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

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4answers
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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 ...
5
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2answers
3k 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
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3answers
750 views

What is the meaning and usage of the word “very” in the following sentence?

XSLT (Extensible Stylesheet Language: Transformations) is a language that, according to the very first sentence in the specification (found at http://www.w3.org/TR/xslt20/), is primarily designed ...
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2answers
217 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 ...
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1answer
2k 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 ...
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1answer
1k 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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3answers
522 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
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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?
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3answers
962 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 ...
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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
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4answers
471 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
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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 ...
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2answers
5k 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
730 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
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2answers
72 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
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1answer
145 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
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3answers
197 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 ...
2
votes
1answer
96 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 ...
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2answers
601 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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3answers
164 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 ...
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4answers
2k 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
8k 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 ...
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2answers
627 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, ...
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2answers
670 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
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1answer
234 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 ...
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5answers
991 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
109 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.
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3answers
158 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 ...
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1answer
73 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
1k 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 ...
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1answer
327 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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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 ...
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1answer
516 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 ...
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5answers
159 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 ...
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2answers
685 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 ...
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3answers
997 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 ...
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2answers
10k 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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6answers
4k views

Differences between “world-view” and “ideology”

These terms have slightly different nuances in meaning and connotation. Would you use world-view in an academic discussion? What is the correct context? For example, would you say creationism is an ...
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4answers
301 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 ...
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2answers
150 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 ...
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2answers
990 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 ...
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4answers
5k 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: ...
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3answers
3k views

What/who are “toy soldiers”? [closed]

There is a song called Toy Soldiers by Martika of which a part of the lyrics goes: Step by step Heart to heart Left, right, left We all fall down Like toy soldiers Bit by bit Torn ...
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2answers
119 views

What does “to 1 part in 2x10^5 ” mean? [closed]

What does "to 1 part in 2x10^5" means in this sentence? A bridge circuit enable us to measure the change in capacitance to 1 part in 2x10^5, equivalent to a rotation angle of 8x10^(-8) rad, with ...
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4answers
379 views

How does “not least” mean “in particular; notably”?

What's an intuitive derivation behind ODO's definition that helps to internalise its meaning? not least = In particular; notably I couldn't find the etymology for this ??adverbial phrase?? I ...
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2answers
96 views

“a due information”

Hamilton quickly focused on the last part of his opponent’s argument as support for his attempt to introduce evidence of the truthfulness of his client’s publications. Hamilton offered the ...
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2answers
275 views

Does “Should I wash my hands of this?” suggest a bribe?

Should I wash my hands of this? Has this expression ever been used as a way of suggesting a bribe?
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2answers
992 views

What is the meaning of the italicized “do” in this sentence?

A child meets this kind of discipline every time he tries to do something, which is why it is so important in school to give children more chances to do things, instead of just reading or ...
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2answers
140 views

Meaning of “that” in “holomorphic function in the sector S that is continuous”

I have encountered a confusing sentence in a math textbook: Suppose F is a holomorphic function in the sector S that is continuous on the closure of S. What does that mean in the above ...
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4answers
21k views

What does “by way of” mean?

I was watching a TV show, and one man asked another where he was from. The response was "Pennsylvania by way of Illinois", and I can't really understand what it means in this context. Edit: ...