Sentences with double meaning

Viri   Sun Sep 03, 2006 3:07 am GMT
Some time ago I came across this anecdote about the actor Cary Grant.
A news reporter was trying to find when Cary Grant was born, so he sent the following telegram to Grant's agent:


As it happened, Cary Grant himself picked the telegram and, upon reading it, sent back the answer:


I quite liked this little story and was wondering if any of you native english-speakers can give any example of sentences with double meaning or sentences that, by lacking a word, can have a different meaning.

Thank you.
LVN   Sun Sep 03, 2006 3:18 am GMT
It's difficult for me to understand. Just because I'm not a native speaker!
Viri   Sun Sep 03, 2006 3:32 am GMT
It can be read two ways:

How old Cary Grant - inquiring about his age

How (is) old Cary Grant - asking how Cary Grant is doing

The reason is that in a telegram words like "is", "the", "a" etc are implied, that is, a sentence is comprehensible without them.

But there are certain sentences where this is dubious and one can read more than one meaning.

I don't think I ever sent a telegram (I'm 30), but I guess that in the age of email and the average age of internet users being low, asking you people to understand what telegram-writing is may be too much!...
Delia   Sun Sep 03, 2006 6:27 am GMT
There's a delicious old Hollywood anecdote that when Bette Davis was about to open a new play, the outrageously flamboyant, bisexual film and theater actress, Tallulah Bankhead sent her a telegram that read:

Robin   Sun Sep 03, 2006 6:41 am GMT
If you are interested in double meanings and clever expressions, get a "Book of Quotes"

I saw another post, which pointed out that the word "hard", had a sexual meaning, and it made me think of a famous quote.

"Is that a gun in your pocket? Or are you just glad to see me!" Mae West

There are two Mae West pages that I have come across.
Rick Johnson   Sun Sep 03, 2006 7:15 am GMT
One that I hear people saying occasionally is "I need my hair cutting badly", when what they really mean is "I badly need my hair cutting".
zxczxc   Sun Sep 03, 2006 1:24 pm GMT
I've never heard anyone say "I need my hair cutting" ever. Must be an Americanism.
Lazar   Sun Sep 03, 2006 2:29 pm GMT
<<I've never heard anyone say "I need my hair cutting" ever. Must be an Americanism.>>

I'm an American and I've never heard that expression in my life. (Also, Rick Johnson is from England.)
Guest   Sun Sep 03, 2006 5:40 pm GMT
"I need my hair cutting." sounds like something people say in England, zxczxc. Where are you from?
Jim   Mon Sep 04, 2006 2:30 am GMT

Perhaps this would be clearer.

"It can be read two ways:

"'How old is Cary Grant?' - inquiring about his age

"'How is old Cary Grant?' - asking how Cary Grant, who is old, is doing"
Vladimir   Mon Sep 04, 2006 11:01 am GMT
Another story from an English textbook for Russian students

One man from Europe once decided to visit his English friend. When crossing the English channel by vessel, there was a storm. The captain commanded : "HANDS ON DECK!". The guy put his hands on the deck and somebody trod on them.

In England he put up at a hotel. And when he was in the hotel room he heard somebody shout :"WATCH OUT!". He looked out of the window and a bucket of water was poured upon him.

Next morning he went to see his friend. He came to the friend's house, the servant opened and said : "Mr Smith IS NOT UP YET". The guy walked around for awhile and when some time after he came to his friend's house again, the servant said : "Mr Smith IS NOT DOWN YET".
Rick Johnson   Mon Sep 04, 2006 6:50 pm GMT
<<I need my hair cutting>>

It's a fairly common thing to say when ones barnet* is overgrown!

*Barnet Fair = Hair