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

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6
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1answer
137 views

How can a wasteland be “washed in somewhat queasy-ugly bleached orange”?

I was very confused when I came across a sentence in “The body politic” in New York Times (June 28) Set in Tampa (but also shot in California), a palm-lined wasteland that Mr. Soderbergh has ...
6
votes
4answers
6k views

Difference between “purpose” and “goal”

What does this sentence from Star Trek: The Alternative Factor mean? Jim, madness has no purpose ... or reason ... but it may have a goal. As far as I know purpose and goal are synonyms. How ...
6
votes
2answers
656 views

What does “living the first line of my obituary” mean here?

I came across a new phrase while reading an appeal letter from Wikipedia programmer here. Excerpt: I feel like I’m living the first line of my obituary. .......... What does "living the ...
6
votes
3answers
850 views

Usage of “for” in this passage

Non-native speaker here. Be kind :) From TLOTR Book 1, Chapter 7, "In the house of Tom Bombadil" 'Let us shut out the night!' she said. `For you are still afraid, perhaps, of mist and ...
6
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2answers
1k views

What does “I'd be the luckiest guy alive if that did it for me” mean?

In the movie As Good As It Gets, there is this dialogue: Simon Bishop: Thank you, Melvin. You... overwhelm me. [pauses] Simon Bishop: I love you. Melvin Udall: I tell you, buddy... I'd be ...
6
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3answers
2k views

What kind of human character or regional trait does the habit of “the g-dropping” represent for?

Further to the question I posted today about the meaning of the expression, “treat somebody pretty ugly,” which appeared in New York Times’ article (September 17) titled “Rick Perry, Uber Texan,” I ...
6
votes
1answer
233 views

What does Mitt Romney aide's remark “keep Boston off message all week” mean?

Mitt Romney seems to be haunted with the plague of gaffes of his own and his aides’. Time magazine’s (August 4) article titled “Worse gaffe than Etch-A-Sketch” reported another gaffe that Romney’s ...
6
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11answers
54k 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 ...
6
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3answers
14k views

Why does “I am in your debt” mean the opposite of what it suggests?

I don't understand why if someone says "I am in your debt" it seems to mean the opposite of the literal meaning. The person saying this says that they are in the debt of the person the phrase is ...
6
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2answers
15k views

What is the meaning of “every once in a while”? [closed]

I have read this sentence, but cannot understand the meaning of every once in a while: My dad, he's on Facebook every once in a while. Can anyone explain it?
6
votes
2answers
346 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 ...
6
votes
2answers
230 views

What does “might” exactly mean in the following excerpt?

This is a excerpt from Le Morte d'Arthur by Sir Thomas Malory, and I want to know the exact meaning of might regarding the context. Some say by might we mean: being allowed to and some say it ...
6
votes
1answer
184 views

“along” in “the wolf passed something along to me”

Here is a quote by Jack Nicolson from the movie "Wolf": Since it happened I feel as though the wolf passed something along to me. I wonder why is along needed in that sentence? What difference ...
6
votes
2answers
315 views

What does “Pinkest of papers” mean?

I was reading G.K. Chesterton's stories of Father Brown, and in the story "The Mistake of the Machine" (c.1914), I saw this phrase : It seemed to be an extract from one of the pinkest of American ...
6
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3answers
393 views

Structure of “As I passed by there looked out from it the face I showed you this afternoon”

While reading Oscar Wilde's The Sphinx without a secret, I came across the following passage: 'One evening,' he said, 'I was walking down Bond Street about five o'clock. There was a terrific crush ...
6
votes
1answer
102 views

Why are “dynamic” and “deontic” modalities so called?

It is said that there are three types of modality: deontic, epistemic and dynamic. Here are sample sentences for each type of modality: (1) You can stay as long as you want. [deontic] (2) ...
6
votes
2answers
86 views

Why does 'with' mean 'against' and not 'alongside' in phrases of opposition?

In phrases like fight with, argue with, combat with etc, why does with mean the subject is opposing the object (grammatical object, technically a human opponent)? Phrases like go with, study with, ...
6
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5answers
2k views

Is “SSA triangle problems may have zero or two solutions.” an ambiguous statement?

A test I took included the question True or false: SSA triangle problems may have zero or two solutions. SSA triangles, as was taught in the lesson, can have zero solutions, one solution, or ...
6
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4answers
1k views

Arguable (“susceptible to doubt”) vs arguable (“susceptible to being supported”)

According to dictionary.com, the adjective arguable has two definitions susceptible to debate, challenge, or doubt; questionable: Whether this is the best plan of action or not is arguable. ...
6
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3answers
8k views

What does this mean: To be thus is nothing; But to be safely thus

This is taken from Shakespeare's Macbeth, and I am having difficulty comprehending what this means. Can someone please put it into normal English, with all explanations?
6
votes
3answers
739 views

What are the differences between “mimic” and “copy”?

I found this thread on wordreference.com in which it is claimed that "mimic" has frivolous connotations and "copy" has derogatory connotations. Specifically I am wondering how this distinction may ...
6
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2answers
5k views

Reason vs. purpose

Just now I wanted to explain why I was doing something, then I wrote "the purpose of doing something is blablabla". Immediately I wondered why I didn't write "the reason of doing something is ...
6
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2answers
448 views

“If it was so, it might be; and if it were so, it would be…” What does this mean?

I'm translating a book, which involves logic and quoted the sentence from Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking Glass: "If it was so, it might be; and if it were so, it would be; but as it isn't, it ...
6
votes
1answer
290 views

'Remit' an antonym of itself?

