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

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6
votes
5answers
15k views

Does “notified by [date]” include the end date?

I have read the Rules of a competition. The text of the Rules include a sentence as follows: As per stated in the Rules the entrants will be notified by May 30th 2010. Does the sentence above ...
15
votes
3answers
2k views

“to be all but X”

What does "all but" mean in this expression? Today, under pressure from P2P distribution, optical disc piracy in wealthy countries is "all but eliminated" and profit margins elsewhere are slim. ...
15
votes
2answers
12k views

“All but” idiom has two meanings?

Here's two ways I've seen the "all, but" idiom used: "Close all tabs but this one" (Any modern application with a number of tabs might have this as an option.) It means "close all the tabs, but not ...
4
votes
3answers
1k views

Specific usage of the word 'but'

The Aesop's Fables translated by George Fyler Townsend book has a line which reads as follows: ... If you had but touched me, my friend, you ... I've seen the word 'but' used this way a couple ...
9
votes
4answers
4k views

What does “I Can't Get No Satisfaction” mean?

This song by The Rolling Stones, "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction". As a non-native speaker, I always wondered what's the exact meaning of this phrase? Is it "I'm not getting any satisfaction" (this ...
3
votes
2answers
269 views

How does negation affect the use and understanding of “or” and “and”

I'm trying to make more sense of how negation effects how a sentence is parsed and understood if and's and or's are used within them. Pop quiz: You are trapped on a bus with a bomb going 50 MPH. You ...
44
votes
1answer
143k views

What does a single letter “J” mean in emailing?

Today is Halloween. After a successful party, many conversations have been going on in my company's email box. The end of one email said "Till next time J". I had no idea what "J" meant in this ...
9
votes
1answer
3k views

Is “of” instead of “have” correct?

I have noticed a lot of people use of instead of have, for example: "that must of been really annoying". Is this correct?
12
votes
5answers
7k views

What does “canonical” mean?

Sometimes I read a sentence containing the word canonical, but I cannot find appropriate meaning of the word. For example, in this link: Returns a canonical representation for the string object. ...
8
votes
3answers
2k views

What does “above” mean in this context?

I just read this lady's profile. The following sentence has drawn my attention: I'm not above occasionally bending or breaking a grammar rule for good cause. But I do believe clear, persuasive ...
4
votes
2answers
6k views

Meaning of “last/this/next Monday” [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: Which day does “next Tuesday” refer to? Suppose today is Tuesday. What do last Monday, this Monday and next Monday mean?
4
votes
3answers
16k views

What does “if and when” mean, and is it the same as “when and if”?

Rather than trying to describe my beef with this idiom, I will give a bunch of successively objectionable examples. None of these are taken from real life. As I see it, if (and when) both "if" and ...
15
votes
6answers
65k views

Meaning and usage of “bite me”

I often come across the phrase bite me in many TV shows. What does it mean and is there a specific context in which this phrase can be used?
23
votes
7answers
2k views

Does “gay” still include the meaning “merry”?

Dictionary.com lists eight meanings of gay, with “merry, lively” as the first entry. Microsoft banned an Xbox user for listing Fort Gay (a real place) as his hometown: Xbox Live considered the ...
7
votes
2answers
557 views

Is Wayne's World's (NOT) a modern invention?

Older users of this site may recall the 'Bill & Ted' 'Wayne's World' series of movies of the early 1990s. They were mindless but fairly amusing and their eponymous characters spoke in a unique ...
19
votes
10answers
5k views

How should “deceptively” actually be used?

I'm not sure if this is a duplicate question, but I couldn't find anything on here on the topic. I can't seem to figure out what is actually meant when using the word "deceptive," or rather, what is ...
7
votes
5answers
40k views

Usage of 'Dear All'

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?
4
votes
2answers
4k views

“my friend” vs “a friend of mine”

I always found it weird to hear people say things like "My friend asked me to come" (with no prior mention of said friend), as opposed to "A friend of mine asked me to come". To me it seems as though ...
2
votes
2answers
4k views

What does “waxed rhapsodic” mean?

See context below: Bloomberg is well known for his malapropisms and mispronunciations: he's introduced former Yankee manager Joe Torre as "Joe Torres" [and] waxed rhapsodic about the famous ...
0
votes
2answers
137 views

Meaning of a sentence [closed]

I was reading an article but I don't quite understand the part made bold: In accordance with the ideals of Kemalism expressed above, education or school emerged as the most efficient apparatus ...
14
votes
7answers
4k views

In what occasion could the word “precious” be taken disapprovingly, or sarcastically?

I understand that the word “precious” in the following quote of Maureen Dowd’s article “Heart of Darkness” (NYT, March 20) literally means “2. valuable or important and not to be wasted” as defined in ...
6
votes
2answers
302 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 ...
5
votes
4answers
27k 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?
4
votes
4answers
332 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 ...
3
votes
1answer
3k views

What does “Thundering typhoons” mean?

What does "Thundering typhoons" mean? Actually it was in the 2011 movie The Adventures of Tintin.
1
vote
5answers
559 views

What meaning “Chip on their shoulder” takes here?

