There are very many English words that have multiple meanings. One really shouldn’t use them unless the intended meaning is obvious from context. It can otherwise sometimes be embarrassing.
Take the word ‘cheap’ for example. It can mean purchasable below the going price or real value; gained or done with little effort; of inferior quality or worth; stingy; or even contemptible because of the lack of any redeeming qualities.
I bring this up because recently a memory of my improper use of the word just popped into my head – where my intent and another’s understanding were quite different.
Years ago, as I was walking on Main Street in Buffalo, New York on lunch break I noticed a huge ‘SALE’ sign in the window of a very upscale mens clothing store, a store that I would not normally shop at. Even at sale prices things would be too expensive for me. But I thought that maybe I could get some high quality ties at a reasonable price, so I entered the store.
A few steps inside I was accosted by a very distinguished looking older gentleman dressed like an English butler. He even had an English accent. When he asked if he could be of assistance, I blurted out: “Yes, I’m looking for some cheap ties.”
You would have thought that I had just made “doo-doo” right there on the floor! He raised his chin as high as he could so he could look down his nose at me, and replied: “This establishment does not carry ‘cheap’ merchandise, young man. We do, however, have some ties on sale at quite reasonable prices.”
I wanted to melt into the floor, but I let him show me the ‘sale ‘ ties. They were still priced much more than I would ordinarily spend for ties, but I bought a few anyway just to save face.