Questions tagged [ambiguity]

This tag is for questions about words or phrases that have multiple meanings and can thus be understood in different ways. If your question is about different words that can be easily mixed up or confused use the tag CONFUSABLES instead.

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36 views

Can something be “fully mitigated”?

In my work I often see the term "fully mitigated". This does not seem correct to me. If mitigate means to reduce or lessen then can anything ever be fully mitigated? Would a more correct ...
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38 views

Does the comma in my example sentence add clarity, or should I leave it out?

I quickly realized, homeless people listen to and trust other homeless people. I chose to include the comma to ensure readers understand it was the 'listen to' and 'trust' that I realized and not ...
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3answers
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What is the meaning of “a cool hand”?

I am quoting from the Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes, The Reigate Squires by Arthur Conan Doyle: "'There are some very singular points here,'said Holmes, smiling. 'Is it not extraordinary that a ...
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In “Brown Man's Burden” is the antecedent changing?

I was reading the "The Brown Man's Burden" by Henry Labouchère. I was a little confused because the antecedent for "you," seemed to be changing from the White men to the Brown men (...
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1answer
70 views

until, up to ambiguity — < vs <= [duplicate]

So this is about (preventing) an off-by-one error in the (interpretation of) English language. I have found some similar (not duplicate) questions but I don't feel entirely comfortable yet. For ...
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22 views

What is the difference between these responses? [duplicate]

Suppose I tell you that you can't understand what this means "fdhfshdgfjdsghskdrhgyc". You could reply "Yes, I can" or "No, I can". For the first phrase, it means that ...
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2answers
57 views

What is the contemporary meaning of “consensual”? [closed]

I wrote in a question on another SE site Before I start to reinvent the wheel: is there a consensual way to insert such data into the DB? To which I got several comments: I also think you mean &...
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0answers
41 views

Breast - gender [closed]

Macmillian gives three different meanings to the word "breast". https://www.macmillandictionary.com/us/thesaurus-category/american/the-breast-and-breasts The first says, it is part of a ...
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1answer
30 views

A series of 4 elements, which can be considered as 2 series of 2 elements

Below is a sentence from the manual about naming files that I'm working on. Avoid including words that are clear from the parent path (2011), the file type (presentation), are obvious for some other ...
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1answer
49 views

Use of “of you” vs “for you” [closed]

"It is so kind of you to help me" "It is so kind for you to help me" What's the difference between "of" and "for" there? (I know no one using the second one, ...
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0answers
35 views

What does “be it” mean in this context? [duplicate]

I googled about this "be it" thing and I found a little sth about it, I learned it's an old subjunctive inversion, but I can’t understand meaning of the sentence below: But such an “...
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28 views

Using the oxford comma to separate two entities of which one has an article

Considering that I do not want to switch the positions of the italicized nouns in this sentence: "Taken as examples are the Limboagan effect, and hysteria." Will it be correct to use the ...
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1answer
27 views

Is “A scales with B in the same way as C” ambiguous? [closed]

In the sentence "A scales with B in the same way as C," A, B and C represent some scientific terms. I wrote it with a 'does' at the end to avoid ambiguity: "A scales with B in the same ...
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1answer
56 views

Can a morphologically singular noun sometimes take a plural verb if semantics permits so?

I have had this rather mind-boggling question: Do the following sentences require a singular or plural verb? The blue and the red dice are/is rolled on the floor. Geraldine's and Gerald's car are ...
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Can “edification” mean improvement or growth in a general sense, or does it only specifically refer to acquisition of knowledge or moral improvement?

