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

learn more… | top users | synonyms

7
votes
1answer
519 views

What does “baking tradition” mean?

She agreed to marry him on one condition: that they have 12 children. True to the old baking tradition, they made 13. Source What does the old baking tradition mean? There's no mention of baking ...
7
votes
4answers
104 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 ...
7
votes
2answers
312 views

Percentages of meanings in an English dictionary

Often when you look for some new word in a dictionary, you will find many definitions or meanings of the one word. For example when you look for a word to in Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary you ...
7
votes
2answers
4k views

Meaning of “handbags” in the context of a fight

Apparently a tussle between two English footballers was described by an official spokesperson as 'I was there. There was no punches thrown. There was a lot of noise. Samir was talking in French, ...
7
votes
4answers
343 views

What does “trollpoking” mean?

The edit summary here says: cleaned up a bit, removed the trollpoking. I'm certain removing trollpoking is referring to the removal of: This answer is going to be deleted as off-topic, isn't ...
7
votes
3answers
1k views

What does “place oneself under the doctor” mean?

I was reading an article about a struggling postman where it quotes his solicitor explaining some trouble the postman was having: Mr Arthur ... told the court: "He was assigned a number of ...
7
votes
1answer
684 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) ...
7
votes
2answers
130 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, ...
7
votes
1answer
4k views

Never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense

I'm trying to translate this famous quote from Churchill Never give in--never, never, never, never, in nothing great or small, large or petty, never give in except to convictions of honour and ...
7
votes
2answers
1k views

In what senses are 'at' and 'all' used in the phrase “at all”?

I understand that the phrase at all means in any way or in the slightest, e.g. What is the opposite of “to stink” (v)? Is there one at all?, or Not bad at all I don't understand how the individual ...
7
votes
1answer
461 views

In Grapes of Wrath, What does “I learned to write […] Birds an' stuff like that” mean?

In The Grapes of Wrath: I learned to write nice as hell. Birds an' stuff like that, too; not just word writin'. My ol' man'll be sore when he sees me whip out a bird in one stroke. (Tom Joad) ...
7
votes
4answers
9k 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 ...
7
votes
5answers
74k views

Usage of 'Dear All' [duplicate]

Is it correct to use "Dear All" at the beginning of the e-mail, when you are writing to more than one person? It seems so informal to me. Is there any better way?
6
votes
8answers
1k 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) - ...
6
votes
6answers
3k 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 ...
6
votes
3answers
761 views

What does 'Ibid' mean in this context?

Someone I know got a interview call letter part of which read as this: .. you are requested to appear for the ibid interview .. What does ibid mean in this context?
6
votes
4answers
1k views

Could “lolcat” be used to mean “something funny”?

The lolcat came from a problem with the Stack Overflow API. Is this usage of lolcat generally understood?
6
votes
2answers
989 views

What does Mitt Romney's “Telephone Tips: ‘Just Left,’ 25 cents; ‘On His Way,’ 50 cents; ‘Not here,’ $1; ‘Who?’ $5.” mean?

There was the following paragraph in Maureen Dowd’s article titled, "Mitt Romney is the president of white male America” in November 10 New York Times: Maybe the group can retreat to a man cave in ...
6
votes
3answers
934 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 ...
6
votes
5answers
2k views

What's the meaning of “bootstrap”?

Can anyone explain the meaning of "bootstrap" to a Spanish Speaker? Here is some context: One aspect of ... (something) ... is the need to bootstrap the configuration.
6
votes
1answer
1k views

Finished off the night “with a rubber”

Reading the diary of a doctor in Canada, 1845-46, often refers to "having a rubber" at the end of the day which seems like a nightcap. Does anyone know why the word rubber is used?
6
votes
2answers
667 views

Is it a standard usage of ‘blue’ to be used as a verb to mean ‘being deflated / become pessimistic’?

I was interested in the usage of ‘blue’ as a verb in the headline of New Yorker’s article, “Bibi Netanyahu’s election blues,” followed by the following lead copy: “The center-left, which had ...
6
votes
2answers
780 views

What's the connection between “Holy Grail” and “Killer Rabbit”? [closed]

This article says: If there's a Holy Grail, there's a Killer Rabbit. I can understand that to be "even if there's a good solution, there's a catch to it", but what does Killer Rabbit have to ...
6
votes
4answers
741 views

How to interpret this text from year 1847?

If context is needed, I'm happy to supply it.. The sentence I want to rephrase: Some selection of this kind has for some time been imperatively called for, by the wants of the gardener, farmer, ...
6
votes
3answers
472 views

What does “quadrants” mean in an article stating that Obama's birth facts “do not seem to matter in many quadrants of Republican Party”?

I found the word quadrants in the opening of a New York Times Opinion column, titled This Just In… President Obama Is an American Citizen. Its opening paragraph: President Obama is not a ...
6
votes
2answers
1k views

What does “lift their skirts … and grab the eyeglasses right off someone's face” mean?

From Gavin De Becker, The Gift of Fear: Survival Signals that Protect Us from Violence (1998): "That's true," she said. "Every day I have to predict what the kids will do, and I succeed for ...
6
votes
5answers
759 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 ...
6
votes
4answers
407 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 ...
6
votes
4answers
424 views

Meaning of Jo's dialog in Chapter 16 of Bleak House

A portion of chapter 16 of Dickens' Bleak House is shown below. Jo attends closely while the words are being spoken; [...] and nods his ragged head. "I'm fly," says Jo. "But fen larks, you ...
6
votes
1answer
483 views

What is “desysopped”?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Rollback_feature: Standard rollback may only be used in certain situations – editors who misuse standard rollback (for example, by using it to reverse ...
6
votes
3answers
6k 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
votes
7answers
4k views

What is the meaning of “I read a book once”

I saw an image on Missed Connections few days ago, and the image text is: Friday, January 29, 2010 - m4w - 23 (L train) How did you get those bruises? I wouldn't let anything happen to you. ...
6
votes
4answers
366 views

What does the author actually means when he says “ underestimate the value of gold.”

Excerpt from Honor Among Thieves: "The reason for numbers being limited on this occasion will become all too obvious to you. The issue we are about to discuss is so sensitive that the fewer ...
6
votes
1answer
461 views

What does the phrase “Lady-Macbethed” mean? [closed]

Colonel Hampton snorted contemptuously. Senile dementia! Well, he must have been senile and demented, to bring this pair of snakes into his home, because he felt an obligation to his dead ...
6
votes
3answers
278 views

Is “latte” a countable noun?

I have learned that liquids are uncountable, except for measurements such as "three cups of water." So, does "three lattes" in this context refer to three cups of latte?
6
votes
2answers
4k views

What does “no-op” mean?

In the Remarks section of a Microsoft dbset.add page I read Remarks: Note that entities that are already in the context in some other state will have their state set to Added. Add is a no-op if ...
6
votes
2answers
564 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
votes
4answers
412 views

What does “Japan-lite problems” mean?

It’s pity to learn our own country is viewed as a bad example for other countries not to follow. I found the word “Japan-lite problems” in the article of Time magazine (August 25 issue) titled “Six ...
6
votes
4answers
76k 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?
6
votes
4answers
7k 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
votes
2answers
352 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
votes
8answers
877 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
votes
2answers
263 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
votes
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 ...
6
votes
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
votes
2answers
4k 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
votes
1answer
138 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
2answers
732 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
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
votes
2answers
142 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 ...