1. Lou Plot Point Olson
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    Lou Plot Point Olson New Member

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    Lexical Ambiguity and its use

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by Lou Plot Point Olson, Apr 5, 2012.

    So perhaps this doesn't belong here but i've had this question for a while. Is it considered lexical ambiguity if you're using a metaphor, of your own creation, as the subject of the ambiguity? This is something i've been wondering for a while. Thank you for any and all input.

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  2. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    haven't a clue what you're referring to... how about some examples?
     
  3. digitig
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    digitig Senior Member Contributor

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    If it can be interpreted in more than one way then it's lexical ambiguity. Whether a metaphor is lexical ambiguity depends on whether it can credibly be interpreted in more than one way. And whether it's a good thing or not depends on what you do with it.
     
  4. Lou Plot Point Olson
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    Lou Plot Point Olson New Member

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    Lexical ambiguity is when you can't determine the meaning of a sentence because of the multipul definitions of a word. I.E. a double entendre. Example: "Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana."
     
  5. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    this is what i wanted the op to clarify with examples... not the definition of the term itself...
     
  6. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    i don't think your example is really lexical ambiguity. The context of each clause disambiguates which meaning of flies is intended.

    A better example of lexical ambiguity is from an old Twilight Zone episode. The alien whose people had seeded the Earth with life, and who is judging the Earth's fate, pronounces that the Earth is a failed project: "You have a small talent for war."

    The United Nations sets aside all the petty bickering and posturing, and hammers out a global peace treaty in a matter of days. They present it to the alien as proof we can change our ways.

    The alien throws back his head and laughs. "We planted life here to grow a race of warriors. When I said you had a small talent for war, I meant you are disappointing as a warrior race."

    It can be argued this is more semantic ambiguity than lexical, but it mostly comes down to whether "a small talent" is interpreted as a gentle rebuke that the talent is present at all or that the talent is too small.
     
  7. Lou Plot Point Olson
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    Lou Plot Point Olson New Member

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    Well that doesn't really help me.
     
  8. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Another example from The Zone: "To Serve Man."

    THIS is lexical ambiguity, based on two meanings of the verb "serve."

    The story: Another alien speaking before the UN, inadvertently leaves a book behind, After weeks, the translators, who wish to understand the alien's motives for offering transportation to their advanced, idyllic world, are only able to translate the title: To Serve Man.

    Well, this sounds very altruistic, and nearly everyone is relieved. But one translator persists, and at the end of the story tries to stop people boarding the spaceship. "You don't understand. It's a cookbook!"
     
  9. Mordred
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    Mordred New Member

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    Perhaps the perfect example of a lexical ambiguity. The word "serve" is very ominous... "to assist" and "to provide as a meal." I always did like the Kanamits (Richard Kiel 'Jaws' from the 007 movies) from this episode. It one of very few episodes where the actor breaks the fourth barrier and actually addresses the viewer. (Might be interesting to try this in a book)

    Thanks Cogito for dropping this to forum. I need to break out the "Twilight Zone" now and watch it. *smile*

    ~Mordred
     
  10. art
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    art Senior Member Contributor

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    There's a Simpson Halloween episode that pays homage to that TZ episode. Though the ambiguity there is dust-based rather than lexical:

    How to Cook for Humans....... is a after a little dusting revealed to be..... How to Cook forty Humans etc
     

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