The context is below. Bansal is the famous coaching center to clear Engineering Entrance test. Bansal students had a chip on their shoulder, even though they weren't technically even in a college ...
1
vote
3answers
910 views

Does “generosity”/“generous” - as character quality - imply connotations “giving of your OWN resources, not someone else's”?

The question is about the context attached (or rather not attached) to the term "generosity"/"generous" (defined in Merriam-Webster as "liberal in giving"). The question is, is there a ...
0
votes
2answers
1k views

What does “should something happen” mean?

What is the meaning of should loss occur in the following text? Backup and recovery procedures protect your database against data loss and reconstruct the data, should loss occur. The ...
-1
votes
1answer
803 views

What is the meaning of “twists and turns” in this sentence? [closed]

The car followed the twists and turns of the mountain road.
-3
votes
2answers
190 views

Meaning of “I've been too busy trying to keep my alleged consultancy afloat to think about illicit sex, beyond the YouTube variety.” [closed]

What does "beyond the YouTube variety" suppose to refer to here? and what does " illicit sex" mean ?
35
votes
7answers
114k views

“The Dude abides” — what does “abide” mean in that context?

I'm unfamilar with the word "abide" which is famously used the the movie quote "The Dude abides" (The Big Lebowski). Looking it up in a German/English dictionary makes me believe it's "The Dude lives ...
20
votes
4answers
91k views

Is it “peek”, “peak” or “pique”?

I have always thought the phrase was "pique my interest" as in: "Her mysterious background piqued my interest". However, of late, on blogs and social networks, I have seen people using "peek my ...
15
votes
4answers
9k views

What does “pneumatic” mean when applied to a person?

For example, in this review of the movie Unknown, Mark Kermode refers to Liam Neeson's character's wife as being played by "X-Men's pneumatic January Jones". I'm never quite sure whether this refers ...
25
votes
3answers
2k views

Why is there a “mean” in “Greenwich Mean Time” (GMT)?

What's the meaning of the word "mean" in "Greenwich Mean Time"? Shouldn't we simply say something like "Greenwich Time"? I don't understand what the word "mean" is doing there.
15
votes
6answers
1k views

Does “woman driver” have a special meaning other than female driver?

Rush Limbaugh’s “wrong choice of word” is causing a big fuss. And I was puzzled to find the following statement of Limbaugh from www.rushlimbaugh.com that was made 4 days ago: The reaction that ...
6
votes
2answers
247 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 ...
2
votes
5answers
839 views

How does “among” vs “between” affect the meaning of this sentence from the Times?

I realize that this has been discussed elsewhere on the site, but I was interested in the use of the preposition "among" in a sentence from a story in yesterday's New York Times: Research done by ...
29
votes
2answers
5k views

What does President Obama’s phrase “We don’t need to spike the football” mean?

President Obama made the following statement regarding his decision not to show dead body of Osama bin Laden to the public: "I think that Americans and people around the world are glad that he is ...
19
votes
7answers
36k views

What is the meaning of “don't mention it” (in response to “thank you”)?

I read at several places that "don't mention it" is equal to "you're welcome". But for me, the word means something like "don't go around talking about this to anyone". So what is the real meaning of ...
14
votes
3answers
3k views

What is a “Hobbesian trap”?

A recent Economist article (see The drug war hits Central America) uses something called a Hobbesian trap like this: Central America has fallen into a Hobbesian trap: the better-off make ...
10
votes
6answers
2k views

What did Steve Jobs mean by “Technology married with Liberal Arts” in his last speech?

The Asahi, Japan’s leading newspaper quoted the following famous closing words of Steve Jobs’ in his last speech at the iPad 2 event in March 2011 in its popular editorial column, “Vox populi, vox ...
9
votes
3answers
640 views

What does “Sleep through the Second Coming” mean?

There is the following statement in Jeffery Archer’s fiction “Kane & Abel,” in which William Kane, one of the two heroes looks at his wife sleeping soundly on bed unaware of his big problem: ...
7
votes
7answers
608 views

Meaning of “No, yes …”

I'm not sure if this is something only Americans say, but it has confused me for a long time. If someone is asked a question why do some people respond with something like, "No, yes it was"? What does ...
6
votes
2answers
2k views

What does “gig” stand for in “It's your gig”?

I have heard people say, "It's your gig" when they intend to say, "It's your choice after all." For example: I have said all I wanted to say. Now it's your gig. The intention is that the ...
6
votes
4answers
3k 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
votes
2answers
606 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
2answers
2k 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 ...
4
votes
3answers
1k 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 ...
4
votes
1answer
451 views

What’s the usage of apostrophes in “ ‘Bye, ‘bye ”?

I’d like to know what effect an apostrophe has which is before a word and doesn’t work as an omitter. (Not like C’mon or ‘Course, but like ‘bye, ‘bye.) I have three questions as follows, but any ...
3
votes
2answers
525 views

Is “put together” an adjectival phrase?

When someone says "He is smarter than I and she put together," what is the function of the phrase "put together"? Is it considered an adjective?