Questions relating to semantics, the study of meaning.

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4
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1answer
52 views

What is the difference between 'ceremonial' and 'ceremonious'?

Even having looked in the OED I am still slightly unclear as to which contexts require the adjective ceremonious and which ceremonial. The OED treatment of ceremonious is as below with some of the ...
3
votes
4answers
6k 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
3answers
83 views

“This page intentionally blank” … but it isn't!

We are all familiar with user manuals or documents with pages printed with "intentionally blank" ... but with those words on them, they are no longer blank! I'm pretty sure I saw a user manual once ...
2
votes
0answers
32 views

Difference of “I am just an ABC” vs “I am but a XYZ”

As far as I (non-native speaker) can tell, these two sentences have the same meaning: I'm just a humble merchant I'm but a humble merchant However I wonder if there is some subtle ...
2
votes
3answers
415 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 ...
0
votes
3answers
56 views

Hypernym for “query” and “report” [closed]

One hypernym for teacher and student is person. Vehicle is a hypernym of car and lorry.... Is there a hypernym for query and report?
0
votes
1answer
74 views

semantic difference for the forms: “x of y” vs. “x of the y” vs. “y x”

As a non-native speaker, I have a problem understanding the difference in meaning of the following forms: "… of …" "… of the …" "… …" To be more specific, let me give some instances: "theory of ...
2
votes
2answers
2k views

Humans or people?

This is the sentence I've read: Freedom is something humans in all times have fought for. I am under the impression that the use of humans is not adequate here. Thus, my question is: when to ...
0
votes
6answers
867 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 ...
17
votes
11answers
5k 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. I once tried to find out how a word that referred to a part of the body could later develop into ...
1
vote
1answer
76 views

Do we plan a strategy?

Is it grammatically correct to say : "He planned a strategy".
0
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2answers
59 views

How to distinguish “wherefore” from “therefore” [closed]

I'm aware that the word "wherefore" can be used in the same way as "why", as in classic Shakespeare: "Wherefore art thou Romeo" (NOT meaning where). However how else can it be properly used? Please ...
1
vote
1answer
38 views

Can “I'm springing” ever really have a present continuous meaning relating to a single spring?

As an homage to a certain kind of linguistico-philosophico question we see here now and then, I'm asking my own, since I have pressing things to do which I would like to do tomorrow, or the next day, ...
3
votes
3answers
174 views

Idiom: Bear with me

The sense of this formula is clear. It means be patient with me, be tolerant/lenient. Don't be too harsh on me. But how can a verb as "to bear" develop the meaning of to be tolerant? "To bear" is an ...
1
vote
3answers
88 views

How did 'estate' evolve to mean 'area of land or property'?

The following are definitions of the word 'estate': estate {noun} = 1. An area or amount of land or property, in particular = 3. {archaic or literary} A particular state, period, or condition ...
1
vote
2answers
71 views

Do English speaking subcultures attach different meanings to the phrase “I'm sorry”?

On a recent trip the US, someone explained to me that saying "sorry" meant taking responsibility for causing the loss. Thus you should only say sorry if you intended to fix the situation. (And ...
2
votes
2answers
126 views

It was nice being here vs It was nice to be here

What is more appropriate to say: It was nice being here or It was nice to be here? I hear both constructions pretty often, and am aware of the slight difference, but it seems that people use them ...
1
vote
1answer
139 views

“I'll be sure to do something” vs “I'll for sure do something”

I'm not a native speaker but work in an English-speaking international environment. One American guy wrote me: I'll be sure to let you know We at our company usually say: I'll for sure let ...
1
vote
2answers
173 views

Formal definition of “nearly”

When google for "define nearly" the provided definition was: adverb very close to; almost. closely. Does this means, despite almost no one use it this way, It is semantically ...
3
votes
2answers
101 views

A sentence with double negative [closed]

I came across the following sentence in Kurt Vonnegut's book Slaughterhouse Five. “Trout would have gone upstairs if Billy hadn't asked him not to.” If this sentence is considered independently, ...
0
votes
0answers
44 views

Does the word “writing” denote all forms of using characters to convey information?

In legal practices it is common to deliver a written notice to a defendant. This may be a physical letter or an email. This got me thinking about the meaning of written. The Oxford dictionary defines ...
6
votes
5answers
418 views

Can someone please explain the syntactic rules at work here?

I'll use an example statement that's currently being used in a radio commercial for American Family Insurance (paraphrased.) They all told me that I couldn't build my dream home by myself; but, I ...
1
vote
0answers
64 views

Definition of racism inconsistency?

For some dictionaries, such as the Oxford one, racism requires that prejudice/discrimination based on the belief that a race is superior/inferior. But I can't find this requirement anywhere for any ...
2
votes
1answer
68 views

“No longer could I wait”: Valid construction? [closed]

A lack of capital and experience had always kept me from pursuing this dream, but no longer could I wait. I'm unsure whether or not the no longer could I wait fragment is correct. I have just ...
4
votes
1answer
140 views

How did we get ‘deft’ and ‘daffy’ from “daft”?

[ Etymonline for 'daft (adj.)'] Old English gedæfte "gentle, becoming," ... from PIE * dhabh- "to fit together" (see fabric). Sense of "mild, well-mannered" (c. 1200). [ Etymonline for ...
0
votes
2answers
50 views

Usage of the noun 'news'

I would like to ask you a question concerning the noun 'news'. I am aware that as an uncountable noun, it is, thus, not possible to use the indefinite article preceding it. I am a bit unsure, ...
-2
votes
1answer
51 views

Are these two sentences semantically identical? [closed]

Are these two sentences semantically identical? By using this website, you are certifying that you have read our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy, you are certifying that you understand our Terms of ...
2
votes
2answers
3k views

Is there a semantic difference between “manipulable” and “manipulatable”?

