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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.

2
votes
1answer
202 views

Verb chaining: ambiguous or not? (“Please wait until installation finishes to continue”)

Every time I see this message in Android Studio (a free google app) I ask myself whether it is proper English or not? Please wait until the installation finishes to continue While it is definitely ...
4
votes
3answers
2k views

Is there any word with two consecutive monophthongs whose symbols could be combined to a diphthong? [closed]

For example, ɔ and ɪ in one word one after another. Note that I talking about a situation where the symbols could be combined as written l, not the sounds. IPA does not have explicit different written ...
0
votes
3answers
171 views

“is a function of”… possible ambiguity of usage

I would like to point to the dependence of love on knowledge (analysing Maimonides' Code, Book of Adoration, Repentance 10:6): "according to the knowledge will be the love." Originally I had ...
2
votes
1answer
503 views

What does the RSI abbreviation stand for?

I'm reading an article about innovative design tooling from the perspective of divergence and convergence. Everything had been pretty much straightforward until I stumbled upon this "RSI" abbreviation....
1
vote
1answer
241 views

What's the meaning of “other hours”? [closed]

I'm stuck with the phrase "other hours" used in the following context: Hours went into the plotting of graphs, and other hours into instructing an assistant how to plot. Does that mean that 1/2 ...
0
votes
1answer
3k views

What does it mean for bones to be bleaching?

What does it exactly mean to say bones are bleaching? Specifically, does it mean their color is getting whiter or they are moldering A context: Since then I have lived to see state after ...
-2
votes
2answers
3k views

I need some clarification on a “What have you been doing…” question

When someone asks me something like— What have you been doing for the last week? What have you been up to for the past couple days? —what do they mean by that? Does they mean today and ...
3
votes
2answers
171 views

Verbs that switch thematic roles, but not surface structure

Are there any English verbs that are ambiguous with regard to their thematic roles, although they are the same on the surface? To clarify, in John worries Mary, John causes the worries, but in John ...
0
votes
1answer
88 views

Are “course” and “lesson” interchangeable?

I'm writing a letter to Columbia University but I am having problems with the last sentence of the letter. [...] I have also nearly completed the X course that your university offers online. ...
0
votes
1answer
85 views

Specificity - inferring or adding “all” in someone's statement

I see this issue come up very frequently in arguments, for example. Person 1 might say: Trees have leaves or Christians attend church. Person 2 will then step in and retort that "not all trees have ...
0
votes
1answer
59 views

Is there a good way to group logical statements in plain writing?

I wanted to write something in plain English that reflects a logical statement with slightly complex conditions. I went with something like "A person requires extra security if they're trying to ...
1
vote
0answers
415 views

What can you “distinguish” between? Distinguishing between things that seem incomparable

Given my lack in vocabulary, I assume the title doesn't make much sense (and I will welcome more suitable suggestions or edits for the title), but, basically, what brings up that question is a pretty ...
0
votes
1answer
151 views

Meaning of “remain” (“remain concerned”)

What does "remain" imply in sentences like this: "The Government of X remains deeply concerned about the human rights situation in the country"? a) The Government has been concerned for a while and ...
0
votes
1answer
155 views

Resolving the ambiguity of this sentence

The movie portrays the rise of X and the conflict of Y. A reader could interpret the sentence as the rise of two things, but I want them to unambigiously interpret the sentence as the portrayal of a ...
5
votes
4answers
120 views

Is “so little is clear” in “So little is clear that Castro’s departure took on the quality of a test…” an inversion?

There was the following passage in Time magazine’s (December 1, 2016) article that came under the title, “How Castro will be Trump’s first foreign policy test”: North Korea has both an erratic ...
0
votes
2answers
71 views

“Speak out against the fraud” - meaning?

