alternate universe

forgoodorill

Senior Member
Chinese
Hi, everyone!
I read a book named reading like a writer. I'm confused about one paragraph in it:

As a child, I was drawn to the works of the great escapist children's writers. I liked trading my familiar world for the London of the four children whose nanny parachuted into their lives with her umbrella and who turn the most routine shopping trip into a magical outing. I would gladly have followed the White Rabbit down into the rabbit hole and had tea with the Mad Hatter. I loved novels in which children stepped through portals-a garden door, a wardrobe-into an alternate universe.

Here's my question:
I looked up there're two definitions of 'alternate' in the dictionary,
one is 'with first one thing, then another thing, and then the first thing again:'
another is 'An alternate plan or method is one that you can use if you do not want to use another one'.
So the meaning here is the first difinition? But the meaning in the context seems not like 'enter some place repeatly'.
 
  • entangledbank

    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    In BrE the word is always 'alternative' when it has this meaning. So we would speak of an alternative universe; but a zebra has alternate black and white stripes. In AmE 'alternate' can be used in both meanings.
     

    Uncle Jack

    Senior Member
    British English
    In British English, we do not use "alternate" with the second meaning, the one that is meant here; we only use "alternative"*.

    *This isn't entirely true; "alternate" is increasing in usage in Britain, but I think a majority of people still see it as wrong.
    [Cross-posted]
     

    forgoodorill

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    In British English, we do not use "alternate" with the second meaning, the one that is meant here; we only use "alternative"*.

    *This isn't entirely true; "alternate" is increasing in usage in Britain, but I think a majority of people still see it as wrong.
    [Cross-posted]
    Thanks, Uncle Jack!
     

    forgoodorill

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    In BrE the word is always 'alternative' when it has this meaning. So we would speak of an alternative universe; but a zebra has alternate black and white stripes. In AmE 'alternate' can be used in both meanings.
    Thanks for your reply, entangledbank. But this emample which you are given I don't understand completely.
    a zebra has alternate black and white stripes.
    'alternate' in here means both white and black, and could change? But the zebra's stripes are fixed, so I'm confused.
    Please explain it for me, thanks!
     

    entangledbank

    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    'with first one thing, then another thing, and then the first thing again:'

    First black, then white, then black again, as you move along the zebra . . . not just as you look at one stripe!
     

    Uncle Jack

    Senior Member
    British English
    The zebra's stripes is a perfect example of how "alternate" is used. I often find that example sentences in dictionaries - good dictionaries, at any rate, where the example sentences have been well-chosen - are far better at explaining a word's meaning than the definition.

    Given these two choices for how to explain the meaning of "alternate":
    1. with first one thing, then another thing, and then the first thing again
    2. a zebra has alternate black and white stripes
    I think that (2) is far clearer than (1), even though it does not constitute a definition.
     

    forgoodorill

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    The zebra's stripes is a perfect example of how "alternate" is used. I often find that example sentences in dictionaries - good dictionaries, at any rate, where the example sentences have been well-chosen - are far better at explaining a word's meaning than the definition.

    Given these two choices for how to explain the meaning of "alternate":
    1. with first one thing, then another thing, and then the first thing again
    2. a zebra has alternate black and white stripes
    I think that (2) is far clearer than (1), even though it does not constitute a definition.
    Thanks, Uncle Jack!
     
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