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

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Meaning of grave in graver trusts [closed]

Any other rule of construction would abrogate the judicial character of this court, and make it the mere reflex of the popular opinion or passion of the day. This court was not created by the ...
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“issue” as an intransitive verb [closed]

The place of confinement would not be different, since in those days the dangerously insane in the District of Columbia were confined in the same jail as indicted criminals. (There was no ...
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3answers
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What does “you don't need a husband, you need a Greek chorus!” mean?

A female friend recently saw a video of pretty old movie, “The Last Station” (directed by Michael Hoffman), which illustrates the struggle of Leo Tolstoy (the Russian author) to balance fame and ...
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2answers
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to give someone until

I'm reading Women by Charles Bukowski and stumbled upon the following dialog: Dee Dee was standing next to me. "Please tell her," she said, "to give me until September." "Forget her," Lydia ...
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1answer
84 views

The Sand Scrunched Beneath My Feet [closed]

I was reading Ivan Klima's No Saints Or Angels and found the highlighted part in the following sentence not quite clear: When Karel1 left me, I tried to give her2 that love, but it’s impossible ...
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2answers
73 views

“transcend” in a negative context

Can transcend be used to imply a negative condition? For example, "an unappointed ruling elite that transcends both of the member groups." The implication would be that the elite group is comprised of ...
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1answer
87 views

a silver knife smeared with butter [closed]

He came in, big and smiling, with his right eye completely close. “Your mother put a silver knife smeared with butter on it last night. Quite a person, Mother.” (He had a black eye, after struggling ...
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meaning of “go up five places” in this sentence

A person is recollecting his college days in Oxford. He used to be in the team of an eight, rowing a boat. In the year I got my colours the Wadham boat went up five places on the river. It was the ...
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2answers
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The income tax is becoming higher than cat's back. What's the meaning of this sentence?

It's from a novel of 1938 by E.C. Bentley's Genuine Tarbard. Now the expression of 'cat's back' seems not to be in use any more. However, what's the meaning of this 'cat's back'?
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1answer
56 views

'furniture of their pockets"

There are many pleasant fictions of the law in constant operation, but there is not one so pleasant or practically humorous as that which supposes every man to be of equal value in its impartial ...
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2answers
293 views

Is it “restricted to” or “restricted from”? [closed]

I came across this sentence: The power to rule was restricted to ministers, and it was restricted from king. What is the difference between "restricted to" and "restricted from" here?
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2answers
56 views

altruism in a negative context?

Can altruism be used in a negative context to show a person doing something bad but unselfishly. He did such and such quite altruistically actually. Its meant to be tongue in cheek. Does that work?
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176 views

Is “up to” inclusive or exclusive?

The study was carried out up to visit 11 under the name of X1, whereas all later visits were carried out under a different name, X2. In the above sentence, does V11 belong to X1 or X2? I want ...
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1answer
70 views

Where's the irony? Truth and falsity are reversed?

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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1answer
182 views

What does “v.” stand for? [closed]

In in the following sentence, what does the "v." stand for? The new system was partially indebted to Stanley v. Georgia Does it mean "Stanley and Georgia" or "Stanley against Georgia"?
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1answer
72 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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1answer
107 views

No longer valid vs. Invalid [closed]

There is a subtle or perhaps more than subtle difference between the phrases "no longer valid" and "invalid". Can English experts elaborate with examples where one should be used and not the other.
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4answers
6k views

What does “There she blows’” mean?

This question regards the sentence in the New Yorker’s (June 14) article “Lunch at Gitlitze” I quoted in my previous question, "Is “battled-hardened” correct, or just a typo?” “When we walked ...
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1answer
298 views

“The heart can choke the mind when all its blood flows back unto itself.” [closed]

This quote is Francis Underwood's, from House of Cards, Season 2, Episode 11. Would someone please explain it? Some context can be found here. I'd venture that it refers to love? It induces the blood ...
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1answer
39 views

What does ranked two places below mean?

If a statement says "India is ranked two places below China" What place does India hold if China is ranked 1? Is it rank 3 or 4? Also, is there any difference between the following two sentences? ...
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2answers
708 views

Meaning of 'a third leg'

When Dr. Barclay was called, I was surprised. I had expected an elderly man, but he was only in the late thirties and good-looking. Knowing Elinor, I wondered. Except for Fred, who had no looks ...
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1answer
40 views

Meaning of “extenuate”: “extenuated the difficulties” [closed]

The definition of extenuate as a verb is: to cause a wrong act to be judged less seriously by giving reasons for it: Yet I don't apprehend its meaning herein. Would someone please explain? ...
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1answer
47 views

Using longest word in context [closed]

I came across with the following word antidisestablishmentarianism How do you pronounce this word, meaning and how can i use this word in a context? Thanks
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1answer
72 views

Why is it silly to think that ‘all truth is relative’? [closed]

First of all, why is it silly to think that ‘all truth is relative’? Well, we know that the statement ‘all truth is relative’ cannot be absolutely true, because if this statement were ...
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1answer
62 views

Meaning - “Thank you,” … “but apologize to him.” [closed]

Last November, Sri Srinivasan, a government lawyer, apologized to Justice David H. Souter for referring to him as Justice Scalia. "Thank you," Justice Souter said, with characteristic ...
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1answer
52 views

Context of “when?”

