Questions relating to semantics, the study of meaning.

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34
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7answers
2k views

Does apologizing entail recognizing being at fault?

Consider this example: I'm sorry if you got the impression that I meant to insult you. That was not my intention. Would it be correct to say that the above person apologized? All the ...
19
votes
4answers
29k views

“Liberty” versus “freedom”

What is the difference, if any, between liberty and freedom? Does it convey the same meaning if "Status of liberty" is replaced with "status of freedom" ? or every occurrence of "liberty" in ...
18
votes
8answers
4k views

Does “criticism” imply positive as well as negative?

I thought I was always taught at school that criticism meant evaluation and opinion, either positive or negative. These days, it seems criticism, or to criticise, is almost exclusively used to mean ...
15
votes
10answers
2k 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 ...
13
votes
5answers
658 views

Can one “marry one's wife”?

I was vacantly reading the paper the other day when I came across a strange formation in the obituary: "he married his wife in 19XX". I was rather taken aback by this; surely he can't marry his own ...
13
votes
3answers
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 ...
12
votes
5answers
11k views

“Satire” versus “sarcasm”

I looked up the two words on wikitionary & got this: satire: A literary technique of writing or art which principally ridicules its subject often as an intended means of provoking or ...
12
votes
3answers
2k views

“Bring 6 eggs. If there are potatoes, bring 9.”

This is with reference to this comic, called A Programmer's Life (translated from Portuguese): Programmer: My wife asked me to go to the market and said: “Bring six eggs. If there are potatoes, ...
12
votes
7answers
25k views

Is the phrase “it's just a matter of semantics” meaningless?

I hear this phrase from time to time, and I really don't know what it means. Two people are debating, and one says "the difference between your position and mine is just a matter of semantics." ...
11
votes
4answers
42k views

Is a thumb also a finger?

The thumb has a different name compared to the other fingers (index, middle, ring, little) and it does not end with "finger". Also, when referring to the hand, I have seen literature where it is ...
10
votes
3answers
1k views

Can we call a person who loses things a “loser”?

Think > Thinker Draw > Drawer Can we call a person who loses thing a loser? Of course, I do not mean that they are not successful or failed but what should I call them?
10
votes
5answers
1k views

What is the semantic difference between “encipher” and “encrypt”?

What is the semantic difference between encipher and encrypt?
8
votes
2answers
1k views

Is there a clear delineation between the usages of 'this' and 'that' in American English?

One of my linguistics professors speaks English as a second language, and remarked that she never knows which of the two is appropriate. Given a list of examples, all native speakers in the classroom ...
8
votes
2answers
163 views

A question of interpretation: single word parenthesis

To my mind this: Entity foo varies seemingly at random. is semantically equivalent to this: Entity foo varies, seemingly, at random. However, is this necessarily the case? What ...
8
votes
1answer
450 views

Why and how did “a sensible boy” become “intelligent and prudent”?

Italians often get confused by sensible and sensitive. If I tell them He's a sensible boy; he studies hard, saves his money, and plans ahead. They are quite bewildered. To them, sensible is ...
8
votes
2answers
1k views

“for good” expression in an unfortunate event?

I just heard an expression while watching a TV series yesterday. Someone just died and they said: He is gone for good I googled it and found that "for good" means "forever" in this context. But ...
7
votes
5answers
33k views

Is “including but not limited to” a redundant phrase?

Doesn't "including" imply the "not limited to"?
7
votes
4answers
10k views

“Postfix” or “suffix”?

Wikipedia and The Free Dictionary were not much help — is there a practical difference in the semantics of suffix and postfix, except that the latter is more rare? File name extensions are well ...
7
votes
2answers
1k views

Is “want” a causative verb?

I've always held on to the definition that Causative Verbs express how the Noun before the Verb influences the execution of an action. Similarly, the Longman Student Grammar of Spoken and Written ...
7
votes
1answer
3k views

Difference between “subsequently” and “consequently”?

When studying and reading course material in "softer" sciences that are descriptive the word "subsequently" appears in a way like "and subsequently" ...what does it mean, disctinct from "consequently" ...
7
votes
3answers
514 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), ...
7
votes
2answers
229 views

Is there any semantic difference between “absolutely no x, except y” and “except y, absolutely no x”?

Bit of a quibble on a discussion elsewhere. I made the following statement: They had absolutely no debt, except for their mortgage. Someone (with whom I disagree vehemently) has accused this of ...
7
votes
5answers
3k views

What exactly is “verbal irony”

My daughter has been given the task - by me - of explaining irony. She identified and did a jolly good job of explaining 5 of the 6 apparent types of irony: dramatic, cosmic, socratic, situational, ...
6
votes
6answers
1k 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 ...
6
votes
4answers
304 views

Does “If X discovers that Y is Z” imply that Y is Z?

