Category Archives: Odd Language

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

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.

Odd Language #207: The Check?

One sequential art title that I follow is Misfile. A recent strip had one character describing her relationship with her parents: ‘”There’s very little I can’t do as long as it’s legal and they don’t have to be involved outside of a check.”’

The issue: Bad parenting aside, this sentence is ambiguous. The word “check” could mean a check by the parents (that things are OK) or a cheque (as in “Pay to the order of …”). I was puzzled briefly as to which.

Note that in my written style (which leans to British spellings), this would not be ambiguous since the second type is spelled “cheque”. (And I spelled it that way above. I was going to correct it, but since I think that “cheque” is the correct spelling, I did not.)

Odd Language #206: Yet Another Double

I posted this recently on a programming forum in a thread on puzzles: “What both solutions are are questions where the truthteller and the liar will answer the same.”

The issue: The “are are”, of course. The first one is part of the subject of the main clause (“What both solutions are”) and the second is the main clause verb.

Odd Language #204: Using That Money

A recent USENET post contains the sentence: “It’s now giving me enough money that I am contracting for more advertising-usable illustrations using that money.”

The issue: This caused a subthread about confusion over exactly what was meant. “using that money” could be spending the money on illustrations (the intended meaning) or the illustrations are using the money. (If it were a person or group of people, the agency would be more obvious.)

Maybe, the illustrations are made out of money? It has been done: http://pennyportrait.com/.

Odd Language #203: More More

I recently posted to USENET a post containing: “I have rarely found coupons worthwhile. So often, it is for something that costs way more more than the amount you save.”

The issue: Two “more” in a row is rather unusual, but it is arguably correct. “way more” means “a lot” so the overall meaning is that the item costs a lot more than what is saved.

Odd Language #201: No Passing

A British Columbia road sign I have seen many times: “DO NOT PASS SNOWPLOWS ON RIGHT”

The issue: Due to elision of words to fit, it is ambiguous. Does it mean to not pass snowplows that are on one’s right or to not pass snowplows on their right? Actually, neither is a particularly good idea, but it is the latter. Where do you think they throw their snow?

Odd Language #200: Initial Reading Declined

“There would be no more overpopulation; the hordes in East Asia would decline to adjust themselves to the food supply.” — Misbegotten Missionary by Robert A. Heinlein

The issue: When I first read this sentence, it seemed to mean the opposite of what it should. Then I caught that there were two meanings of “decline” to consider. It was meant in the sense of “to go down in number”; I had initially read it as in the sense of “deciding against something”.

Odd Language #199: Look Over This!

RISKS 30.22 has an interesting April Fools item (which came from EFFector Vol. 30, No. 7 of April 1, 2017).

Apparently, politicians have not been keeping tabs on the intelligence community in the last several years because of a confusion over the words “oversight” and “overlook”.

The issue: The intended meaning of “oversight” in this context is monitoring; “overlook” means failing to see or notice. Since an oversight can also be a case of overlooking, there is a definite possibility for confusion of the two words. Not that the politicos should be able to use this in real life.