Mysterious communication--what does this mean to you?

The following is a fairly simple sentence. I’d be interested to know how people would interpret it:

“You can’t give the bamboo plant too much water.”

(I will explain when I see some answers, although I bet I won’t have to explain.)

Well, upon first glance I interpreted the sentence as meaning that it’s allright to give the plant a LOT of water - it’s not possible to overwater it.

Reading it again, I can see how someone could interpret it as meaning the opposite - that is, do not give the plant too much water. But if that was what was meant, then why not simply say, “Don’t give the bamboo too much water”?

It isn’t possible to over water a bamboo plant? Don’t worry about giving it too much water. The more water you give it, the more it thrives?

That’s kind of like “No news is good news.” If you hear no news, ergo, nothing about a subject, then is it good? Or is all news you hear bad news?

John has a long moustache. (?)

The red dog howls at the setting sun…

Don’t worry about overwatering a bamboo plant.
That is how I would interpet it. Not that you should give it as much water as possible.

There has to be more to this than any of the answers so far have revealed.

[indent]:rolleyes: [sup]Or at least I hope there is.[/sup][/indent]

As I see it, there are two ways. The first, and the one I thought of first, was an admonishment or command: “You can’t give it too much water,” like “You can’t drive on the sidewalk.” You could, but you really shouldn’t.

The other way’s already been mentioned. But I guess I’d need more context. Were you watering a bamboo plant when a robot rolled up, said it in an emotionless voice, and rolled away?

My first interpretation would be that it’s impossible to overwater a bamboo plant.

My second thought would be to ask the person if that’s what he or she meant, or if he or she was saying “you can’t give a bamboo plant too much water, because it will melt into a sodden mess of stinking plant material.”

This was the topic of an SNL sketch way back when. I forget who was in it (I think Ed Asner), but the line in question was "Just remember one thing: You can’t put too much water in a nuclear reactor,” uttered by the “expert” who then took off for retirement or vacation or something. The newbies left behind puzzled over it for a minute, then flooded the reactor and left the building. BOOM! Cut to the old-timer on a beach, telling his companion, “You can’t look too long at a nuclear explosion.”

The answer: It’s ambiguous. Like those drawings of (1) two people in silhouette or (2) a vase. Or (1) a pretty young girl or (2) an old hag. There is no single correct interpretation. It needs to be rewritten for clarity.

I got that. :smiley:

It’s impossible to overwater Bamboo, obviously. Think about where Bamboo grows.

Okay, I said I’d explain but probably wouldn’t have to, and you have all assessed the gist of the problem. Some years ago when I got the bamboo plant, I asked how much water to give it and the guy at the plant store said, “Oh don’t worry. You can’t overwater a bamboo plant.”

So, a couple of years ago when I went out of town for awhile, I told my husband you couldn’t give the bamboo plant too much water. So now, two years later, I’m dumping all the extra water I see into the plant–like if I have a dinner party and everybody drinks all their wine and none of their water, I pour the excess water into the bamboo plant–and he says, “What are you doing? I thought you couldn’t give the plant too much water.”

(I am glad to hear this was an SNL skit. The conversation that followed, between my husband and I, was more like something from Monty Python.)

Me: Right, you can’t give it too much water.
Him: So, aren’t you worried that you’re giving it too much water?
Me: No, because you can’t . . .give it . . .[beginning to catch on] . . . oh, I see what you mean.
Him: But what do you mean? You tell me not to overwater it, and then you overwater it . . .

(What I meant of course was: YOU can’t give it too much water, but I can.)

Boy am I glad I’m not learning English as a second language. It’s hard enough as a first language.