Demon hunter, vampire queen, and other ambiguities...

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Snake8701

Member
Italiano
Dumb question, I know, but if somebody claims to be, for example, a demon hunter, does it mean he is a hunter AND a demon, or someone who hunts demons and may or not be a demon himself? Given the right meaning is the latter, how do you express the former?
 
  • pob14

    Senior Member
    American English
    From context. This sort of thing is the source of many jokes; the old song "Purple People Eater," for example, turned out to be about, not a purple monster that eats people, but a monster that eats purple people (and since there aren't any, he wasn't dangerous).

    If there's three words, hyphenation can help, as in this joke: a man goes into a carnival sideshow to see the Man Eating Chicken, and inside is a fat guy chewing a leg from KFC. If it had been hyphenated (Man-Eating Chicken), we would know that it's a chicken that eats men.
     

    Snake8701

    Member
    Italiano
    From context. This sort of thing is the source of many jokes; the old song "Purple People Eater," for example, turned out to be about, not a purple monster that eats people, but a monster that eats purple people (and since there aren't any, he wasn't dangerous).

    If there's three words, hyphenation can help, as in this joke: a man goes into a carnival sideshow to see the Man Eating Chicken, and inside is a fat guy chewing a leg from KFC. If it had been hyphenated (Man-Eating Chicken), we would know that it's a chicken that eats men.
    As clear as the sky on a summer day! Thanks a lot :D
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    Context will be critical. You should be aware of one of the meanings of "demon" (you will have seen it when you searched before posting :D) from the WRF dictionary :
    a person who is extremely skilful in, energetic at, or devoted to a given activity, esp a sport: a demon at cycling.
    A demon hunter may be someone who is very good at hunting, or one who hunts demons . You will need to ask this person what they mean. If you wish to use the term, you should provide a complete sentence and place it in some context.
    You sort of answered your own question anyway - "he is someone who hunts demons".
     

    pob14

    Senior Member
    American English
    I just responded to your other thread . . . does this relate to the Gaiman book as well? I haven't read this one, but in general he loves ambiguities like that.

    (And my sky is completely overcast!)
     

    entangledbank

    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    Coleridge's Kubla Khan has a woman wailing for her demon lover. As that makes him a demon, that makes her a demon lover in the other sense!

    In fact they're accented differently, in this example. Someone who loves demons is a demon lover, but someone who is a demon and a lover has the accent either on lover or on both equally: demon lover or demon lover.
     

    Snake8701

    Member
    Italiano
    Context will be critical. You should be aware of one of the meanings of "demon" (you will have seen it when you searched before posting :D) from the WRF dictionary : A demon hunter may be someone who is very good at hunting, or one who hunts demons . You will need to ask this person what they mean. If you wish to use the term, you should provide a complete sentence and place it in some context.
    You sort of answered your own question anyway - "he is someone who hunts demons".
    Well, it was just an example, but I guess you're right. Sometimes though there is no context at all :(
    A good analogy in general, but I am looking out my window in midsummer right now, and I see a lot of clouds. We had thunderstorms earlier this morning. :)
    I just responded to your other thread . . . does this relate to the Gaiman book as well? I haven't read this one, but in general he loves ambiguities like that.

    (And my sky is completely overcast!)
    "Vampire queen" relates, but it's something I've been wondering about for a while now xD

    You guys come to my hometown and we can lie in the sun and I'll buy you a granita :D
     

    Snake8701

    Member
    Italiano
    Coleridge's Kubla Khan has a woman wailing for her demon lover. As that makes him a demon, that makes her a demon lover in the other sense!

    In fact they're accented differently, in this example. Someone who loves demons is a demon lover, but someone who is a demon and a lover has the accent either on lover or on both equally: demon lover or demon lover.
    Interesting! This reminds me of german xD
     

    Wordsmyth

    Senior Member
    Native language: English (BrE)
    [...] Given the right meaning is the latter, how do you express the former?
    I heartily support pob's advice about hyphens for three or more words (a habit that is sadly in decline); though it's less helpful with two words, because the hyphen may still suggest either of the two meanings.

    In many cases the meaning is clear from the context, but if it's not I would resort to rewording: hunter of demons in the one case, hunter-demon (or perhaps demonic hunter) in the other.

    Ws:)
     
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