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  Ambiguity (from the Latin for ‘forked path’), in rhetoric or literature, is the use of words, or patterns of words, which lend themselves to more than one interpretation. The literary critic William Empson, in Seven Types of Ambiguity (1930), defined it as ‘…any verbal nuance, however slight, which gives room for alternative reactions to the same piece of language’. In all cases, from puns to the most complex allegory and irony, ambiguity invites the listener or reader, so to speak, to help create the full meaning of a group of spoken or written words. Unless the person responding to the words adds his or her understanding of the nuances involved, what is being heard or read remains inert, and it is largely in the use of ambiguity to awake and encourage that understanding, that rhetorical and literary subtlety consists. KMcL  



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