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Related: ambivalence - disambiguation - double entendre - unresolvedness

Seven Types of Ambiguity (1930) - William Empson [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK] [...]


A word, phrase, sentence, or other communication is called ambiguous if it can be reasonably interpreted in more than one way. The simplest case is a single word with more than one sense: The word "bank", for example, which can mean "financial institution", "edge of a river", or other things. Sometimes this is not a serious problem because a word that is ambiguous in isolation is often clear in context. Someone who says "I deposited $100 in the bank" is unlikely to mean that he buried the money beside a river. More problematic are words whose senses express closely related concepts. "Good", for example, can mean "useful" or "functional" (That's a good hammer), "exemplary" (She's a good student), "pleasing" (This is good soup), "moral" (She is a good person), and probably other similar things. "I have a good son" isn't clear about which sense is intended. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ambiguity, Apr 2004

Ambiguity of the word culture

[t]he fatal ambiguity of the word "culture" itself--which simultaneously has an organic, biological resonance (growing plants, germ cultures etc) yet also signifies the antithesis of earthy natural-ness (the civilized, the non-instinctual, the artificial, the sublimated). --Simon Reynolds, PURE FUSION, multiculture versus monoculture, first published in Springerin, early 2001

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