In all the sources I can find, the terms "manipulable" and "manipulatable" are both defined as some form of "able to be manipulated". But depending on the source, one word seems to be related to ...
14
votes
4answers
1k views

How are pronouns resolved?

Are pronouns in English resolved syntactically or semantically? Do they always refer to the closest matching noun? A wikipedia article has these examples: We gave the bananas to the monkeys ...
0
votes
0answers
99 views

The difference between issue, matter, affair and question

I'm analyzing a text on marketing and I found this paragraph that has four lexemes which are synonymous and yet there seems to exist some difference between them. This is the text (the numbers ...
0
votes
1answer
47 views

Last, This, and Next (days of the week) [duplicate]

I (and my interlocutors) have often experienced confusion when communicating with others regarding "last [day-of-week]", "this [day-of-week]" and "next [day-of-week]" In my mind, what is logical is ...
1
vote
2answers
194 views

Starting a Sentence with a Conjunction [duplicate]

My high school English teacher taught us to never start a sentence with conjunctions, but throughout the years I have seen a lot of such usage in academic writings and novels. I have also read various ...
0
votes
2answers
99 views

“Any object in A and B”—What does it mean?

Does "any object in A and B" in English mean any object in A and any object in B; any object in A or any object in B; or any object in the intersection of A and B? Thanks a lot. Another ...
0
votes
1answer
83 views

The tiger VS. tigers [closed]

Using just 'species' (for the sake of simplicity and consistency), the author's judgments can be summarized as follows: • (39a) the species of the tiger = (marginally) OK • (39b) the species of ...
2
votes
3answers
107 views

Is it wrong to use 'not" in sentences that have an “all…not” form

All of the women in the district did not vote for the lone female candidate. What, if any, is the semantic problem in the above sentence? I was suggested the following sentence by my senior ...
0
votes
2answers
596 views

What are the semantic roles of the nouns following the adjective 'suspicious' in this sentence?

A suspicious policeman looked at a suspicious man. Can anybody define the semantic roles of the nouns which follow the adjective suspicious in the quoted sentence?
0
votes
3answers
51 views

Origin of using “left” as something we still have [closed]

People express a quantity of something they still have (but is finding away) by using the word "left". Time left: 2 hours Where does this usage originates from. If one depicts a timeline, it ...
2
votes
2answers
105 views

Nouns that describe actions but are not verb nouns [closed]

So I had a little semantics argument about English verbs, where the other side claimed, let me quote: They are one in the same, every action is a verb, every verb is an action. I disagree, but ...
2
votes
1answer
61 views

What is 'only' is these sentences?

Are you hungry? Only I know a great pizzeria. Or should I make it one complete sentence and use only as a (coordinating conjunction?)? Are you hungry, only I know a great pizzeria? Only can be used ...
6
votes
3answers
1k views

Why are the notes or protocol of a meeting referred to as its 'minutes'?

A minute is 60 seconds. Something 'minute' is small, minor, perhaps short. Now, what about the minutes of a meeting or a session? As in, its written protocol? Are they called that because: The ...
-1
votes
3answers
164 views

root words and affixes lead to a limitless vocabulary?

Could anyone explain how a solid knowledge about root words and affixes ( which can alter words meaning presumably ) boosts one's vocabulary? I want to know how it works? I've read somewhere that good ...
1
vote
1answer
3k views

Is there a difference between feminism and egalitarianism? [closed]

The definition of feminism (based on merriam-webster): the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes While egalitarianism is defined as: a belief in human equality ...
2
votes
2answers
17k views

“Query” vs. “Inquiry”

What is the difference between the words "inquiry" and "query?" I tend to associate the latter with technology (e.g., search engine queries), but I'm not sure what the actual meaning is.
-2
votes
1answer
72 views

Assign an appropriate Grammatical function & Semantic Role to each phrase: [closed]

John's mother sent a letter to Mary. We placed the cheese in the freezer. John made a doll for his daughter. Mary received an award from the department. Alan gave the book to the students.
-1
votes
1answer
79 views

Is there anything wrong with the phrase “constant variable” ? (used in context with programming) [closed]

The phrase "constant variable" seems semantically incorrect to me. Constant means something that don't change and variable means something that do change. How should I think in order to get this ?
0
votes
3answers
100 views

Can I have an easy comprehension?

I want to know if it is possible to say this: "He has an easy comprehension of theory and methodologies, and a complete understanding of technologies, learning very quick the use of different Business ...
-1
votes
2answers
335 views

Can a sentence be grammatical without making sense?

Am I the only one whose athletic career bared fruit? While this sentence doesn’t make logical sense, seeing as it should be "bore fruit", is it still grammatically correct? Can a sentence that ...
1
vote
1answer
65 views

Elide versus omit [closed]

Do "elide" and "omit" mean exactly the same thing? Are they completely interchangeable? Or is there some nuance that would indicate that you should use one over the other depending on the ...
1
vote
2answers
109 views

A “list of Things I've done” including passives? How to explain how this is wrong?

Proofreading a website, it had a "List of Things I've Done" that went something like this: Danced in the moonlight Had a gun pointed at me Ate Lutefisk ...etc. The one that bothered me was the ...