In a conversation with a friend, I recently mentioned that I thought "one of the purposes of gift-giving is the edification of the giver and receiver" My friend replied that this did not ...
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28 views

The maximum X and Y length / lengths

One of the sections in the technical manual I am working on describes the maximum length of filenames and paths. According to the document, the maximum length of filenames is 31 character and the ...
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1answer
54 views

What time period does “1600s” refer to? [duplicate]

I've used the form "XX00s" to mean a century, as in How poverty affected Britain in the late 1800s or In the 1600s the tensions between the crown and parliament came to a head And I use &...
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29 views

Meaning of “Lift” in “International sanctions lifted” [duplicate]

I want to know is it correct that "Lift" sometimes means to be "stop" as Wendy Sherman claimed in 2016 about the usage of that word in "International sanctions lifted"? ...
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1answer
215 views

Meaning of the sentence “the body was found murdered by John”

Which of the two versions Mr.S. was found murdered, by John Mr.S. was found, murdered by John means that John found the body and which one means that John was the murderer?
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1answer
41 views

How to remove attachment ambiguity?

I have the following sentence in my technical manual about naming files: Punctuation marks other than hyphens, spaces around punctuation marks that are replaced by underscores, and spaces between ...
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2answers
57 views

Name of this lyrical device comparing oneself to something that's described by the same word, but in another sense of the word?

Warning: The examples contain some offensive words, but I believe that is not against the rules here? Lately I've been listening a lot to a certain hip-hop album, in which almost every track uses a ...
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2answers
69 views

Usage of “Do not mistake this for that” [closed]

Take the sentence Do not mistake genius for passion. In this case, what has the person being spoken to mistaken: genius or passion?
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1answer
25 views

Ambiguous ownership when discussing multiple character body parts

Up front apologies for the vague title, happy for editing suggestions on that as I'm not sure how else to describe it. Apologies again. I have come across a few situations where in a simple sentence I'...
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3answers
78 views

If I say that someone was mean to me, does that imply that they were conscious of it?

The dictionary doesn't help me with an answer. It gives me other words which may or may not require intent. mean (adjective) unkind, spiteful, or unfair. To be spiteful requires intent, to be unfair ...
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1answer
37 views

What if you wanted to get the tone of the word “collective” but there was only one unit involved? [closed]

The sonic design collective. The Peace Collective. The Berklee Square Soapbox Luminary's Collective. The Montréal Artist's Collective. What if you wanted to get this embodiment, this presence, this ...
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0answers
15 views

Term for words meaning both a concept or its best form. Ex: “principles” means “virtue” or “any morals” (good or bad) [duplicate]

These might also be examples: "logic/reason" as in "valid logic" or "any logic".
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1answer
42 views

Understanding Epictetus' burning down of the Capitol

Excerpt from Epictetus' Discourses, Book I, Chapter 8 (emphasis mine): You know, I once said the same thing to Musonius when he reproached me for not discovering the omission in a certain syllogism. ...
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5answers
285 views

Difference between “lift” and “lift off” in Feynman Lectures

Here's Figure 4.1: And an excerpt from the Feynman Lectures on Physics Chapter 4.2: A very simple weight-lifting is shown in Fig. 4-1. This machine lifts three units "strong". We place ...
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1answer
21 views

Meaning of some words

The closing decades of an artist’s life do not generally make the biographer’s heart beat faster, but Claude Monet is one of a handful of painters who bucks the pattern of an irrelevant old age. While ...
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1answer
42 views

Two consecutive sentences starting with the same word. The words have different meaning. How to make an emphasis on the correct meaning?

I work on a technical manual where each separate rule is followed by an example. (Actually, each rule is followed by two examples, a correct one and a wrong one. The wrong ones are skipped for brevity....
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1answer
37 views

Disambiguation of a sentence

I am working on a math problem where I need some help with the English to finish my solution. I have an ambiguous sentence: At least one student attended every lecture. My attempt to disambiguate ...
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0answers
17 views

Is there ambiguity in “by each” in this context?

