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Sentence: She pulled into a lonely diner located just out of town.

What does "lonely diner" mean here? Does it mean that the diner is lying by itself with nothing near it?

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That is exactly what it means literally.

But the implication is that, in addition to the diner's being physically isolated permanently, few people were currently there when she pulled in. No native speaker would say a "diner" was "lonely" if the parking lot was full of cars and a line of people was outside waiting to get in. That is, the sense is one of permanent physical isolation and of at least current social isolation.

This is an example of metaphor, which is not even meant to be taken literally.

  • I think their interpretation and yours could both be true. When I read the sentence in isolation, I picture both a building not close to any other building AND with no cars in the parking lot/people in the building. – katatahito May 8 '20 at 0:22
  • @katatahito How does your comment differ from my answer? Who are the "they" with an interpretation that differs from mine. Confused. – Jeff Morrow May 8 '20 at 0:28
  • that comment was on your unedited original post, which I interpreted as saying the literal meaning of "lonely" was incorrect. The edits you made make it clear you didn't mean that – katatahito May 8 '20 at 0:31
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    @katatahito Ahh, I see. Makes sense now. That is the problem with slow self-edits and rapid comments: they pass like darkened ships in the night. You and I were, to mix metaphors, on the same page all along. – Jeff Morrow May 8 '20 at 2:43

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