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

learn more… | top users | synonyms

9
votes
5answers
37k 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 ...
24
votes
3answers
33k 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 ...
19
votes
3answers
4k 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. ...
8
votes
3answers
3k 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 ...
10
votes
4answers
6k 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 ...
17
votes
2answers
32k views

“X times as many as” or “X times more than”

Suppose John has 5 sweets. Is there any difference between the following two sentences? Jack has 3 times as many sweets as John. Jack has 3 times more sweets than John. I prefer the first ...
3
votes
2answers
345 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 ...
7
votes
3answers
1k 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 ...
18
votes
3answers
3k views

Does the word, ‘peruse’ have a single meaning of ‘attentive reading,’ or double, contradicting meanings of ‘attentive’ and ‘cursory’ reading?

I’m confused to find opposite definitions in the same word, ‘peruse’ in Readers English Japanese Dictionary published by a leading foreign language dictionary publisher in Japan. It defines ‘peruse’ ...
0
votes
2answers
188 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 ...
80
votes
1answer
280k 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 ...
10
votes
1answer
7k 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?
19
votes
10answers
10k 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 ...
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
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. ...
5
votes
2answers
11k 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?
15
votes
7answers
15k 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. ...
7
votes
3answers
995 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 ...
5
votes
4answers
13k 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 ...
7
votes
3answers
26k 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 ...
8
votes
3answers
4k 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 ...
7
votes
5answers
62k 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?
1
vote
2answers
2k 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 ...
8
votes
4answers
702 views

“Back up data” or “back data up”?

Which is correct? To back up data. To back data up. The context is the following: He was careful enough to perform tests and [back up data | back data up] to avoid any problems.
4
votes
2answers
5k views

What does “sunset” mean in this text?

In the definition of USA PATRIOT, I read the following text: Many of the act's provisions were to sunset beginning December 31, 2005, approximately 4 years after its passage. In the months ...
1
vote
3answers
816 views

Meaning of “just about everybody else has” in this context

— I ever tell you how much she depends on you? — I ever tell you what an asshole you are? — Nah. But that's okay, just about everybody else has. They both laughed. Is it "...everybody else ...
0
votes
3answers
136 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 ...
64
votes
5answers
4k views

When does thousand turn into thousands?

My boyfriend and I are arguing whether thousands of miles means 1000+ or 2000+ miles. The first argument is that 1000+ is over 1000 and therefore 'thousands of miles' by rounding up. The other ...
49
votes
7answers
16k views

What does “you will want to” mean?

I often find people (mostly American people) telling to me "you will want to do this" or "you will not want to do this". Does it mean they are telling me that I should do something (in the sense of ...
44
votes
7answers
208k 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 ...
19
votes
6answers
124k 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
3k 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 ...
25
votes
7answers
84k 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 ...
25
votes
3answers
3k 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.
6
votes
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 ...
14
votes
8answers
3k views

What's the pun in this “Julius Caesar” reference?

In a Blacklist episode, the following conversation takes place, the first and last speaker is the sophisticated Raymond Reddington: -'Ambition's debt must be paid'. -Julius Caesar? -One ...
3
votes
2answers
7k 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 ...
2
votes
6answers
326 views

What do you call the rhetoric strategy of purposefully writing a paragraph that no one can understand?

Most of us have come across a paragraph which sounded meaningless to us or which made us wonder if we were intellectually equipped to read it. That may have been the case, but sometimes one writes a ...
1
vote
0answers
108 views

Meaning of the term “empty use” in the context of modal verbs

I'm reading a book titled Comprehensive High School English Grammar & Composition. The author, who is Indian, says this on the use of the modal verbs can and could: Can is used to express ...
15
votes
2answers
5k views

Meaning of “But I repeat myself” in Mark Twain's quote?

There is the following sentence in the conversation between Florentyna Rosnovski, the heroine of Jeffrey Archer’s novel, The Prodigal Daughter, who was first elected as the Congressman of Illinois and ...
14
votes
7answers
8k 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 ...
9
votes
6answers
1k views

What does “I’m like, c’mon guys. I’m the president of the United States.” imply?

The Washington Post (April 14) reported President Obama's off-the-cuff remark during a meeting with donors in Chicago held on April 13th under the title: "Obama riffs with donors: Where are the cool ...
6
votes
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
votes
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?
5
votes
2answers
306 views

What does “be it” mean in this passage?

What does be it mean in this context and what kind of sentence is this? (grammatically) There is no one in our society who is not ethnocentric to some degree, no matter how liberal and open-minded ...
5
votes
5answers
3k views

What is the meaning of “ought not”?

Consider this example: A few strong branches over water reach for what they ought not reach. Which of the meanings comes closest to “ought not” in this sentence? Is it “doesn't have to”, “should ...
5
votes
4answers
390 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 ...
5
votes
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 ...
3
votes
5answers
115 views

No direct object in 'give thee faithfully to follow' ? (1670 UK, Isaac Penington)

Source: Para 5, Isaac Penington to Widow Hemmings (1670), by Isaac Penington If the Lord would show thee but this one thing, -- that to use "thee" and "thou" to a particular person is proper ...
3
votes
1answer
4k views

What does “Thundering typhoons” mean?

What does "Thundering typhoons" mean? Actually it was in the 2011 movie The Adventures of Tintin.