Writer’s Workshop: Ambiguous Means

1.) Something you learned in college.

When I transferred from a community college to a four year university and enrolled in my first English courses there, I’ll admit I was a tad nervous. I’d remind myself of my insightful-ness and I’d wonder if the professors at the University would be as impressed with my writing skills as my brilliant community college professors were.

But as I quietly sat in class after class, soaking it all in, it began to dawn on me that perhaps I didn’t really know as much as I thought I knew. We read American Literature, English Literature, and Shakespeare together. I wrote papers about the concept of Victorian Beauty and memorized poems written in Old English. But I’d listen to my fellow scholars debate and carry on and quite frankly, I felt completely lost. What were they even TALKING about?

Was it possible a line in a poem about divorce was written with repetitive R’s because the poet simply liked the sound it made? Perhaps there was no underlying meaning?

No. It was not. The poem used that alliteration to replicate the r sound a roller coaster might make on it’s track…and what powerful imagery….divorce as a roller coaster and all those rrrrrrr sounds…don’t you see the symbolism in it all!?! How could you MISS that!?!

I missed it.

All of it.

My classmates would be asked difficult questions and I would watch them scrunch their eyebrows, ponder the meaning of it all and then respond by saying, “It’s ambiguous really…” before spouting off about the ambiguity of it all.


The meaning was ambiguous, the solution was ambiguous, the symbolism was ambiguous. Ambiguous, ambiguous, ambiguous…what did that even MEAN!?!

I went home one evening determined to find out what this puzzling word meant and why it was that everyone was using it.

What I found was:

Ambiguous means “open to more than one interpretation; having a double meaning. Unclear or inexact because a choice between alternatives has not been made. Vague. Uncertain. Obscure.”

In other words…it means “I don’t really know…there might be multiple answers to this question and I’m stupid…”

All of these smarty pants scholars I was sitting next to in class didn’t know what the hell they were talking about either. They just knew bigger words than me!

Learning the word Ambiguous changed my life.

Now, instead of “not knowing the answer“, I scrunch my eyebrows in a very thoughtful way and say, “Gosh it’s ambiguous isn’t it? The ambiguity of it all has me feeling many ambiguous emotions that can’t ambiguate themselves in an ambiguative manner…”

It’s the perfect way to dodge any question while still sounding very very smart.

Thank you college!!!

Now it’s your turn!

Mama's Losin' It

Choose a prompt, post it on your blog, and come back to add your name to the link list below. Be sure to sign up with the actual post URL and not just your basic blog URL (click on the title of your post for that URL). For good comment karma try to comment on the three blogs above your name!!

The Prompts:

1.) Something you learned in college.
2.) 5 Awesome things that happened this fall. (Inspired by Parenting by Dummies)
3.) What was the last thing you bought?
4.) I’m thirsty! Share a holiday drink recipe you love!
5.) Take a line from a song you love and turn it into the title of your next blog post. Let the content follow.


  1. says

    Love this post. Makes me feel worlds better about my college experience. I fell for the big, big, ambiguous words of ambiguity and really thought it was just that I went to a poorly funded public high school. When I called my mom to tell her why this was her fault I remember crying “METAPLASMUS! Damn it! That’s like crazy Word Science!”

  2. says

    Love it! I was an English major in college and it always amused me to listen to people who had clearly not read or understood the assigned texts try to sound less like lazy schmucks by throwing around words like ambiguous. My sister was a master at it. Then again, she majored in French Literature, so in her case I think of it as being artful and less schmucky. :)

  3. says

    I struggled with finding meaning in poems and stories. And how the hell did they know that the author meant to give added meaning to an ordinary object?

    When I write, a rotten banana is just a rotten banana – and has no connection to my thinking of decaying relationships.

    Guess I’ll never make the Bestseller’s List for literature.

    My favorite word is ambivalent. Add it to your arsenal when dealing with the smarty pants.

  4. says

    Every now and then I’m asked to attend these neighborhood think-tank, let’s solve the world’s problem parties. Now I feel I really have something to add. “That’s so ambiguous. Thanks so much.” And I love the picture with the lights. One like that with your family would be a create Christmas photo.

