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English CategoryLanguage

Or International English as Microsoft likes to refer to it...

"English is a wonderful language to not lie in.  Sentences are USUALLY ambiguous, meaning is conveyed primarily by context and body language. Words have multiple meanings - some of which are complete opposites."  (from NotLying)

Great examples where what you say is always understood, but technically really silly:

"Oh, I thought your house was bigger than it is"
What, thought I had a Tardis, did you?  No, funnily enough my house isn't "bigger than it is"...
Not at all. I thought you'd knocked down that extension because it was structurally unsound.
Or even "I hadn't been over here before, and it sounded larger the way you described it".  The ambiguity is between "I thought your house was bigger than it in fact turns out to be" and "I thought your house was somehow bigger than itself"...

;(From BlueJam?) "First of all it's size, it actually looks bigger than it is, which is quite a crafty move.  Was that the intention?"

"I fixed that problem. It should do what it's meant to now."
I *know* that it should do what it's meant to!  The question is, *does* it do what it's meant to?

The shorter ones are always better, I think.
"That's it"
Like, duh.  Of course it is.  What, you thought it might be something that it was not?  --Vitenka
Ah, the beautiful verb 'to be'.  Didn't Heinlein write something like "for example, the English verb 'to be', which has seven different meanings, none of which are factually true". --Mjb67

"I'm here"
True by definition of "here"?
"Is that you?" (addressed to someone)
True by definition of "you"?
"Are you awake?"
This is a bit different, in that you'll obtain useful information from the answer to this yes/no question, even though the answer can never[*] be "no".

A beautiful example of EnglishLanguage ambiguity occurred yesterday when Peter got home after going to pick some books up from a friend. I meant to leave their house with the books, but instead I left their house with the bag.
As in, you took the books away (leaving with the books), but left the bag behind (leaving their house with the bag)?
For "took" read "meant to take", but otherwise, yes.

Aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at an Elingsh uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht frist and lsat ltteer is at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a toatl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae we do not raed ervey lteter by it slef but the wrod as a wlohe. ceehiro

[Meme investigation].

Hevewor, tihs can be swohn to be fslae by a taivirl clpmaxeretnuoe - slpmiy rsrevee all the lrettes of ecah wrod epecxt the fsrit and lsat, and you wlil devocsir a nlbaecitoy mroe dluciffit rnidaeg ecneirepxe.

N*t r****y - at l***t, I d**'t f**d it m**h h****r to r**d.  I w****r w**t h*****s w**n we j**t g*t r*d of t*e m****e l*****s, t****h... --Angoel
(P*********r) N****y d**********d.
Yes, you are. And yes, it is.

That's still pretty easy to understand. The secret is that it's pretty easy, usually, to tell where a sentence is going. So from the limited number of possible next words there's only one, probably, of the right length with the right first and last letters.
This is why Dasher works at all http://www.inference.phy.cam.ac.uk/dasher/
Not speaking English as your first language will obviously make it harder, because yout instincts about where the sentence is going won't be as honed.
To be fair, it probably *is* my English - I find reading even the scrambled words to be very hard work. - MoonShadow

I think  the problem with that was more to do with the length of the words rather than their spelling...  No-one is ever going to get 'CounterExample' without some hints! :)  Anything above 6 letters will probably cause trouble unless the word is very common or the order gives some hint as to the word --K
I'd say the reason some of these things are easier to understand than others is that we don't really register the order of the letters; we just register the general vicinity in which they occur. This is based on how the human brain is supposed to deal with drawings and symbols - it just detects whether there's a vertical line in a given area and moves on. For example, when I write words with as many vertical lines in as "shilling" (be aware that my handwriting is scrappy), I am aware that I often miss lines out by mistake, yet no-one ever notices. - CorkScrew
PeterTaylor is of the opinion that he probably would, being of a somewhat proof-reader-ish bent. (As in, rare for him to read The Times and not spot at least one typo).
You haven't tried to read my handwriting before. Even I have trouble deciphering it at times. An extra line makes practically no difference. Anyway, the point I was making is that our recognition of a word hinges less on our recognition of a series of letters in the right place and more on our recognition of a general pattern of letters in approximately the right places. I postulate that this is due to the NeuralNet? hardware of our brain, in the hope that using more long words will make my logic sound better. And you'd be surprised how often that works... - CorkScrew