Perhaps I don't fully understand the word, but it always confuses me. When talking about money: The money was remitted. Which means that the money was transmitted/transferred successfully. But ...
6
votes
2answers
687 views

Why can I say,'Why do you like her so much?' but not, 'Why do you like her very much?'

Why can I say,'Why do you like her so much?' but not, 'Why do you like her very much?' My answer is: 'Why' is evaluative and forces you to make (or consider) a comparison. Very cannot be used in ...
5
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3answers
2k views

Difference between “she cut her hair” and “she cut her hair off”?

Why are we using off here? What additional meaning does it add? The meaning of off from http://tfd.com/off that suits this sentence is: "away (from a place, time etc.)".
5
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5answers
8k views

What does “the D word” mean in the context of discussing the pros and cons of marriage over co-habitation?

I came across a phrase unfamiliar to me, the D word, in an article of Time magazine (November 18, 2010 Issue) titled Who Needs Marriage? How an American institution is changing. The D word appears as ...
5
votes
5answers
856 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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2answers
424 views

Alan Turing’s “innings” meaning

In his 1948 essay Intelligent Machinery, Alan Turing defines a Logical Computing Machine as having: ...an infinite memory capacity obtained in the form of an infinite tape marked out into squares ...
5
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6answers
1k views

“Seize the night” vs. “Enjoy the night”

I was listening to "We Own the Night", by "The Wanted" and I realized the phrase "we are only young if we seize the night". Seize, in this case, sounds like enjoy, right? But, what's the contextual ...
5
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2answers
2k views

What does the expression “we are looking to you” mean?

What does the expression "we are looking to you" mean in the following sentence? Now that you have taken the test and have an understanding, we are looking to you to teach this to your ...
5
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5answers
568 views

How should I understand “beckon” in this sentence?

I learned the following sentence from The Economist. Perfectly efficient electric cables, more powerful generators and motors, magnetic levitation and a host of other technological wonders ...
5
votes
3answers
10k views

What does “möbius” (moebius) mean?

In Starcraft II there was a mission called The Moebius Factor. Unrelated to that, a new Futurama episode called Möbius Dick was recently released. Does anyone have any idea what does the word mean? ...
5
votes
3answers
735 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 ...
5
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2answers
2k views

What does “wound up” mean in this case?

What does "wound up" mean in this case? And is it treated as adjective? In The Magician's Nephew from C.S. Lewis's Narnia series: "Alright, I have then," said Digory in a much louder voice, like ...
5
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3answers
1k views

What does “The city (Ferguson) learned too late that the well was dry” mean?

I scratched my head in understanding the meaning of the following passage in the article titled, “The tragedy of Ferguson” of Time magazine (September 1 issue). [Some excerpts appear at ...
5
votes
4answers
339 views

Meaning of “sterile perfection”

I came across the following lines: Make no mistake: the setting matters. There are many ways to listen to Indian classical music-in the private, somewhat sterile perfection of the CDs and DVDs ...
5
votes
3answers
464 views

What might “three several” mean?

The context is from a story I read recently in an omnibus (I found that link on the spur of the moment): ...were afterwards burnt to death in three several fires. I suppose three was meant, but ...
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
486 views

What does “consound” mean?

Hello and happy holidays. While reading The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, I came across the expression "consound it" in Huck's dialogue parts. "Consound it, Tom Sawyer, you're just old pie, 'longside ...
5
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2answers
1k views

What does “all rot” mean in here?

I expect someone lives there in secret, only coming in and out at night, with a dark lantern. We shall probably discover a gang of desperate criminals and get a reward. It's all rot to ...
5
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5answers
591 views

“Came undone” in this context?

I was listening to a song of Frank Sinatra's called It Was a Very Good Year. A certain part got my attention because I did not quite understand what it meant: When I was twenty-one, it was a very ...
5
votes
4answers
244 views

“Scores” = high amount? [closed]

Read a news on BBC, I have some questions regarding a word scores in this context: "A BBC team inside Syria filming for Panorama has witnessed the aftermath of a fresh horrific incident - an ...
5
votes
4answers
443 views

Is the headline of this blog correct?

Is the headline of this blog correct? Does Online Learning Offer the Same Value as Face-to-Face Instruction? College Presidents & the General Public Disagree When I read the headline I ...
5
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2answers
436 views

What does “sank like a Chevy Volt in water” mean?

The Mesh Report (October 11) issue disclosed President Obama was confident that he won at the first Presidential debate with Mitt Romney in the article titled “Clueless: Obama thought he won debate ...
5
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5answers
622 views

Is the word “all” implied by this question?

I saw a post on Programmers.StackExchange in which someone asks the question: Why do programmers [or anyone] give the "dead fish" hand shake in an interview? The responses to that question say ...
5
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3answers
683 views

“slap yourself five”

Any ideas about what the "slap yourself five" means in the following context? "When someone says something you disagree with, before you call that person names and slap yourself five for your ...
5
votes
5answers
7k views

Use of “Might” and “Might not”

I know "Might" and "Might not" means the lack of certainty, but is there an implied probability in the use of these terms? In other words, does "I might be coming" imply that "It is extremely likely ...
5
votes
2answers
1k views

What is a wheal?

Indulging some idle curiosity about Cornish mining I noticed that many of the mines are named wheal: Wheal Kitty, Wheal Jane and East Wheal Rose, among others. But the only dictionary definition I ...
5
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6answers
4k views

Meaning of “best among the worst”

What does best among the worst mean? For example, if a person is best among the worst does it mean that he is the worst of all or that he is a good person in a group of bad persons?