  5. says

    I think the greatest thing we ever learn in college is that people really don’t know what the hell they’re talking about, probably 90 percent of the time.

  6. says

    Such is everything in life really…

    I remember reading poems and thinking, I really like this but I don’t know exactly why. I just do. And someone told me it was okay that at least it got a reaction out of me. Poetry is ambiguous and that’s why I love it.

  7. says

    I use ambiguous at work a lot! Sounds so much better than “I don’t know…I need to ask the doctor!” *sigh* I miss university English class…it was like one gigantic episode of “What Not To Wear”. (Sorry prof who favoured flowered broomstick skirts paired with quilted vests.)
    Love the Christmas lights pic!

  8. says

    This is why I never thought I could be a writer. I have no deeper meaning. I see no deeper meaning in things. I’m very literal, and all of that symbolism always through me for a loop. Now that I’m older I’ve just figured out that they were mostly full of poop and sometimes the blue scarf is just blue because that’s the color the author liked.

  9. says

    Hysterical. My quote for the day:
    “The ambiguity of it all has me feeling many ambiguous emotions that can’t ambiguate themselves in an ambiguative manner…”

  10. says

    I had to laugh at your experience in those classes… reminds me of my own. Everyone using big words they didn’t even know the meanings of… or giving an interpretation of a poem that they sounded SO SURE of but was obviously something they pulled out of their ass to sound smart because it had NO relation to the subject. Literary bullshitters. Not my favorite. The condescension was cutting sometimes! Great post :)

  11. says

    Hey, I never realized that the word ambiguous is itself ambiguous! But it’s true; use a big word and you can sound intelligent without knowing what you’re talking about.

    This reminds me of college. I was in Engineering class, my first major (I transferred), and everybody was learning so fast, and I just couldn’t keep up. But in their case, my classmates did know what they were talking about!

  12. says

    I keep picturing some dude in a scarf and a turtle neck with glasses sitting back in his chair at his college desk rubbing his chin with one hand and saying “Well, that is rather ambiguous, isn’t it?” Not sure why… ;)

  13. says

    that’s awesome. I was always the same way…I love reading, but in school I hated all the digging for special meaning and symbolism. Couldn’t we just enjoy the story!? Why must we dissect every choice of words and try to guess whether the rain meant rebirth or death or whatever? Maybe it was just raining cuz the author was thinking about rain…or thought rain suited the mood. Sheesh! :)

  14. says

    So funny! I was working in my first year of recruiting. It was my first important assignment: recruit a Rheumatologist ASAP to consult with a big pharma company. First thing: Learn what a Rheumatologist is! Once I had that down and finally had an offer for one of my candidates who would be making $300 an hour and my company $450 an hour, I had to “close” her. This Park Avenue, reknowned (sp??) Rheumatologist would say things like, “Well it’s just amorphous really” when I would ask her why she couldn’t make up her g-damned mind! What the hell was Amorphous??? I finally looked it up. She was my hardest close ever but it finally became “morph” for her and she took the job!

  15. says

    I love this and wish I knew this back when I was taking Philosophy or History of 3rd World Countries. I was lost in both of those. So funny and I plan on using it at the next holiday party I am at when the conversation moves away from Mickey Mouse Clubhouse and Bubble Guppies because these days, that’s all I got.

  16. says

    I had to give up on being an English major. Every class I had, every book we read, they were looking for “Jesus figures.” Jesus is not in ever book ever written!

  17. says

    I started to write this writters prompt then was tired put it away till tomorrow. Well the tomorrow came with illness and all kinds of craziness. I have been laid up with horrible back pain and it’s funny originally I wasn’t going to do the song that I did I was just going to say how it fits my life. Then do What Makes You Beautiful by One Direction. Now that I can sit up and type I came back to finish what I had started and I ended up sticking with the first song. Sorry I couldn’t link to it but I will definately try to get better.

    Thanks for all you do. Challenging everyone to become better writters. You rock!!!
    PS I used to write regularly for you with a different blog. I definately missed you.