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

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2answers
515 views

What does “the rational you had probably taken a powder” mean?

I’m not very clear with the implication of the following sentence in the article titled “The Science of Romance: Why we love” that appeared in Time magazine (Jan.28, 2008): “But if it was that ...
6
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2answers
4k views

What does “in the sere and yellow” mean?

I am currently reading "A Study in Scarlet" by Arthur Conan Doyle. On page 33 is a sentence I don't understand: Well, if a man can stride four and a-half feet without the smallest effort, he can't ...
6
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4answers
56k views

What is the meaning of “I got you”?

What does I got you mean? Does it mean Ok, I understood what you said or Hey, I know that you did that? If they are both correct, when should we use which?
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4answers
4k views

Which is more affirmative: “I think” or “I guess”?

In South Asia, we tend to use "I think" when we are almost sure about something; or sometimes use it ironically like in example "I think you should have done this yesterday". "I guess", on the other ...
6
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2answers
346 views

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 ...
6
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8answers
720 views

How to rephrase “Deliberate failure”?

I have a document that I'm drafting that, at the moment, has a sentence that reads something like: Remove X from all company computers. Deliberate failure to do so constitutes grounds for ...
6
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2answers
244 views

What does “Watch the plain clothes” account for in terms of “Cheap liquor nationalism”?

International Herald Tribune (September 30) introduced a commentary of Japanese novelist, Haruki Murakami who is regarded as a favorite for this year’s Nobel Prize in literature on Japan’s dispute ...
6
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3answers
3k 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 ...
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6answers
2k views

Can someone please explain this pun?

There's a sentence that I keep reading over and over, and I can't quite grasp what's so funny about it. Perhaps, it isn't funny. Or perhaps, there's a meaning of a word in the sentence that I don't ...
6
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4answers
6k views

Difference between “voters”, “electorates” and “constituents”

I'm reading an English text about politics, and in one paragraph I found "voters," "electorates" and "constituents." Now I would like to know if they are absolutely the same, or if they have slightly ...
6
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2answers
3k views

What does it mean to call something Leviathan in comparison to others?

Wordweb describes Leviathan as: The largest or most massive thing of its kind Monstrous sea creature symbolizing evil in the Old Testament A recent Economist article (see The drug war ...
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
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2answers
679 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
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3answers
929 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 ...
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5answers
13k 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
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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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2answers
96 views

Never perhaps did any man suffer death with more justice, or deserve it less

Source: From Alexander Hamilton to Lieutenant Colonel John Laurens, 1780 October 11 ... [Major John André] he ought to be considered as a spy and according to the laws and usages of nations to ...
6
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2answers
14k views

When is between inclusive and when exclusive?

It seems that the exact meaning of between is very tied to its specific usage. What should I assume in a general situation about the inclusivity of between. Consider: "Pick a number between 1 and ...
6
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1answer
240 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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4answers
91 views

Can “Claptrap” be used to mean low quality?

In this article in The Age, boats being used by asylum seekers are described as being "claptrap": The boat, like many of the claptrap vessels flooding Italy's shores each week with migrants ...
6
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3answers
17k 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
353 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
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3answers
1k views

“to not get” vs “not to get”

I came across this sentence in an article, "As she speaks of her family, friends and life, it's difficult to not get that 'feel good' mood." I'm wondering if the following sentence could also mean ...
6
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2answers
249 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
185 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
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2answers
323 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 ...
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3answers
420 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
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2answers
100 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, ...
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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. ...
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3answers
9k 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
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3answers
839 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
6k 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
735 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
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1answer
324 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
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2answers
787 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 ...
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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.)".
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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
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5answers
923 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
444 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 ...
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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
606 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
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3answers
11k 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
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3answers
2k views

How to understand these verses from the poem “The road not taken” by Robert Frost

I actually have two questions regarding this poem: The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, And sorry I could not travel both And be one traveler, ...
5
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3answers
784 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
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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8answers
961 views

What is the term used to define an answer which does not offend anyone?

For instance - I do not want to take anyone's side in a debate and when asked about my point of view, I end up giving a smart answer which does not offend anyone of them. What is the word for that ...
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
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4answers
366 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
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3answers
503 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 ...