2

Tough to describe this in the title so I'll give an example many English speakers have come across:

  • Speaker 1: "Should we go left or right?"
  • Speaker 2: "Looks like our friends went left."
  • Speaker 1: "Right. Let's do that."

Though Speaker 1 was probably wanting to agree and say "correct", the use of the word "Right" isn't incorrect but makes this response completely ambiguous.

Maybe this example is very singular since I'm struggling to come up with others. Perhaps if slang were used and up or down were the options given by Speaker 1, a response from Speaker 1 saying "I'm down" would be analogous.

Is there a specific term for this sort of mix-up?

  • 2
    double entendre – TsSkTo Jan 19 '16 at 20:51
  • Such response is "ambiguous" or "equivocal". – Graffito Jan 19 '16 at 21:43
  • 3
    I would simply call it "ambiguity". – Hot Licks Jan 19 '16 at 21:45
  • Go watch the Abbot & Costello "Who's on First" routine (they have several bits based on these kinds of ambiguities, but this one is the best and most famous). – Barmar Jan 21 '16 at 2:17

Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.