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Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day

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Build your vocabulary with Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day! Each day a Merriam-Webster editor offers insight into a fascinating new word -- explaining its meaning, current use, and little-known details about its origin.

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amphibology

March 30th, 2015

Episode 151 of 713 episodes

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for March 30, 2015 is: amphibology \am-fuh-BAH-luh-jee\ noun : a sentence or phrase that can be interpreted in more than one way Examples: Still feeling some of the effects of her recent cold, Tara was bemused by the amphibology on the café's menu: "Try our soupyou won't get better." "I have started an amphibology collection: my favourite to date is the garage that advertises its services with the words: 'Why go anywhere else to be robbed?'" Jonathan Ford, Financial Times, July 27, 2012 Did you know? A venerable old word in English, amphibology is from Greek amphibolos (via Late Latin and Latin). Amphibolos, from amphi- ("both") and ballein ("to throw"), literally means "encompassing" or "hitting at both ends"; figuratively it means "ambiguous." Amphibology is an equivocator's friend. An editor who has been sent an unsolicited manuscript to critique, for example, might reply, "I shall lose no time in reading your book." Or a dinner guest who feels the onset of heartburn might say something like, "Ah, that was a meal I shall not soon forget!" But amphibologys ambiguity can be unintended and undesirable as well, as in "When Mom talked to Judy, she said she might call her back the next day." (Who said who might call whom back?)

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