One example comes from this song in "the Music Man." Gary, Indiana, Gary, Indiana Gary, Indiana, let me say it once again Gary, Indiana, Gary, Indiana Gary, Indiana, that's the town that ...
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What does “as” represent for in “Cantor quits as Majority leader” and “Cantor to resign as Majority leader”?

Today’s New York Times reported Eric Canter’s defeat in Primary election in Virginia under the headline: “Eric Cantor to step down as House Majority leader” followed by the text copy: “Representative ...
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3answers
104 views

Degree Certificate and Diploma

I am hoping to apply to a master's program in the USA. They ask for a "Diploma/Degree Certificate", but I don't really know what that means. When I looked for the definition I found only "Degree", as ...
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1answer
43 views

“cut the clouds off”

I sat farther along the bar and got my glass of beer and said: "You sure cut the clouds off them, buddy. I will say that for you." "We just opened up," the kid said. "We got to build up trade. ...
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1answer
64 views

How would you interpret this statement?

How would you interpret this statement? It was posted on a social media site. I am looking for impressions of how other readers would interpret the sentences in context to why it would appeal to the ...
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2answers
189 views

What do these sentences mean in “The Picture of Dorian Gray”?

I am currently reading The Picture of Dorian Gray, my grasp of English isn't very good and I'm puzzled over the meaning of a few sentences on the opening page. The highest as the lowest form of ...
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3answers
79 views

What is the difference between “universal” and “generic”?

I hear lots of time the words universal and generic being used in similar contexts (especially in software engineering) - what is the difference between them?
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2answers
58 views

Why is common law referred to as “at common law”?

While researching the differences between modern penal codes with common law I noticed that in many places it is written as at common law. An example is, "A crime at common law defined as unlawful ...
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3answers
178 views

What did “make love” mean in the 1920s?

This 1921 article gives "Ten Pointers for Domestic Happiness". Pointer V reads: Make love to your wife; continue to be her sweetheart. Neglect begets indifference that is fatal to married life. ...
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1answer
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Meaning of “to wrestle places from their surveillance grids”

His concern is tracing the individual and personal history in the seemingly banal, and wrestling anonymous places from their recording and surveillance grids. What could "wrestling something from ...
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8answers
747 views

Homograph challenge [closed]

My friend said the other day, "I hate when a sentence starts with the word polish, because you don't know whether they mean polish or Polish." polish (v) - to make smooth and glossy Polish (a) - ...
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2answers
65 views

Meaning of “Zenith” [closed]

Looking at the dictionary I found that the world zenith means the point above the observer directly opposite the nadir. So what does it mean in the following sentence: At the age of forty-five, ...
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3answers
790 views

What is the meaning of “paint it black” and when to use it?

I stumbled upon the phrase "paint it black" in a tv series (Elementary) and was wondering what does it exactly mean? Also, in which situations would you use it normally? Except when you tell the ...
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3answers
43 views

Meaning of “little heart” vs. “less heart”? and why

Little heart/less heart? And why? I have read the following sentence: "he has little conscience and less heart." Can I write that "he has less conscience and little heart"? Could you solve my ...
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4answers
170 views

Not to want someone doing something. What shade of meaning is attached to this structure? (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), ...
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3answers
52 views

What does `not in small way` mean [closed]

Can you tell me what does not in small way mean in following context : To work at this company you really have to have just desire to do something, and not in small way.
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1answer
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meaning of a word in a particular context [closed]

what does resolve mean in the following sentence? In spite of her resolve, her lips responded to his silent quest.
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2answers
96 views

What does “honking” mean in this context?

Joel Spolsky: We started with Stack Overflow, a Q&A site for programmers about programming questions. StackExchange is an attempt to bring that same technology to other fields besides ...
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'Took a lot of breakin' down' in Yellow Slugs by E.C. Bailey

He gazed at Bell with large, solemn eyes. “His wife! He’d schooled her thorough. Ever hear anything more miserably appealing than her on her dear babies and poor old Mrs. Wiven? Not often? No. Took ...
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2answers
125 views

Having question about what a sentence mean, and to figure out what the references referring to

In context: Where is the simple fact? Scientists have been seeking it in the two extremes, in the infinitely great and in the infinitely small. Biologists, for example, have been instinctively led ...
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2answers
45 views

What is “thrown in for salt”

His voice drifted up, liquid and full of tears, mostly Oh dear with the occasional Oh God or Now it's snow "thrown in for salt". What does "thrown in for salt" mean hear?
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1answer
39 views

What's the exact meaning of “make to a budget”

The sentence is as follows: This isn't just an Apple tablet made to a budget Am I correct in assuming it means: This isn't a cheap tablet made within certain budgetary constraints so that you can ...
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2answers
45 views

Dickens (a tale of two city, chapter 1): what do “they were awake” and “was to be atheistical and traitorous” refer to?

But that Woodman and that Farmer, though they work unceasingly, work silently, and no one heard them as they went about with muffled tread: the rather, forasmuch as to entertain any suspicion that ...
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4answers
161 views

Is it correct to say “Getting out of schedule” or “Going out of schedule”

Let me put some context: We have a day of tech sessions, so what I'm trying to say to a partner is that he better prepare well his time (about 60 minutes per session) so he won't run out of time ...
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3answers
72 views

Dickens: meaning of “preserves” in “preserves of loaves and fishes”

What is the meaning of preserves in the opening passage of Charles Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities? There were a king with a large jaw and a queen with a plain face, on the throne of England; there ...