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I was watching a video-lecture about languages and the professor started talking about the subject ambiguity in a language and gave these example sentences. But I could not figure out their double meanings. So could you tell me what they could mean in both way?

1.Kids make nutritious snacks

2.No one was injured in the blast, which was attributed to the buildup of gas by one town official

3.General arrested for fondling privates

4.Let him have it

Here is what I get from the sentences:

  1. Kid produces some snack food and the food is nutritious. (This is funny interpretation which I only can understand)

  2. I am not sure because I couldn't understand "one town official"

  3. The highest-ranked army officer was arrested because he/she was harassing the lower-ranked soldiers sexually. (This is funny interpretation which I only can understand)

  4. I cannot think either way.

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    1.Kids {are able to cook / may be eaten as} nutritious snacks. 2.The town official (e.g. mayor or some such) was the source of {the attribution / the gas}. 3.The general fondled {low-ranking soldiers / his own genitals}. 4. {Give him the object / Attack him }. – StoneyB on hiatus Jan 23 '15 at 17:37
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    This is a good answer! Why did you post it as a comment? – Stephen Dunscombe Jan 23 '15 at 17:56
  • "Bath wanted for old lady with tin bottom" BTW, an entire court case was made from "Let him have it" & a man was hanged as consequence. [defence said it meant 'give him the gun', prosecution said it meant 'kill him with it'] – Tetsujin Jan 23 '15 at 18:35
  • @Tetsujin Thank you very much.I heard about the case. – Mrt Jan 23 '15 at 21:19
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Sentence #1: "Make" can mean both "produce/create/build" and "constitute". For the latter sense, you can almost replace it with "is/are".

Thus:

  • "Kids create nutritious snacks."
  • "Kids are nutritious snacks."

Sentence #2: An "official" can mean a representative of a government. (Yes, it looks like an adjective, but here it's being used as a noun.) Thus a "town official" can mean "a representative of a town" - the mayor, a spokesman for the mayor, a member of the town council, etc.

The humour is it's unclear whether "attributed" or "buildup of gas" was by the town official.

Thus:

  • "No one was injured in the blast. A town official attributed the blast to a buildup of gas."
  • "No one was injured in the blast. The blast was attributed to a town official's buildup of gas."

Sentence #3: "Privates" can mean both "low-ranking soldiers" and "genitalia".

Sentence #4: "Let him have it" can mean both "give that thing to him" and "perform your intended action on him". In the latter case, the intended action could be something violent or aggressive.

"My flamethrower is ready!"

"Great! Let him have it!" (Attack him with your flamethrower!)

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    Thank you very much for the great explanation.I wasn't able to understand the sentence " let him have it" before your answer. – Mrt Jan 23 '15 at 21:17
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The problem is in the omission of terms.

1.(funny) Kids make/turn out to be good snacks.

2.(normal) No one was injured in the blast, which was attributed to the buildup of gas, as reported by one town official.

2.(funny) No one was injured in the blast, which was attributed to the buildup of intestinal gas by one town official

3.(funny) General was arrested for fondling his own privates.

4.(funny)(?) Let him have it, attack!

The other "normals" you assumed correctly.

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