In the Collins Dictionary entry for the verb detest, the following citation taken from a 2003 Ottawa Sun article is given to demonstrate that verb:

Sad sometimes what happens when kids stop being kids and grow up to become the kind of adults we simply detest.

I can’t understand the exact meaning of this sentence. Which of the following is it?

  1. One sometimes finds themselves sad at witnessing that children come of age so obscurely, forging their way towards the very kind of adulthood we simply detest.
  2. One sometimes finds themselves sad at the way children occasionally behave like the very kinds of adults we usually are inclined to detest.

Or is it neither?

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    Oh, it's well-formed; just a normal application of Conversational Deletion. And any written sentence is multiply ambiguous. – John Lawler Jul 29 '14 at 17:11
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    If I was rewriting this sentence for clarity, I would only make a few minor changes: "(It is) sad (to see), sometimes, what happens when kids stop being kids and grow up to become the kind of adults we simply detest." I'd interpret that to mean that kids stop being kids (start acting like adults) and then grow up to be the kind of adults that the writer detests. The "kind of adult we detest" is ambiguous and can probably only be clarified by the context of the story or article that this quote is from. – Kristina Lopez Jul 29 '14 at 19:53

As John Lawler says, this is conversational English with some parts missing, because that's what people do - we don't always speak in fully grammatical, perfectly formed sentences. It's a little clearer with some punctuation:

"Sad, sometimes, what happens when kids stop being kids, and grow up to become the kind of adults we simply detest."

It can be written less conversationally like this:

It's sad that sometimes kids stop being kids and grow up to be the kind of adults we detest.

Both your interpretations say roughly the same thing, but not in constructions a native speaker would use. For one thing, if you use 'one' you should also use 'oneself' -

"One sometimes finds oneself sad ..."

I agree with you about an atmosphere of extra strictness dominating the forum. Possibly someone will edit this paragraph out because it's an opinion and not an answer!

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  • If @RegDwigHt had left the question as it was before the so-called edition my interpretations wouldn't probably seem the same.I wonder if you have seen my question before being edited. It is(/ was!) not an ambiguity question at all! The title was : "Does this sentence bear two interpretations?". With the present title people think I'm not getting my head around what has been omitted from the sentence.As for "one" and "oneself", my words were one and then "himself/herself". Thank you any way! – Itsme Jul 29 '14 at 20:36
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    No, I had not read your question before the edit but I have now. I think @RegDwight has completely altered the nature of your question. My answer is therefore different. The verb 'to grow up' usually refers that long process over the years from childhood to adulthood. If it meant the 2nd sense (a glimpse of children acting like adults), you (one) would probably say 'acting grown up' or 'looking grown up'. But the verb implies a passage of time. – Mynamite Jul 29 '14 at 20:55
  • I admit your point about "growing up" but then the question turns out to be if "a kid can STOP being a kid" in the course of time. I mean that I feel "growing up" and "STOPPING to be a kid" are taking the connotation two opposite ways. right? – Itsme Jul 29 '14 at 21:17
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    @Itsme: As Mynamite points out, neither of your rephrasings are actually "credible". I can't see that Reg's edit significantly changed anything about the question, but you yourself have made a glaring error in your second interpretation of the original (which Reg no doubt deliberately left in). There's only one sometimes in the original, but somehow you've decided to include both that and the synonymous occasionally (with a different referent) in your rephrasing. That cannot possibly be the intention of the original. – FumbleFingers Jul 29 '14 at 21:46
  • @Itsme both your interpretations have been left completely intact. If they don't reflect what you are actually asking about, that's your own fault. But you are welcome to clarify. The rest of the question was edited for formatting, brevity, and grammar. "Bear two interpretations" is simply not English. You mean "have two interpretations". For which there is a single dedicated word, "ambiguous". Likewise, "himself/herself" is cumbersome, people use "themselves" instead. And "none" meant that you were asking if the sentence has no meaning at all. You really want to say "neither". – RegDwigнt Jul 30 '14 at 9:05

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