He suggested that we speak out against the election fraud. What is the exact meaning of this sentence to natives: that he asked us to say that there was no fraud in the election (so we say there was ...
2
votes
2answers
222 views

The many meanings of “nominal”

I work in software in a technology field, and hear the word nominal tossed around quite a bit. Sometimes I have a hard time understanding which meaning people are intending. Maybe I have a mental ...
0
votes
2answers
366 views

“Both your work”: both and non-transforming plurals

Situation - You are addressing two people - You want to address their work collectively - They both do work, separately Considerations The singular and plural form of your is the same The plural ...
0
votes
2answers
897 views

Please? Please! What does the word “please” do?

Please is weirder than a 3 dollar bill! Does please make any statement a question? Is it polite? "TAKE OUT THE TRASH" vs. "Take out the trash, please" is one an option? My son always says when ...
0
votes
1answer
520 views

What does the “which” of “A and B which…” refer to? [closed]

A and B which... Does what follow "which" refer to: strictly B alone? both A and B?
4
votes
4answers
1k views

Isn't “to be mistaken” ambiguous?

Please follow the reasoning. Active voice: My neighbors (always) mistake me for my brother. That's why they call me Jim. Passive voice: I am mistaken for my brother (by my neighbors). ...
1
vote
2answers
235 views

Unchallengingly accept - easily or without dispute?

[...] Unchallengingly, we accept that the rose is beautiful, though it must be said that roses in the wild can make some garden varieties look almost vulgar.(Cambridge English, Objective Proficiency) ...
0
votes
2answers
115 views

Can somebody make sense of this sentence? [closed]

I am just curious if anybody can make head or tail of this sentence. It does not make any sense. On the other hand, for cemented sand, a power function can fit as the relation between UCS and ...
6
votes
1answer
106 views

How to elucidate a *speciously* threefold “correlative comparative” in written form [closed]

Consider this sentence: The more complex a law, the more difficult it is to comprehend, the easier it becomes for the experts to evade it. As RegDwigнt has pointed out ...the chain is not ...
1
vote
0answers
66 views

May an adverbial qualifier suffice to free the word “free” of its ambiguity?

Free is an ambiguous word. For the purpose of this question I'll skip any meaning the word may bear as a verb, and I'll also overlook the "free from/of" variant. In fact, I'll just focus on the two ...
14
votes
5answers
3k views

Are there any ambiguities created by merging I and J into one letter?

In some Latin alphabet Polybius squares, the I and J are merged into one letter. Normally, this doesn't really create any problems, as I and J are a vowel and a consonant, so there wouldn't really be ...
1
vote
2answers
137 views

Ambiguous parsing in the absence of prepositions

Consider the following sentence which may appear, say, in a changelog of a website or an app: Order a taxi button on most pages. Does it allow multiple parsings, i.e. there is an entity named "a ...
0
votes
1answer
70 views

I need grammatical help over here! [closed]

I am writing a term paper and I ran into this complex sentence in an article which I cannot make sense of. I think there is something wrong with the punctuation, making it twisted. There are several ...
1
vote
2answers
1k views

Meaning of “however” in “possible, however unlikely, …”

What is the meaning of the word "however" in the phrase "possible, however unlikely"? An example of a sentence containing this phrase (taken from Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope) is, If the ...
1
vote
0answers
320 views

What is the difference between a disease and a medical condition? [closed]

I'm studying to become a medical assistant but I am in a bridge program now to prepare me. While I'm looking at medical terms I see that some things are listed as conditions and some are listed as ...
0
votes
1answer
59 views

I cannot figure out this sentence…need a little help

I came across this complex sentence taken from an article. I guess I am having hard time understanding it due to its complicated punctuation marks. I'd appreciate it if I could receive some help with ...
1
vote
1answer
300 views

How to remove ambiguity due to having both an `and` and an `or` in a sentence

I have two questions related to the following sentence. I have an apple or an orange and a banana First I would like to confirm that the sentence is ambiguous because it could mean one of the ...
2
votes
1answer
56 views

Divergent meanings of “bulkhead"

I understood the word bulkhead to mean a structural wall or barrier, particularly relating to naval architecture. I am now seeing the term applied to certain interior design treatments where box ...
1
vote
1answer
799 views

The use of taking (an) interest

Is the following question correct? What's wrong with taking interest? I know taking AN interest or showing interest is better, but I would like to know if taking interest is also correct.
0
votes
1answer
74 views

to mistake sb1. for sb2. - who is sb1, who is sb2?

