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On one occasion when he was walking in the streets of Paris, he saw — this was real -- a scaffolding. But when he got back home, he saw a miniature of the scaffolding six inches high, on his study table. This repetition of perception is sometimes called palinopsia.

https://www.ted.com/talks/oliver_sacks_what_hallucination_reveals_about_our_minds

Does it mean 'a temporary structure on the outside of a building' or 'scaffold', which means 'a raised platform on which criminals were hanged or had their heads cut off'?

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"A scaffolding" is an unusual construction, since scaffolding is normally a non-count noun (and that is what Cambridge and Oxford both say). I think that Sacks was trying to say "an installation of scaffolding", since "scaffolding" on its own might be interpreted as "some scaffolding just lying on the ground"; and "a scaffold", as you say, could be interpreted as as a construction on which criminals are hanged. It's a reasonable choice, given the possibilities for misunderstanding, and lack of time to think of anything better. I would just plump for "scaffolding".

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    It might be a difference between AmE and BrE, but when someone says they saw scaffolding, I visualize it as attached to a building undergoing some sort of remodeling, not a pile of unassembled scaffolding on the ground. I think the reason for the article is because he wanted to refer to a specific, extensive scaffold. If we say "a scaffold", readers might visualize a simple scaffold instead of more complex scaffolding
    – ColleenV
    Commented Dec 7, 2017 at 13:07
  • @ColleenV You may be right. Sacks was British, by the way, although he spent most of his working life in the USA.
    – Mick
    Commented Dec 7, 2017 at 13:12

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