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Kenny同志

Is the word bisemous acceptable?

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li3wei1

"in" is usually used with static documents, such as a dictionary, or a particular edition of a newspaper. This word is in the dictionary; I saw it in the New York Times. "on" has traditionally been used for radio and television, but even there it's used more for things that change and are still changing. So you'd say 'he was on the Late Show last week', but 'he was in the third series of The Wire'. I think it's "on" for the above because they're not static - a search on Google Books today will not give you the same results as the same search tomorrow.

I saw this word in a tweet. (the tweet will not change)

I see this on Twitter all the time. (Twitter is constantly changing)

What's in the paper? (it's printed and sitting there, will not change)

What's on television? (it changes from minute to minute)

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renzhe

I have a different interpretation.

"Google News" and "Google Books" are webpages. You look up something on a webpage. These are simply names. If you were talking about a real book or "news" in general, you would use "in".

So you read something "in" a book, or you read it on "BestBook.com". You read something "in" the news, but you read it on "YahooNews.com". The prepositions "on" and "in" are not interchangeable in either case.

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li3wei1

How is that different? How do you decide whether to use 'in' or 'on'?

sorry we're going of-topic here, but at least we're in the right forum.

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renzhe

I thought it was clear, "on" with webpages, "in" with books used in a general sense, "in" with news used in a general sense.

Example 1: I read something interesting in "War and Peace". I was reading "War and Peace" on Google Books. (the webpage)

Example 2:

- I read in the news that the world is going to end

- Where did you read that?

- It was on Yahoo News. (the webpage)

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li3wei1

okay, so far no disagreement on the particulars. I'm not sure about my rule, but I think it's more elegant and predictive. So, if you saw Richard Gere on television last night, you'd have seen him in whatever movie (because the movie is fixed and won't change), but on whatever chat show (because the chat show is a continually developing body of work, even if that particular episode is now frozen).

One counter-example:

He's in the Rolling Stones (surely something that is open to change)

He was on Exile on Main Street (a fixed and frozen work)

and, while we say 'in the newspaper', we also say 'on the front page'.

truly a fascinating conundrum. I shall get little sleep tonight.

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Takeshi

As a linguist, I don't see a problem with the word; I'll admit I've never seen it before, but it does come up in Google results and it makes sense how it's being used. Though I'd most likely just use "polysemous" even in situations where there are only 2 meanings.

But yea, I guess most people probably won't know what it means.

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imron

I guess most people won't know what polysemous means either, and that anyone who does know the word polysemous wouldn't have much difficulty understanding bisemous.

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Kenny同志

Thank you everybody. All your comments are very helpful. :)

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creamyhorror

I agree with renzhe that on/in are used simply as a matter of convention. That's how I've always perceived it.

My guess: A webpage are a sort of page, and you see things on a page, hence you see things on a webpage. Websites are a group of webpages, and the use of "on" spread to them as well. But since a website is a "site", or place, the preposition "at" also becomes acceptable in some contexts (particularly when the site name is also a URL, or location):

OK: "I saw the picture at Gawker.com"

OK: "I saw the picture on Gawker.com" / "Find your dream car on the AutoSpot website"

No: "I saw the picture in Gawker.com"

If you refer to a subtype of websites by their generic name (e.g. "a forum"), the appropriate prepositions might be different:

"I saw it in/on the discussion forums"

"I saw it in a chatroom"

but: "I saw it on a BBS" / "I saw it on a blog"

I would attribute the use of prepositions to analogy and historical accident (but IANALinguist). I see li3wei1's point about the staticness of the medium having a role to play, but forums and chatrooms aren't static, yet they take "in". Which is an argument for going by analogy.

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Kenny同志

Many thanks for sorting all this out, creamyhorror. I think I've got it.

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realmayo

He's in the news a lot but I didn't see him on the news yesterday. :)

but forums and chatrooms aren't static, yet they take "in".

It would sound odd to use "on" with "-room" because we always talk about things being in rooms.

We talk about "on a page", hence on a webpage.

[Edit: sorry, realise this exactly what you're saying creamyhorror]

Consider:

I saw her on the subway.

She's hiding in the subway.

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roddy

I wish you all the best on luck of your hopeless quest to find hard and fast usage rules at English prepositions.

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