Questions relating to semantics, the study of meaning.

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2
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2answers
119 views

How to parse “once upon a time”?

Native speaker, but I got to wondering what the grammar and semantics of this old phrase are. What would be a direct translation to modern English? I'm not looking for a loose translation; everyone ...
0
votes
3answers
56 views

Is “willfully disingenuous” a tautologism?

It seems to me that definitions of disingenuous such as the following might imply willfulness: adjective lacking in frankness, candour, or sincerity; falsely or hypocritically ingenuous; ...
1
vote
2answers
148 views

“Thirty times weaker”: Using a multiplier to describe the lack of something [duplicate]

I was watching CNN's coverage of the earthquake that struck northern California this morning, and I heard the following exchange between the CNN anchor and a seismologist, Walter Hays: ANCHOR: ...
1
vote
1answer
37 views

Meaning of “to be Accounts Receivable for someone”

I understand what accounts receivable are, and I understand what factoring is. But I don't understand what the phrase "to be accounts receivable for someone" means, e.g. "I'm accounts receivable for ...
0
votes
1answer
68 views

Is there any difference in meaning between “apt to” and “likely to”?

Just as there is a difference in meaning between "likely" and "liable" in terms of a desirable or undesirable outcome, is there any subtle diference between "apt" and "likely" ? Does the use of ...
1
vote
2answers
135 views

What is a thorpe?

# is an octothorpe * is a hexathorpe + a quadrathorpe - a duothorpe but What is a thorpe??? This question came from an argument in comments on stackoverflow that started over an American calling ...
-1
votes
3answers
44 views

“Less” and “fewer” in English

English uses two lexemes to denote that something is smaller in number or size/amount: "Less" and "fewer". "Less" is used for uncountable nouns ("I needed less time to mow the lawn today"), while ...
4
votes
2answers
90 views

What is the name for a question which is answered implicitly by any given response?

e.g. Are you awake? (to somebody who appears to be asleep, but for which any given reply will confirm wakefulness)
-2
votes
1answer
60 views

Grenade or Granade [closed]

There are a lot of words that have slightly different spelling, but same semantic and sound, such as gray or grey, color or colour. There is also the case of dialog vs. dialogue (*see stackexchange ...
0
votes
3answers
99 views

Commutative, or “semantically palindromic” sentences

Being a mathematician with mathematician friends, my friends and I occasionally like to joke about the peculiarities of the English language. This one came up recently: Obviously, most English ...
0
votes
1answer
113 views

Does the phrase 'Harsh, but fair' actually make sense? [closed]

Very often I hear the phrase 'harsh but fair' used to describe something that is unduly severe, but ultimately just. I don't think that it even makes sense, though - and although I've tried to discuss ...
5
votes
3answers
254 views

Semantic shift in “around”

I'm interested in the use of "around" as a synomym for "about, concerning, related to", which doesn't seem to be recorded in current dictionaries. I'd call it an academic/pseudo-academic usage and ...
1
vote
1answer
26 views

Does the negative enhance the sentence?

When saying, for example, "Isn't that your mother?" versus "Is that your mother?" Is the former sentence more effective because of the negative?
1
vote
0answers
24 views

How about my new epigram? [closed]

I'm a Transylvanian epigramist, I'm not so fluent in English, though I wrote several epigrams in this language. Here's one tooth them: The theory of harmless excess *When you are squiffy as a ...
3
votes
6answers
146 views

Is there a functional difference between “not believing” and “believing not”?

If you tell your friend some incredible story and they say, "I don't believe you!" It seems like they are pretty obviously trying to say that they believe that your story isn't true. I have someone ...
6
votes
1answer
266 views

Dress up like a tailback

This comes from The Newsroom S01E06, about 51:48. Will comments on a large black bodyguard's advancements on McKenzie: Will: Dress up like a tailback and he won't be able to lay a hand on you. ...
1
vote
1answer
59 views

What is the equivalent of “susceptibility” in medical literature, but to a healthy condition?

In medical literature the word susceptibility collocates with negative adjectives or nouns -- negative prosody. Likewise, the word predisposing factors or state is mostly associated with negative ...
1
vote
1answer
72 views

Can you have more than one 'best' of something?

For example, can you say 'I have more than one best friend' and is that grammatically correct given that these friends are equally good?
1
vote
0answers
28 views

Uses of “Cyclic” vs. “Cyclical”? [duplicate]

As an engineering undergrad, I refer to "cyclic motion". My friend, an arts student, uses the term "cyclical unemployment" (whatever that means) instead. The only article I can find on the web about ...
7
votes
3answers
389 views

Better than the next?

I've heard people using this idiom, such as "each day is better than the next", or "you hope that each experience you have is better than the next" (heard this one on a TV show not long ago), ...
0
votes
0answers
24 views

about the word data [duplicate]

I though it was British vs. American but watching Star Trek I've noticed the same character using two different pronunciations. Then I noticed other characters doing the same. Is there any rule for ...
4
votes
1answer
121 views

What lexical relationship lies between the days of the week?

I'm confused, What is the lexical relationship between "Monday" and "Tuesday"? I mean is the relationship hyponymy, prototypes, polysemy, homophones, metonymy etc?
0
votes
2answers
127 views
1
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7answers
729 views

When you say a man is a coward, does it imply femininity by default? Is ''girlish coward'' a common expression?

I was wondering about this and would appreciate your take on the question.
2
votes
2answers
135 views

Job interview question [closed]

I'm a French man in my late 20s and I'm applying for a job for a prestigious American company. I've had a job interview with an American woman and she told me all was well but I'd have to be molded to ...
3
votes
1answer
1k views

What does “what for” mean and where did it come from?"

