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

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2
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3answers
2k 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 ...
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2answers
207 views

What does one's status being “less a blank check than an equation with multiple variables” mean?

There is the following line in a December 8 New York Times article titled “Clinton’s countless choices hinge on one: 2016”: “But being Hillary Clinton is never a simple matter, and her next few ...
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2answers
269 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 ...
14
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4answers
4k views

What does “don’t pave the cow path” mean in this context?

I came across a new phrase while reading description section of a webinar topic on Operational Best Practices in the Cloud here. Excerpt: Don’t pave the cow path. Cloud infrastructure is very ...
13
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9answers
41k 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
2k 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
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4answers
40k 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
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1answer
735 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
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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
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4answers
591 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
4k views

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
391 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
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1answer
5k 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
5k 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
869 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
661 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 ...
5
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4answers
1k 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
1answer
639 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
639 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
6k 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 ...
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5answers
2k views

What is the meaning of “ought not”?

Consider this example: A few strong branches over water reach for what they ought not reach. Which of the meanings comes closest to “ought not” in this sentence? Is it “doesn't have to”, “should ...
4
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3answers
442 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
119 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
513 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
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4answers
297 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
639 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
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3answers
618 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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3answers
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?
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4answers
774 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
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3answers
6k 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
87 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
478 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
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1answer
222 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
713 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 ...
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1answer
94 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
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1answer
61 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 ...
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1answer
217 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 ...
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0answers
153 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
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2answers
793 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 ...
1
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1answer
385 views

Meaning of “as … as any … someone had ever done”

Recently I have been reading "The Lost Symbol" and there is a sentence I find hard to understand. The wooden stair descending to the Capitol's subbasement were as steep and shallow as any stairs ...
1
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5answers
146 views

Precedence: and > or?

The question Precedence of “and” and “or” asks if there is any notion of precedence ordering in the English and it would seem not, based on the answers. Regardless of that, if you saw the following ...
1
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2answers
448 views

Does a comparative always need to compare with something?

As I understand it, comparatives compare with something. So something that is colder is more cold than another thing. However, can't a word like colder be used as an adjective without being compared ...
1
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3answers
766 views

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

What does the phrase lemon on mean in this context? Is it an idiom? What is its correct usage? Excerpt from where I read this phrase: ... Hold on, for this deal, one that does not exist anywhere ...
1
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2answers
5k views

Meaning of “f*ck” in the following conversation

This conversation is from "Youth in Revolt" movie. A boy named Nick met his colleague, a girl, in a music shop while purchasing a DVD and after a little talk, her boyfriend hugged her from behind ...
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4answers
282 views

What does this mean: “Avoid oral calcium, dairy products, shark cartilage & exercise during the medication.”

I found this behind a medicine. At first thought, the sentence looks like it suggests avoiding exercise during the medication. However, I remember reading somewhere that in US English, when there is a ...
1
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2answers
122 views

Schedule on Tuesday

Take the following sentence. We want to schedule your appointment on Tuesday. Does this mean they want the process of scheduling to take place on Tuesday, or do they want my appointment to be on ...
1
vote
2answers
678 views

“It’s the height of the season”?

The question is from the transcript of a podcast: Mmmm, blueberries. It’s the height of the season, and I’ve been tossing a handful onto cereal, into pancakes or just straight into my mouth. I ...
1
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4answers
3k views

What did “your mom did a number on you” mean in Seinfeld?

I remember one episode on Seinfeld, a girl said "did your mother do a number on you" when they were talking about breaking up or not. This is the sentence reported from the transcript: LISI: ...