Category Archives: Odd Language

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

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 “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!

Odd Language #224: [Not] A Laughing Matter

There is a joke about a foreign-language student in a home-stay program having trouble with a newspaper article. The student could not understand why the person was charged with what seemed to not be a crime at all.

The issue: The student was reading the crime’s name as “man’s laughter” instead of “manslaughter”. When corrected by her host, the student was quite abashed.

Playing on this same pronunciation difference, the game Smallworld by Days of Wonder has a slogan of “It’s a world of *s*laughter, AFTER ALL!”

Odd Language #223: Shooting at What?

“You have to spot the nerve case and get it . . . whereupon he will trot right on past you, shooting at nothing, until he crashes into a wall or something.” – Starship Troopers, p. 135

The issue: If one is shooting, one is shooting at something. Maybe, one is shooting at nothing in particular, but that is not nothing.

Think gun safety!

Odd Language #222: Taking Advantage Of X

There it is: “taking advantage of X”. It looks so innocent. Maybe, it is, but maybe it is heinous, evil, .

The issue: Context, context, context. Use this handy scoring guide:

“take advantage of a opportunity”: good.
“take advantage of a person”: bad.
“take advantage of a woman”: really bad.

Hey, manager! If you take advantage of Ms. Smith’s availability to work late a couple hours on Wednesday on the Gregg proposal, well and good. If you take advantage of Ms. Smith to get a couple more hours of work done on the Gregg proposal – the same work as in the first example – you are vile and evil. Go figure.