Category Archives: Odd Language

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

Odd Language #217: URLs as Language

What is wrong with this URL: http://abcnews.go.com/Health/wireStory/euthanasia-45-percent-deaths-netherlands-49006809?

The issue: While a URL is not ordinary language, it often has meaning. This URL is misleading, because the euthanasia rate in the Netherlands is not 45% as the URL seems to state but rather is 4.5%. However, periods are typically not in the middle of a URL. (They are in the site name and the suffix (such as “.html”)).

Odd Language #216: Mass-Produced

The Wikipedia article on ham sausage has this sentence: “Smithfield Foods of the U.S. has mass-produced ham sausage.”

The issue: Does the sentence mean that they mass-produced it in the past or they have it as a product or they possess it or they sell it? Granted the last three mean about the same in context, but the first is also a possibility.

The ambiguity is because “mass-produced” can be a verb form combined with “has” or a noun phrase combined with “ham sausage”.

Odd Language #215: Walk Into

I was recently solving a crossword puzzle, and one of the clues was very odd to me: “Walk into” (five letters). I could not figure it out until I had some crossing words worked out. Suddenly, I realised that I had been using the wrong sense of “Walk into”.

The issue: The word was “enter” as in walking into a store. I had been thinking of “walk into” as in walking into a wall or other obstacle. Unlike a store, you are not really in the wall after you walk into it, but “walk into” is the expression for both.

Odd Language #214: Domestic

Recently, a Computerworld article had this paragraph: ‘At the briefing, a senior administration official said: “Just to illustrate a little bit more how the lottery works — so some companies oftentimes are called outsourcing firms. You may know their names well, but … the top recipients of the H1B visa are companies like Tata, Infosys, Cognizant — they will apply for a very large number of visas, more than they get, by putting extra tickets in the lottery raffle, if you will, and then they’ll get the lion’s share of visas. Which is very different than I think how most people think of the H-1B program — they imagine it for more — being for — again, they would think of it as being for skilled domestic work, rather than contract work.”‘

The issue: I first read “domestic” as in housecleaning. I wonder how many others might have, especially those who are less aware of the H1B system. Of course, it means within the country.

Odd Language #213: Sample Error?

At my new job, there are two sets of log books labelled “Sample Drying Log 60º +” and “Sample Drying Log 40º”.

The issue: “Sample” refers to rock and soil samples, not that this is a sample of a type of log. At first, I thought that, since there are two of each log, one of each log was a sample of how to fill out the log. Nope.

Odd Language #212: Who Is Authorised?

There is a sign at my new job:
FIRE ASSAY
EMPLOYEES ONLY
NO UNAUTHORIZED
ENTRY

The issue: This is on a door to the Fire Assay area. Should it be read as “This is the Fire Assay area. Only employees are allowed in.” or “Only Fire Assay employees are allowed in.”? I had to ask, and it is the latter because of the lead compounds used.

Odd Language #211: Left or Left?

‘Vergerin’s smile was grim. “They had the choice of signing new contracts with me—for I will not honor the old ones—or leaving. Not many left.”‘—Dragonseye, Anne McCaffrey, p. 363

The issue: “Not many left.” could mean that not many chose the alternative of leaving (which is the intended interpretation), but it could also mean that there are not many left (which would mean that many took the option of leaving).

Odd Language #210: What’s Wrong With You?

Recently, a video on SoraNews24 covered some of the conflicts that can occur between spouses of different cultures. One item covered was the difference between “What’s wrong with you?” vs. “What’s wrong?”

The issue: When asking about someone’s problem, the two would seem to mean about the same, but the first is likely to be taken as accusatory whereas the second is taken as being more neutral.

Note that the URL is valid: they changed their name from RocketNews24 to SoraNews24 recently, but have not changed the Website yet. You can use en.soranews24.com in place of the domain name, but your browser will be redirected to en.rocketnews24.com.

Odd Language #209: Prey for Me?

I am currently reading, Worm a really dark superheroes story. Warning: It is really dark. In chapter 12-3 is the sentence: ‘”They want to be the predators, we make them prey,” Noelle said.’

The issue: It can be read as Noelle’s group makes the subject they into prey—and this is the intended meaning, but it can also be read as Noelle’s group makes prey for the subject they. The second use is taking the first noun after the verb as being the indirect object. This is the same type of usage as “He gave them a gift.” which means “He gave a gift to them.”.

Odd Language #208: Right-Hand What?

A recent SoraNews24 article has an odd sentence: “The actual shrine itself, though, is hidden from view so you’ll need to walk through the torii, then make your way around the right-hand coast of the island.”

The issue: “right-hand coast”? It is correct, but it is definitely not the way I would express it. How about you?

Note that the link is correct. SoraNews24 recently changed their name from RocketNews24, but they have not fully updated their Website yet.