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

learn more… | top users | synonyms

14
votes
9answers
64k 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
5answers
9k 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 ...
9
votes
4answers
3k 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
93k 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
4answers
16k 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
4answers
13k 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 ...
7
votes
5answers
674 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
17k 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 ...
6
votes
2answers
374 views

His brother “hooked” him up with this bachelor party

I was watching the film "Bachelor Party Las Vegas" and one of the characters utters the phrase: His brother hooked him up with this bachelor party (emphasis mine) When I looked up hooked in the ...
5
votes
5answers
4k 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 ...
5
votes
2answers
5k 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?
5
votes
4answers
5k views

Meaning of “to pivot to do something”

I found the use of the verb pivot in a context I can't quite understand: We will now pivot the company's effort to date and focus on becoming a comprehensive provider of ... What is the meaning ...
5
votes
4answers
521 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 ...
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
734 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
2answers
416 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
4answers
5k 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
803 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
votes
4answers
631 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
155 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 ...
3
votes
3answers
66k 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
5k views

Is 'quiescing' a valid word? What does it mean?

What does quiescing mean in the following context? Quiescing a Database http://download.oracle.com/docs/cd/B19306_01/server.102/b14231/start.htm
3
votes
3answers
2k 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
2answers
8k 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
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 ...
2
votes
2answers
818 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
3answers
13k 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
7answers
5k 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
2answers
13k 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
789 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, "So ...
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 ...
2
votes
3answers
244 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 vote ...
2
votes
1answer
164 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
137 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.
2
votes
1answer
195 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
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 ...
1
vote
2answers
3k 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
vote
2answers
18k 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 ...
1
vote
1answer
2k views

What is the meaning of “just as well” in this context?

The family cemetery sat at the bottom of the hill from the mansion. Dan thought it was kind of stupid they'd hired a hearse to carry Grace a hundred yards down the driveway. They could've put ...
1
vote
1answer
2k views

“Against traffic” or “Against the traffic”

The following first sentence comes from Wikipedia, which 'the' is not used before 'traffic', while the second one comes from BBC, which has 'the' before 'traffic'. I wonder if both usages are correct ...
1
vote
3answers
1k 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
vote
3answers
441 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
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
0answers
36 views

Combining two sentence in one while ensuring grammar errors are not present

Since English is my second language, I have been trying to wrap my head around the subheading I am writing. I feel like it would be better written if it was divided into multiple sentence, but I was ...
1
vote
5answers
167 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
vote
4answers
317 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 ...