1. pandabear
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    pandabear New Member

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    Can this phrase go both ways?

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by pandabear, Feb 23, 2011.

    I f I say, a sheep dressed wolf,
    Can it mean both,
    a sheep dressed as a wolf and a wolf dressed as a sheep.
    (when I say dressed I mean, for example, dressed in disguise)

    How about if commas were added,
    A sheep, dressed wolf.
    A sheep dressed, wolf.

    If so/or not, why?
     
  2. Gannon
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    Gannon Contributing Member Contributor

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    In prose I feel you're not going to get away with either without clarification, either as below or provided by context.

    In poetry the rules are more flexible however, and to avoid confusion you might like to introduce some clarity like this, "a sheep-dressed wolf". It's still awkward but it does convey the idea that the wolf is dressed as a sheep.

    Conversely, "a sheep dressed-wolf" may be permissable but isn't really co-operative in terms of conveying its meaning (here being a sheep dressed as a wolf).

    So, in summary, they could be interchangeable but it's going to take a liberally minded reader to render them so. Personally, I'd provide clarity, unless ambiguity is your aim - and I feel you're only going to get away with that if you're attempting poetry.
     
  3. Melzaar the Almighty
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    Melzaar the Almighty Contributing Member Contributor

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    Aaargh, no. It's bad grammar. The only way to use those words would be "A sheep-dressed wolf," meaning the wolf dressed as a sheep. It doesn't go both ways - you'd have to say "a sheep dressed as a wolf" or "a wolf-dressed sheep".

    Does it HAVE to go both ways? :/ It needs quite a stretch and some cramming in of bad logic to make it do that.

    Both of those are awful sentences.
     
  4. pandabear
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    pandabear New Member

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    When read,I want the reader to think, is it a sheep dressed as a wolf or a wolf dressed as a sheep? I want there to be that moment of puzzlement, basically can be taken both ways depending on how one translates the phrase, yet with an uncertainty to the reader.
     
  5. VM80
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    VM80 Contributing Member Contributor

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    How does that make sense? It either looks like one or the other... how can it look like both?
     
  6. Halcyon
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    Halcyon Contributing Member Contributor

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    Actually, I do understand what you're trying to ask.

    For example, if I said that I saw a man eating tiger, it could certainly be taken both ways, either literally as a man who was eating a tiger, or to mean a tiger that eats men.
     
  7. pandabear
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    pandabear New Member

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    That's sort of what I'm getting at..

    Ok, like the story of the wolf that dressed as a sheep to get in the herd and steal sheep, showed how (say) something evil disguises it's malicious intent under the guise of kindliness (or vice versa.)


    Sidenote, I'm looking for an answer to a question not comments.
    "He who is afraid to ask is ashamed of learning"
     
  8. VM80
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    VM80 Contributing Member Contributor

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    ^^

    That's what I did as well, ask a question.

    I think I get what you mean now though. "Wolf wearing sheep", perhaps?
     
  9. pandabear
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    pandabear New Member

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    Dude, then get your own thread :p

    I've been researching this all day, it's been driving me crazy.
     
  10. Halcyon
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    Halcyon Contributing Member Contributor

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    pandabear

    For your specific example, perhaps the best phrase might be a wolf imitating sheep, which I think could be construed both ways. :)
     
  11. pandabear
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    pandabear New Member

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    Ok but why not dressed?
    Swear not trying to be stubborn, I just don't see whats wrong with it..
     
  12. Halcyon
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    Halcyon Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hey, are you sure that you're not trying to be stubborn? ;)

    Grammatically, the phrase a wolf dressed sheep, to me at least, could only mean a sheep dressed as a wolf. If you're trying to convey the idea of a wolf dressed as a sheep, then wolf dressed sheep is very poor English, and virtually nobody would spot any ambiguity in it.
     
  13. VM80
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    VM80 Contributing Member Contributor

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    A question to clarify what you meant, so I could help... You're being a bit rude.

    You had some good replies here from what I've seen.

    Anyway, I'm out.
     
  14. pandabear
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    pandabear New Member

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    @VM80, all you did was repeat the very question I posted to ask..


    I guess I'll have to settle for that, this question was simply 'just-for-my-information'.

    Thank you Halcyon, and the others that answered.
     
  15. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    none of it makes any sense... you seem to mean:

    a sheep dressed as a wolf

    or a wolf dressed as a sheep

    or, in other words, that old standard, 'a wolf in sheep's clothing'...

    there's no easy/quick/short way to do it with just the word 'dressed'...
     
  16. Raki
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    Raki Contributing Member

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    A hyphen should be used ("a sheep-dressed wolf") to portray the wolf dressing as a sheep. The idea here is that "sheep-dressed" is one entity describing "wolf," or "sheep" describes "dressed" and not "wolf."

    Do not use commas. "A sheep, dressed wolf" literally means the "wolf" is a "sheep" and whatever a "dressed wolf" is. (ie: the cracked, stained marble means the marble is both cracked and stained)

    "A sheep dressed, wolf" means the "sheep dressed" but it's unclear what "wolf" has to do with the statement.

    "A sheep dressed wolf" could mean a sheep dressed as a wolf, and that's why you use the hyphen (to avoid ambiguity) if you are wanting to use this line and talk about the wolf dressing as a sheep. Same thing with "man-eating tiger" ("man" modifies "eating" and becomes one entity to describe "tiger").
     
  17. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    I would say that it could only be a man who was eating tiger. If it's a tiger that eats humans it would be a man-eating tiger.
     
  18. Leonardo Pisano
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    Leonardo Pisano Active Member

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    English always confuses me when it comes to hyphens. I have a tendency to overdo it.

    What would you think of "I saw a high pressure machine"? My feel would be to put a hyphen between high and pressure: high-pressure machine. It's then fully unambiguous. That's something else than a pressure machine that's tall. Admittedly, most would understand the first meaning probably, but grammatically?
     
  19. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    It's a matter of meaning, not grammar. If there's a chance of unwanted ambiguity then hyphenate to avoid the ambiguity. I'd go for "high-pressure machine". But then, I make my living (in part) writing technical documents that could end up being read in court, so I'm quite picky about that sort of thing.
     
  20. Halcyon
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    Halcyon Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yes, I know that. That's why I used "said" rather than "wrote". In other words, if someone actually heard me saying man eating tiger, he/she could take it either way.
     

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