Category Archives: Odd Language

Some uses of language can be very peculiar-sounding or can be ambiguous in unexpected ways.

Odd Language #234: “was” or Not

Kamloops This Week, 2017-12-05 edition has a front-page headline of “Council asked to crack down on pot stores”.

The issue: The issue of stores selling marijuana prior to its planned legalisation in 2018 is a hot issue in Kamloops. So is that Council asked someone or someones, say, staff, to crack down, or is it that Council was asked to crack down? Since newspaper headlines often omit forms of “to be” for shortness, it is unclear. It is the former.

Odd Language #230: Selling Out

A SoraNew24 article has this as its last paragraph: “As for the taste of this meaty monstrosity? It has all the classic taste of Cup Noodle but with more in the way of chunky goodness and meat sweats, although that may just have been us. Finally, there’s a Cup Noodle that contains two of the main food groups, bird and mammal. Cup Noodle and questionable meat lovers rejoice! Unless they sell out, like last time.”

The issue: “sell out” can means sold all of something and have no more or to compromise one’s ethics. Either might fit.

Odd Language #228: A Singular Use of “Both”

“You are either malicious or incompetent. I grant that both is a possibility, too.”

The issue: “both” usually takes plural verb forms, as in “… both are …”, but malicious and incompetent can be considered two things or just one. (The singular use can be emphasised by adding “you being” just before the “both” or “being the case” after it.)

Odd Language #227: Limited Access

From https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nagano_Prefecture: “Among other issues, he has refused national government money for construction projects that he deems unnecessary, such as dams, and has overhauled (locally) the press club system that is blamed for limiting government access to journalists who give favorable coverage.”

The issue: Is it that only journalists who give favorable coverage get access, or is it that a journalist’s access is limited if he gives favorable coverage? By context and common sense, it is the former, but the latter is a valid parsing.

Odd Language #225: It’s Sorted?

“It’s sorted.”

The issue: I thought this about a confusion at work that I had worked out. My boss’s assistant might have asked, and that is how I could have replied. However, my job involving preparing rock and soil samples for processing; this is called sorting. This means that when I had the confusion sorted, I did not have the work (sorting) done. I would have created another confusion. Context counts!