I agere. I dnidt hvae mcuh perblom wtih MoonShadow's paarphgh eecxpt the lgesnot wrdos and tsohe werhe the sacbemlrd from lokos mroe lkie smoe oehtr Elnsigh wrod tahn the oraignil.  "swohn" raeds to me lkie "sworn" reahtr tahn "shown", but msot of the oerhts are fnie  --AC

I can't read this at all --SF

It's readable, but IMO it's a *lot* harder to read than it would be if it was properly spelt. I, for one, am not going to bother reading reams of text written in the above style (the posting of which appears to be a rapidly growing meme). - MoonShadow
I actually found it quite easy to read, and was more bothered by the grammar errors than the spelling :)  That said I am not recommending making this your standard posting style, I just found it to be an interesting quirk. --Kazuhiko
Yes, I was intrigued by how much *more* readable the above is than when people try to invent new spelling systems. --M-A
I found it easy to read, but I prefer proper spelling. That said, the habit of reading words as a whole might go some way towards explaining how fast I can read - SunKitten
I believe (but this is not based on any real knowledge of the subject) that speed-reading is based on the principle of grabbing whole sentences (maybe even paragraphs?) from the page in one go instead of word-at-a-time.  Anyone know any more on the subject? --Kazuhiko
Uhh - dunno about anyone else, but kinda sorta.  When speed reading I look at about quarter of a page, and unfocus for a moment - the salient parts, mainly verbs proper names, pop out and make themselves known along with the connecitons between them.  If it's interesting, confused or open to multiple interpretations, I slow down and drill down to find out whether it's actually talking about what I'm looking for, or if it just looked like it.  If it was the information I'm looking for, I stop and go word for word like AnyBunny? else.  I have been accused of not taking in what I read, and while that can be true, I am also usually able to recall the page for a short while afterward (up to a couple of hours if I've not done more reading) and then go and read the details - this makes for easy cross referencing.  One other thing might be interesting is how vastly easier that sentence was to read 'defocussed' than it was word by word.  It was then easy to read fully.  More thoughts - was the study done on people not already exposed to masses of such writing?  It's kinda hard to avoid on the itrenent.  I also remember hearing years ago about somethig similar saying that the first and last words of a sentence carried far more weight than those in the middle.  --Vitenka (Does that make sigs bad by extension?)
Thinking about it, I also read in a pattern which includes lots of skips.  I'll read the first bit of a sentence then skip ahead to roughly where the start of the next sentence should be, read a bit more until I pick up where I am - sometimes then skip back and read the intervening bit, sometimes skip on, sometimes continue reading from that point.  Needless to say, this behviour is something I am only conscious of when studying my reading habit, and may or may not actually appear whilst reading normally.  --Vitenka
I don't speed-read - that's something else, which I can do but don't when reading for fun. I just read quickly. As far as I can tell, I take in almost every word - SunKitten

What I think of as 'speed reading', but probably technically isn't lets me digest that sort of thing just fine. A point which came up in discussion is that the heights of the letters is peobably the most important thing, and if you only permute within characters of the same height, it ought to be easier to read, again. Slowing down makes it considerably harder for me. (Incidentally, I'm tempted to script something to mangle sentences like this in a deterministic, but reversible, way - for my own amusement...) -- TI

MoonShadow has been noticing more and people using the word "stylee". FWIW, the first person MoonShadow noticed use the word is not a native English speaker; his first language is Afrikaans. However, the word does not seem to occur in online Afrikaans dictionaries. Does anyone have a definition of the word or can anyone suggest why it might be being [used] in preference to Dictionary: style?

Related searches:
Dictionary: stylee (does not exist)
Google: stylee (150k hits)
Google: stylee een (350+ hits in Afrikaans)
Google: stylee phat (950+ hits)

Pallando asks: I'm looking for a word, that I think I heard once at WednesdayAnime, which specifically means the type of travel through woods where someone bounces from tree trunk to tree trunk.  Any ideas?
I think you want "Brachiate" --CH
Nice word.  But the context I was thinking about was using feet not hands.  Basically Wuxia (the anime or "crouching tiger, hidden dragon" sort) ninjas doing a sort of parkour horizontal wall run that has them travelling in the trees behind a group of heroes, they're just that improbably fast.  I don't think it was "glissade", either --DR

See also [Common errors in English]

CategoryLanguage, Spelling

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