Today’s One Big Happy:]

Once again, Ruthie seizes the wrong fork of an ambiguity: the waiter intends “condition how“, but Ruthie understands it as “manner how“.

From NOAD2 on the adverb how, which is mostly an interrogative adverb (but see subentry 4):

1 [“manner how“] in what way or manner; by what means: how does it work? | he did not know how he ought to behave | [with infinitive] : he showed me how to adjust the focus.

2 [“condition how“] used to ask about the condition or quality of something: how was your vacation? | how did they play?

– used to ask about someone’s physical or mental state: how are the children? | I asked how he was doing.

3 [“degree how“] [with adj. or adv.] used to ask about the extent or degree of something: how old are you? | how long will it take? | I wasn’t sure how fast to go.

– used to express a strong feeling such as surprise about the extent of something: how kind it was of him | how I wish I had been there!

4 [relative adverb] the way in which; that: she told us how she had lived out of a suitcase for a week.

– in any way in which; however: I’ll do business how I like.

The waiter intends how-2, Ruthie understands how-1 and replies accordingly.

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