When you mistook A for B, does that mean that you expected B, but it was A or that you expected A, but it was B?
0
votes
1answer
211 views

Meaning of sentences in form “Nor…,as”

What does a sentence mean in the form of "Nor..., as"? For example, consider the following sentence: The usage of the material is not limited by its appearance. Nor was the usage limited, as some ...
2
votes
1answer
67 views

“Mom was saying that dad wanted me to mow the lawn and asked what time I would be coming home?”

Mom was saying that dad wanted me to mow the lawn and asked what time I would be coming home. In the sentence above, who is asking what time I would be coming home, mom or dad? If it's mom, why isn't ...
0
votes
1answer
460 views

Meaning of phrase “joint-byline”

What does the phrase joint-byline mean for a multi-author article? Does it mean (1) All authors work under the name of a leader whose name appears as the single name in the byline or does it mean ...
1
vote
1answer
46 views

Does this statement talking about agriculture or resource management?

How to simplify the last statement which highlighted of this paragraph. I'm in doubt about the meaning of the word "husbandry" in here. "In carriage and behaviour they are very grave and stately, ...
1
vote
1answer
72 views

'upper air' meaning

Here's a passage from Diana of the Crossways by George Meredith. My question is: what does the 'upper air' mean? My dictionary says it is about the upper layers of the atmosphere; but it would be ...
14
votes
3answers
14k views

What are “desires of the flesh”?

I am struggling to understand the following sentence. Many Roman emperors were known for their dissolution, indulging in unspeakable desires of the flesh. Does the phrase "desires of the flesh" ...
0
votes
1answer
228 views

strike a balance between A and B [closed]

I am wondering if the following sentences are right or formal in written. We have to strike a balance between A and B. A balance between A and B has to be struck. A balance has to be struck between A ...
1
vote
2answers
403 views

How to compare two products produced by different objects

I have made a sentence like: A produced by B is better than A produced by C. Can I change it to: A produced by B is better than C.
2
votes
2answers
431 views

Ambiguity regarding adjective/adverb status in the sentence “I smell bad” [duplicate]

For sentences like "I smell bad" I'm confused on the role.of the word "bad" and whether it requires a suffix. On the one hand it seems that the properly formed sentence should be "I smell badly" but ...
1
vote
0answers
55 views

What the words “course” and “class” are used for? [duplicate]

Regarding academic context, I am a little confused about the meanings of these words. I am going to state my understanding to see if it is correct or not: Course meanings: A university course like ...
2
votes
1answer
61 views

Proper phrasing of (anti)(animal cruelty) to avoid ambiguity

I came across this tweet, and found the construction a bit funny. Liberal MP Nathaniel Erskine-Smith is up on a motion to amend his omnibus anti-animal cruelty bill. On first read, I parsed it as ...
2
votes
3answers
843 views

Oral Literature

What is oral literature? Literature refers to written works, and oral, in this case, refers to utterances or spoken words. I have seen the expression "collection of oral literature" but don't ...
0
votes
1answer
946 views

How should you pronounce MongoDB? [closed]

Backstory (skip this if you want): I've been programming in JavaScript for a while, and for the longest time I've been using a database system called "MongoDB". I come from Australia and I believe I ...
0
votes
1answer
74 views

What does the word skull mean in that context [closed]

I was reading an article about the alleged arrest of all Zimbabwean athletes on their arrival to home and this sentence, the legend below the picture of the team, perplexed me. Zimbabwe's Olympic ...
1
vote
0answers
495 views

The name Huxley

I came across the name "Huxley" and I wanted to know what it meant, however I came across different meanings and I would like to know if you know the real truth a little better. Some places only ...