There is a fight scene in one of my favorite movies in which the main character says "Give them what for!" I've hear this term many times before (usually from old south-eastern Americans,) but no ...
4
votes
4answers
820 views

Idiom: in my neck of the woods, AmE

Idiom: in my neck of the woods, AmE The meaning of this expression is: in the region where I live. Once I tried to find out how a word meaning a part of the body can develop an expression where it ...
0
votes
1answer
73 views

“Even though” contradiction

Clause Run! This single-word command is also a clause, even though it does seem to have a subject. With a direct command, it is not necessary to include the subject, since it is obviously the ...
1
vote
1answer
98 views

Where using “title” instead of “name” is justified?

Merriam-Webster and many other dictionaries defines Title as something that can be used instead of the Name of that thing. For example, based on what I understood, it seems logical to use these ...
3
votes
3answers
281 views

Can you be sent on a quest or does it then become a mission?

A discussion on the Arqade sister site brought up an interesting question that I thought I'd share here. What is the difference between a quest and a mission? Given the roots of the words, quest ...
6
votes
6answers
958 views

“Semantic”s relation to “Pedantic” [closed]

When pointing out to my friends one day that I should have used a different word in a previous conversation, I mentioned that I was being pedantic. They, ironically, corrected me saying I was being ...
2
votes
2answers
883 views

“A and B both are” vs. “A and B are both” vs. “Both A and B are” vs. “Both of A and B are”?

A and B both are very good; A and B are both very good. Both A and B are very good. Both of A and B are very good. Are there subtle differences between the four sentences above?
0
votes
2answers
203 views

When the waitress at a diner calls her male customer a ''good girl'' after getting tipped, is it meant to be offensive?

My friend got called that and since neither of us are American, it just sounded offensive to us.
5
votes
5answers
2k views

What word describes text having a different meaning backwards and forwards?

Jonathan Reed's poem 'Lost Generation' is a pessimistic view of the future if read forwards. However, if you read it backwards linewise (not wordwise), it is still semantically meaningful, but the ...
1
vote
1answer
188 views

Lexicology, Semasiology

Is metonymy considered to be linguistic or extralinguistic factor of semantic change? For example crown for a monarchy
1
vote
2answers
185 views

Negative versions of extreme adjectives

If something positive is "too much", it becomes negative. For example, too much security could be perceived as being trapped. Is there a term for this relation? In other words, if a word with a ...
1
vote
1answer
306 views

'in appreciation' vs. 'appreciatively' [closed]

Is using the adverbial prepositional phrase in appreciation in place of the adverb appreciatively convey exactly the same meaning? I'm attempting to avoid the use of the adverb "appreciatively" in ...
3
votes
1answer
1k views

Difference between the terms 'famous' & 'infamous'; 'valuable' & 'invaluable'

Question in Short: Why is it that the terms valuable and invaluable mean almost the same thing while the terms famous and infamous are almost semantically opposite in meaning? That is, one is used to ...
0
votes
1answer
107 views

Whatever happened to thou and thee? Thy words have become more dreary [closed]

Why did thee, thou and thy come to disappear from English? I am looking for solid explanations, rather than observations that these are still used in dialects in the north. Please explain cause for ...
0
votes
2answers
57 views

Be proud of vs Take credit for

Does I'm proud of something imply I'm taking credit for something? I just observed that the former phrase only works with my own accomplishments or with related people, but not with unrelated ...
1
vote
4answers
121 views

Is there an antonym for the word dislocation?

For my PhD research I am writing about the metaphorical displacement of people (as in "they drove me out of their group", "he was snatched away before his time"). Essentially there are a variety of ...
3
votes
2answers
639 views

English Syntax Rules Based on Word Choice

I was reading the Wikipedia article on Animacy and came across something I found to be very interesting: The higher animacy a referent has, the less preferable it is to use the preposition of for ...
0
votes
1answer
49 views

Is this a logically symmetric relation: “X must be consistent with Y”

Does it follow that if I make the statement "X must be consistent with Y" that "Y must be consistent with X"? I'm hoping to hear this answered from a linguistics perspective, specifically related to ...
2
votes
1answer
102 views

“None” and “Any” [closed]

Can anyone tell me more about the relationship between the words none and any I'm specifically interested in their grammatical overlap, when they share a similar grammatical function in a sentence, ...
0
votes
2answers
89 views

a year later VS a year on

When one wishes to say that something will happen in the future, one would say, for example, either ten years later or ten years on. What I would like to know is if there are any semantic or stylistic ...
1
vote
1answer
66 views

Did the author of the following text mean “meat?”

"Small initial discrepancies may not be seen as meet for a federal case, particularly when the employee, trying to succeed in a nontraditional environment, is averse to making waves." Is there a ...
-1
votes
1answer
467 views

Which is correct: I'll be moving next month or I'll be shifting next month?

For changing one's home from one place to another, I've heard people in western part of the world using the sentence: I'll be moving next month. In India, even in the English news channels, ...
-1
votes
2answers
67 views

Usage of 'bovinely' when fastness or slowness are involved

I know that in English 'I tried to go as slow as possible' and 'I tried to go as fast as possible' have a very different meaning, but I'm unsure how 'bovinely', before 'possible', change that ...
0
votes
2answers
512 views

Where in the world does “a lift” mean “a ride in the car”?

In the United States and Canada, when someone asks you for "a lift" or you offer "a lift", you are speaking about riding in a car with them. However, in England and other places, a "lift" is an ...
1
vote
0answers
26 views

“Went to school happily” vs. “happily went to school” vs. “went happily to school” [duplicate]

The boy went to school happily. The boy happily went to school. The boy went happily to school. If the adverb “happily” is allowed to be put in the three places above, what are the ...