shake well before using

Discussion in 'Linguistics' started by mathman, Dec 2, 2018.

  1. mathman Valued Senior Member

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    The title appears on many orange juice containers. It is usually interpreted as "shake well.....before using". However an alternate reading could be "shake....well before using". Is there any punctuation which would distinguish?
     
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  3. iceaura Valued Senior Member

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    A comma after "shake" would narrow the interpretation to the second or alternate reading.

    There would still be a third reading: shake {yourself, not the container}, well before using, which is almost the same as shake {yourself} well, before using.
     
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  5. Jeeves Valued Senior Member

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    No punctuation to eliminate a possible alternative meaning.
    However, the phrase "well before" is considerably less common than "shake well". If the instruction were to shake the container and then let it rest for some time, we would expect a more specific interval than "well", which might be anywhere from a minute to year. And, of course, users who can read are reasonably expected to understand the purpose of this shaking.
     
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  7. sculptor Valued Senior Member

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    shake the well
    before using
    ok
    how
    I just wanted a drink of water
     
  8. DaveC426913 Valued Senior Member

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    mathman: you would enjoy most of Douglas Hofstadter's books, such as I am a Strange Loop and Metamagical Themas. He writes a lot about of meaning of words and context, but in a whimsical philosophical way.
     
  9. Jeeves Valued Senior Member

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    ...not to mention mind-convoluting...
     
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  10. sideshowbob Sorry, wrong number. Valued Senior Member

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    I shake all of the containers in the store in case somebody forgets.
     
  11. Jeeves Valued Senior Member

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    I bet that's less annoying than me pressing the button on all the talky-barky-waily toys in Walmart.
     
  12. Michael 345 New year. PRESENT is 69 years old Valued Senior Member

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    Cancelled
     
  13. Gawdzilla Sama Valued Senior Member

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    Shake Well World before using.
     
  14. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

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    I think so:
    Shake (well before using)
    Shake well (before using)

    Alternatively a change or word order would suffice, although I appreciate that's not what you were asking for, and it just somehow doesn't sound as good.
    Before using, shake well
    Well before using, shake

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  15. gmilam Valued Senior Member

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    How do you shake a well?
     
  16. Jeeves Valued Senior Member

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    Permeation by the holy spirit, or rock'n'roll; either's good.
     
  17. Tiassa Let us not launch the boat ... Staff Member

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    When I was a child, there was a television show called Zoom. When my daughter was born, it happened to be in production revival.

    The later series included the PB&J Game. It is as simple as it sounds.

    The game requires two people in a location suitable for making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, such as a kitchen. We can presume the necessary supplies and equipment are available.

    One person will tell the other, step by step, act by act, how to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. The other person does what they are told, and only what they are told. If they cannot do what they are told, they are to do nothing.

    Technically, every instructor fails; it's human nature. More directly, it is nigh on impossible to give proper instructions the first time.

    For grown-ups, computer programmers probably recognize the problem.

    It's a fascinating game. Spouses beware: Doghouse not included, but you will build one, yourselves. (I know; and here you were just trying to make a damn sandwich.)

    Oh, also, there's this idea in discourse called the principle of charity, which is a philosopher's term and definition of how to not be absolutely counterproductive. That is, knowing what people mean, and not needing them to play the PB&J Game.

    It's why we didn't investigate Dan Quayle over father-son bondage. It's why of all the rough talk we might throw at Dubya, the line about working to hurt Americans would not be sufficient to warrant treason charges. And it's why most people can figure out to shake well before using.

    Can't do a damn thing about the instructions on a box of toothpicks, or the pictorial instructions in a box of condoms, though.

    To the other, what was that movie ... oh, right, Moving Violations ... with Willard and Sperber doing a double entendre bit where she thought she was talking to a doctor and the mechanic thought she was talking about a car, so she ended up trying to treat trouble in her "rear end" with a bottle of Wesson oil and long sprint alongside the freeway. That, at least, was comedy, and classic. In fact, that joke might be the only reason to see the film.
     
  18. sideshowbob Sorry, wrong number. Valued Senior Member

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    "Shake well... before using" is about order of operations; it says nothing about length of time. Shake well, leave it in the fridge for two weeks, then use it.

    "Shake well immediately before using" might work.
     
  19. willyloveless Registered Member

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    3

    bright idea! i will do that also. thank you so much.
     
  20. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member

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    It would be easier to distinguish by altering the wording in this case. For example, "Before using, shake container well" or "Well before using, shake container".

    Of course, you've already given an example of punctuation that would distinguish, in your opening post.

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  21. Gawdzilla Sama Valued Senior Member

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    I had a temp of 104.3 F once. I was shaking like a leaf and laughing at the "shake before using" instructions on my meds. The ambulance lads helped me with that in transit.
     
  22. sideshowbob Sorry, wrong number. Valued Senior Member

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    Good point. They should be more specific about what you should shake.

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  23. Gawdzilla Sama Valued Senior Member

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    I was shaking so bad my speech was garbled and I had trouble dialing 9-1-1. About thirty seconds into our "chat" the operator said she was dispatching a unit. The cop who lived across the street got to me first. He was helping me out of the house when the big red box with all the sparkly things arrived. They loaded me straight on without asking any questions. Full props to first-responders.
     
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