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

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14
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9answers
61k 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 ...
13
votes
7answers
3k views

What does “and counting” in “Bits of plastic in oceans: 5.25 trillion and counting” mean?

Today’s (December 11) online New York Times carries an article dealing with the quantum increase of plastic material in the ocean under the headline, “Bits of plastic in oceans: 5.25 trillion and ...
9
votes
4answers
2k views

What does “Swish of skirt” mean? Why is it a sexist expression?

Time magazine (March 13) carries AP’s report on North Korea’s radical reaction against ongoing U.S.-South Korean military drills under the headline, “N. Korea criticizes S. Korea President’s ‘Swish of ...
9
votes
1answer
1k 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
11answers
85k views

New (slang?) meaning of bass?

I have come across the song "About that bass" by Meghan Trainor, and was wondering what "bass" and "treble" mean in the chorus, which goes: Because you know I'm all about that bass, 'Bout that ...
8
votes
2answers
3k 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
5answers
8k 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 ...
8
votes
4answers
14k 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?
7
votes
5answers
615 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 ...
7
votes
5answers
15k 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 ...
7
votes
6answers
12k 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 ...
5
votes
2answers
489 views

19th century American English “slang”?

As I was doing a bit of research online I stumbled on this Children's Corner page 311 from the American Farmers' Magazine 1858. And, frankly, there are a lot of words that look totally foreign to me. ...
5
votes
4answers
474 views

“Not to want someone doing something.” What shade of meaning is attached to using the gerund rather than infinitive?

On page 137 of First Certificate Trainer by Peter May (Cambridge Books for Cambridge Exams), the last paragraph in Test 4, Use of English Part 2 (a cloze test on a short text entitled Safe camping), ...
5
votes
5answers
2k 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
2answers
63k views

What are initials?

I am filling a form for living in the campus on a university in Australia. The due date for sending this application is near, and I have asked the very same question to them in e-mail and haven't got ...
5
votes
2answers
4k views

What does the phrase that 'I've all but..' mean in this sentence?

I found the sentence below in a book I'm reading: I've all but given up dating because I'm so tired of the pain and humiliation. What does I've all but mean in this context?
4
votes
2answers
361 views

Meaning of the phrase “treats of” in the title of chapter 1 of Oliver Twist [closed]

The title of chapter 1 of Oliver Twist is as follow: "Treats of the place where Oliver Twist was born...". What is the exact meaning of the plural word "treats"? I assume it means something like ...
4
votes
2answers
251 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
4k 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
2k 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
votes
2answers
695 views

Original use of kosher in the English lanuage

Recently I saw a post on the meta.rpg.se site that asked When is editing your answer not kosher?, and it got me thinking. Why is the word Kosher used, instead of, for example, Halal, Permissible, or ...
4
votes
3answers
593 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 ...
4
votes
4answers
4k 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?
3
votes
3answers
1k views

“The Moving Finger writes even in Heaven.”

Following is an extract from a Rabindranath Tagore story called, "A Wrong Man in Workers' Paradise". I need help in understanding the contextual meaning of a line in it. The story is about a man who ...
3
votes
3answers
1k 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
577 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
1k 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
votes
2answers
7k 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
55k views

What is the precise meaning of “Pretty Good”?

Once I used "pretty good" as a reply to one of my friends' question "How are you today?", I was under the impression that the "pretty good" will weigh much more than just "good", means "very good" or ...
3
votes
3answers
790 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 ...
2
votes
2answers
256 views

What is the meaning of “tank” in this sentence? [closed]

I think that to tank means to become strong, huge in height and weight. But I can't place the same meaning in this context: When the economy tanks as it did in the recent recession, How does ...
2
votes
1answer
161 views

Possible Interpretations of “Log”

While doing some research I ran across the following passage. I know what "shackles' are, what might a "log" be? “It is very seldom that a boy deserves both a log and a shackle at the same time! ...
2
votes
1answer
158 views

Is there an AmE/BrE difference whether “by date X” means by the beginning or ending of this date?

A job application in England wants applications to arrive by the 30th. I understand this to mean by the end of the 30th (in London time). The accepted answer to this question appears to indicate the ...
2
votes
1answer
138 views

What does “[Country] out” mean in the context of a photo description?

In the last photo of a slideshow of the 69th anniversary of Hiroshima bombing, there's a description of the photo, plus what I assume is metadata-ish content (emphasis added): U.S. Ambassador to ...
2
votes
2answers
1k 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
votes
3answers
220 views

“than such as” + Predicate

To Alexander Hamilton Mount Vernon Novr 10th 1787. ... The new Constitution has, as the public prints will have informed you, been handed to the people of this state by an unanimous ...
2
votes
6answers
4k 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
12k views

What's the meaning of “bitching”?

What's the meaning of "bitching" in the following sentence taken from references in 'tfd.com'? December: I quit bitching with grateful thanks for all the good times, things and friends God has ...
2
votes
2answers
11k views

To avail of an opportunity

If I were to be able to do something (say I'm a slave and am able to become free). What would it mean to "avail myself of the opportunity"? What would this mean? Would this mean to take advantage of ...
2
votes
2answers
786 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 ...
2
votes
2answers
722 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
votes
2answers
852 views

Meaning of “set such store” (not a shop)

I can't understand this sentence: No other professor in Great Britain set such store by being called Professor. In this case store is not a shop or a place to store something. I guess that the ...
2
votes
1answer
238 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
votes
5answers
1k 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
53 views

distanced always by a sense of [closed]

What does "distanced by" mean in: "The images in themselves are as grotesque as those in Hirst’s catalogue pictures but taken out of documentary context, juxtaposed with other material and distanced ...
1
vote
1answer
95 views

In any but the most vestigial and nostalgic way…?

Once again, here I am with a question raised by the highly unintelligable Hitchens... It can be equally useful and instructive to take a glimpse at the closing of religions, or religious movements. ...
1
vote
3answers
364 views

Can a sport team “clinch” a championship in the last regular season game?

This question gets into the subtle shades of meaning of the word clinch, in the context of sporting teams securing spots in the playoffs. My past experience hearing this term on television, or ...
1
vote
1answer
954 views

Use of the expression “Stop it! You are too cute” [closed]

In what context would you use "stop it!! you are too cute"? Isn't that negative to say "stop it!! first? Is there a degree or a connotation to it? (i.e, flirty, embarrassed, flattered, etc) There are ...
1
vote
1answer
125 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
1answer
2k views

One word/phrase to describe the reaction when you eat a very spicy-hot food

I've read the discussion here about Difference between “spicy” and “hot”. I've also read this one: How to say that food is hot (temperature) without the listener thinking that I mean “spicy”?. But I ...