I've been wondering for a while now whether there is a word (or linguistic term) that specifically refers to an instance where a clause can be part of either the clause before it or the clause after it.

One such example would be P!nk's song "Walk of Shame":

I shouldn't have let 'em take my keys, take my keys
They left me here
With too much beer.
My friends, they hung me out to dry.
It's not my fault, and that's why
I'm doin' the walk of shame

The specific instance is in bold, and my thought process is as follows:

  1. My friends, they hung me out to dry; it's not my fault and that's why.

She could be saying that her friends are why she's doing the walk of shame. i.e. It's not my fault because my friends hung me out to dry.

  1. It's not my fault, and that's why I'm doing the walk of shame.

She could be saying that it's not her fault that she's doing the walk of shame.

I know it's not the best example because both 1) and 2) are similar in meaning, but nonetheless, is there a term for this phenomenon? I also know that 2) is likely the intended structure, but it does provoke thought if you ignore the full stop after "dry".


I agree it's not the best example, because you had to change the punctuation to make your point. (Also, I'm not convinced Pink's lyrics merit close scrutiny, but that's a different discussion.)

I think the term you're looking for might be ambiguity or ambiguous phrasing. There's a good description of ambiguity here:


Ambiguity or fallacy of ambiguity is a word, phrase, or statement which contains more than one meaning.

Ambiguous words or statements lead to vagueness and confusion, and shape the basis for instances of unintentional humor.

A section of lyrics or prose containing logic that is confusing or vague can be referred to as ambiguous statements or ambiguous phrasing.

  • 1
    Man eating shark! – Grizzly May 25 '16 at 1:03

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