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The following example sentence from Collins Dictionary seems to me perfectly natural and in line with the given definition of handy:

3. A thing or place that is handy is nearby and therefore easy to get or reach.

This lively town is handy for Londoners.

However, the phrase [the house is] handy for the shops (a lot of examples of which can be found by a Google search) seems semantically inverted with regard to the definition above: It is the shops that are handy and near the house which its residents can readily access the shop, not vice vera.

I know that nearness is usually a reciprocal relation*; However, as I mentioned earlier, the view point is different.

Am I correct in that respect? Is any rhetorical device at work here?


* Except when, for example, shops are at top of a hill above the house so that the house is, literally speaking, handy for the shops.

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  • Handy can be used to mean convenient - often conveniently located, but it can just mean conveniently available, as in Before we had accurate digital timepieces, the Speaking Clock was handy for checking the exact time. Personally, I have no problem with My house is handy for the shops. – FumbleFingers Apr 3 '20 at 14:45
  • Following the pattern of This lively town is handy for Londoners and because the shops are conveniently located for the household not vice versa (i.e. the house is conveniently located for the shopworkers), I think we should say the shops are handy. – Kaveh Apr 3 '20 at 14:56
  • We could say The shops are handy - for something / someone contextually relevant (such as my house, me), but I don't see where should comes into it. I think you're assuming a "teleology" or something that simply doesn't apply here (to do with whether or not things can be "handy" relative to something that cannot have "purpose"). – FumbleFingers Apr 3 '20 at 15:28
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    I think it partly depends on what you are emphasizing--the location of the house, or the location of the shops. – RobJarvis Apr 3 '20 at 15:52
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    A house that is handy for the shops means that shopworkers can live there close to work, not that the shops are handy for shopping if you live at that house. Close to shopping would refer to the handy location of the house. – Yosef Baskin Apr 3 '20 at 20:30

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