basket case: The origins of this idiom are somewhat grisly. In World War I, there were cases reported which involved soldiers ...
1
vote
1answer
62 views

“Entertain of” - June 12th 1799 Letter by John Marshall

... Virginia has sustaind a very serious loss which all good men will long lament, in the death of Mr Henry. He is said to have expird on thursday last. The intelligence is not absolutely certain ...
1
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1answer
240 views

What is the average number of meanings for a word in English?

Many words have multiple meanings. Sometimes they are related (like "theory" as opposed to "practice", versus "theory" as in "scientific theory"), but sometimes they’re completely different (like ...
1
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0answers
157 views

Examples on the usage of “dialectical” and “tautology” [closed]

I've been coming across both words a lot and understand them in passing; but I was wondering if I may be given some sentence examples which explicitly illustrate their meanings? I feel that I lack ...
1
vote
2answers
1k views

What does “last month” mean?

Let me explain the situation. Today is Oct 31, 2012. After I got my October pay-slip yesterday I had the following conversation: Me: Hey guy, I have a question to ask you about the pay-slip of the ...