Related Question: Entailment/Presupposition in if-clause. Consider the sentence "If John discovers that Mary is in New York, he will get angry." Does this imply that Mary is in New York now? Is ...
6
votes
4answers
2k views

“Doubt” vs. “suspect” [closed]

I have never used doubt or suspect properly before. Now I understand that they seem to bear quite the opposite meanings in a sentence. For example, Everybody believes him, but I suspect he is ...
6
votes
1answer
274 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. ...
5
votes
6answers
1k views

Do we compile the source or the binaries?

When programming, we usually write text files in some programming language. These source files are fed into a compiler that compiles them into binary files. My question is whether to say: we ...
5
votes
4answers
30k views

What is the difference between syntax and semantics? [closed]

As a computer scientist and a writing hobbyist, I really ought to know these terms' meanings for memory. Can anyone clarify the difference between syntax and semantics, and provide some examples? For ...
5
votes
4answers
407 views

What's the proper interpretation of: “I was kissed by a girl twice”?

The other day I experienced two distinct but similar events. I wanted to convey this to a friend and this is what came to mind: "I was kissed by a girl twice." My question is, does this sentence say, ...
5
votes
5answers
6k views

Use of “Might” and “Might not”

I know "Might" and "Might not" means the lack of certainty, but is there an implied probability in the use of these terms? In other words, does "I might be coming" imply that "It is extremely likely ...
5
votes
3answers
456 views

What's the semantic difference between “overrated” and “overvalued”?

I often see those two words used together like "overrated & overvalued". That implies that they have different connotations. I wonder if that's really the case or they are used together just for ...
5
votes
2answers
859 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 ...
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 ...
5
votes
2answers
313 views

“If the bowl had been stronger, my song had been longer.”

In the original version of the nursery rhyme, The Wise Men of Gotham, the word 'had' is used in the main clause of a sentence where it seems modern English would commonly use 'would have'. The full ...
5
votes
7answers
3k views

What is the meaning of “run someone out of town”?

I know it's hard to understand a sentence without context, but what situation comes naturally to your mind when you hear the following sentence? She ran the mayor out of town.
5
votes
3answers
296 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 ...
5
votes
2answers
145 views

How to analyze lightly varying senses of adjective *very*

Use of very as an adjective is (in my experience) most frequently attested in phrases like ...the very person I was looking for. To use adjective very with the indefinite article sounds quite ...
4
votes
2answers
330 views

Is it correct to use “or” in place of “and/or”?

Consider the following sentence: A project is a large and/or complex undertaking. To me, the expression “and/or” seems redundant since in formal logic “or” implies ...
4
votes
3answers
305 views

“Life finishes” vs “life is finished”

To convey that someone arrives at the end of his life or simply dies, which sentence is more correct or more common? I prefer the first. His life finishes. His life is finished. If the ...
4
votes
1answer
13k views

Christmas: Christ + Mas? [closed]

What is the meaning of Christmas in the English language? Christ + mas = Christmas? Is it because Christ is associated with a cross that it sometimes reads X-mas? And where is the mas coming ...
4
votes
3answers
199 views

Does a nominative sentence suggest that a characteristic is more of a permanent feature?

Scenario: Someone steals a pen and is asked: 'Did you steal the pen?' They reply: 'No' It is said to them: 'You are a liar.' Does this nominative sentence not suggest that they are a liar as a ...
4
votes
1answer
366 views

Trouble with second conditionals (with “could”)

I would do B if you could do A. This is a statement which has been bothering me for quite a while. I come across such statements often and, to me, they make no sense. Could is the subjunctive of ...
4
votes
3answers
370 views

Does the word “catching” apply to people?

If we can say "I am running to catch the train", is it also appropriate to say that "I am going to the office early to catch the boss"?
4
votes
1answer
814 views

What does this mean: “Credit card balance within $2000 of card limit”?

I'm trying to create an alert on my credit card so that I get a text message when the total charges on my credit card go over $1000. Let's say my credit card limit is $3000. If I set the alert to ...
4
votes
4answers
2k views

One who objectifies women

Is there a single word or short phrase to describe someone who treats women like objects? Is there a similar word/phrase for who objectifies other people in general?
4
votes
2answers
866 views

“noun of noun” vs. “noun+noun”?

I wonder if there is a significant difference at the semantic or pragmatic levels in using the compounds structures noun of noun or noun+noun. For example, is it the same to say "the consumption of ...
4
votes
2answers
194 views

Does this phrase mean what I want it to mean?

I want to say that "the value decreases at a rate at least x" (i.e. faster than or equal to x). Does the phrase "the value decreases at minimum rate x" mean the same thing? If not, is there any other ...
4
votes
1answer
138 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?
4
votes
2answers
2k views

Achievement Verbs with the Progressive Aspect

I was reading a grammar and saw this. Achievement verbs describe actions that occur instantaeously. He solved the problem. He spotted the airplane. These verbs fall into two classes - one is ...