The sentence: "Find all malls that have been visited by each student attending Wolf Secondary School" I've recently encountered a question like this on a Computer Science test and ...
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0answers
52 views

Ambiguous question

I came across a whatsapp message a few years ago about a question framed in a manner that no matter what the person answers they will be considered that thing they want to deny being. Unfortunately, I ...
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1answer
34 views

What does “controversial” mean here? [closed]

i.e., "The new agricultural reforms gave way to controversy." Does it mean that the public unanimously disagree with the reforms, or they disagree within themselves as to the subject matter?
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3answers
69 views

What would you understand if someone told you “you don't pay your tailor enough”? [closed]

It seems that it can be interpreted in a positive or negative way. Positive in the sense that your dress looks great and you should pay the tailor even more. Negative in the sense that the dress looks ...
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3answers
2k views

Does calling something a 'Novelty Act' bring down its image? [closed]

I'm really confused with this one, if one calls some performance a 'Novelty Act' does it imply they're trying lower its image or is it just neutral? Well, I looked it up on the internet and it says ...
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1answer
44 views

“In cases where” vs. “If”

Garner's Modern English Usage (2016), p. 147: H.W. Fowler wrote of case: "There is perhaps no single word so freely resorted to as a trouble-saver, and consequently responsible for so much ...
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0answers
11 views

Want- desire vs lack

When do you use want as "desire" and as "lack?" It appears quite often in texts, and I have a hard time differentiating the two. For example: The want of Miss Taylor would be felt ...
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3answers
45 views

What do adverbs modify and can it be ambiguous?

I have two questions, but first consider the following sentence: Cutlery includes any hand implement used in preparing, serving, and especially eating food in Western culture. Does adverb '...
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2answers
36 views

How to simplify this complex syntax and ambiguous word usage? [closed]

I couldn't understand a sentence in a literary work which is too complex and containing too much terminology. Can you help me understand the sentence by just simplifying or re-organazing or re-...
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1answer
68 views

Can “If” mean “since”?

Here's my example: "If we all agree on the basic terms, can we do a proper agreement next week." Can this be construed (in the proper context) as: "Since we all agree, can we etc."?...
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1answer
29 views

“If you really need to do so, change it back as soon as possible”

The default value of X is "Off" and it's generally discouraged to change it. If you really need to do so, change it back as soon as possible. to do so refers to the act of changing the ...
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2answers
138 views

What does the fourth number refer to here? [closed]

John locked his bike with a 4-digit combination lock several months ago, and he cannot recall the correct combination. Each digit is one of the numbers 0, 1, 2, ..., 9. John only knows that each of ...
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1answer
32 views

What does “humble” imply here?

Corn dog is the most humble street food.
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2answers
101 views

How to clarify what you mean by “Standard Time” in relation to time zones?

It seems like the term "Standard Time" in the context of describing a time zone is ambiguous. For example "Pacific Standard Time" could either mean: As distinct from "...
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1answer
64 views

What does “Can I help you?” really mean?

I am a non-native English speaker. Whenever I travel to the States and I sometimes hear the question, "Can I help you?" At first, I thought it was a sincere eagerness to help me. However, ...
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2answers
80 views

In trouble understanding contexts from Pride And Prejudice [closed]

Elizabeth could safely say that it was a great happiness where that was the case, and with equal sincerity could add, that she firmly believed and rejoiced in his domestic comforts. She was not sorry, ...
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1answer
31 views

Is this sentence ambiguous? (“it is not” followed by -ing)

English is not my first language. I found the following sentence: It is not having fear that is the problem. Am I right thinking that it is ambiguous? I can think of the following different meanings:...
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2answers
90 views

Again on “Either”… does it mean “both”? [duplicate]

I'm aware that the meaning of either can be: Any of two options Both the options It depends from the context ... This is the context, an official rule from the UK government: When you arrive at the ...
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0answers
46 views

Ambiguous joke?

I want to refer to "a nice lawyer joke", where the joke is nice, not the lawyer. How can I do that unambiguously? Is it best to rephrase to something like "a nice joke about lawyers&...

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