nothing is better
pulliam at EMAIL.IIT.EDU
Fri May 7 19:27:08 UTC 1999
As long as we're looking into things like "looks like rain," can
anyone explain the nature of the ambiguity in a phrase we hear all
the time in commercials: "nothing is better for x than y." The
obvious sense is, of course, that "(there is) nothing (that) is
better for x than y." But the other, almost opposite sense has
always struck me: "(using) nothing is better for x than (using) y."
My rewrites are only intended to capture the general meaning of the
two possible interpretations--not the (underlying) structure. And I
don't really intuit these structures when I hear the phrase. But
they lead me to ask if these very different interpretations are
structural or lexical in nature? And if lexical, is it something in
the term _nothing_, in _better_, or in the (apparently) somewhat
idiomatic _nothing is better_?
I am NOT suggesting that ad copywriters are inept--no one really
misinterprets this phrase in the context of commericals. I'm
honestly wondering about the source of the potential ambiguity--have
wondered about it for several years, actually.
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