Weekend Word Wrap: Polysemes

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Lately, I've had a few words/phrases on my mind that have multiple meanings, sometimes known as polysemes. It all started a couple months ago when I asked my friend about his wedding band. He thought I meant the ring, but actually I was referring to the evening's entertainment. This got me thinking about other such phrases (each meaning has to be spelled identically to qualify, otherwise you probably have a homonym on your hands):

There's mirror image, which could easily mean an image of a mirror in addition to the widely used phrase. Then there's record breaker. If we're talking about record albums that break records, say, on the Billboard charts, well then there's another meaning in there. This one has a third meaning, too: In 1979 at Comiskey Park in Chicago, a rock radio station hosted Disco Demolition Night. Local rock fans were asked to bring disco records to the ballpark where they were literally smashed and burned.

goldmember.jpgThough perhaps a stretch, The Mole in that Austin Powers flick with the mole on his face might be considered the embodiment of a polyseme. What do you think? What are some other common phrases with multiple meanings?

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August 22, 2008 - 4:49am
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