English translation: I actually do feel the ambiguity
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07:37 Oct 18, 2004
German to English translations [PRO] General / Conversation / Greetings / Letters
German term or phrase:ambiguity of bis auf
This is really an ambiguity that should not exist -perhaps it only exists in my mind? In a sentence such as "Die Nummer .....entsprach *bis auf die letzten Ziffer* der handschriftlich notierten Fernsprechernummer" does a German mother tongue speaker sense the ambiguity I feel here, or would he/she automatically assume it means "apart from (ie excluding) the last numeral" without feeling that it could possibly also mean "right down to (ie including) the last numeral"?
Explanation: I'm a little surprised that I seem to be the only one for whom the meaning is not immediately evident. As a matter of fact, when I first read your German sentence, I thought it meant "down to the last digit" rather than "with the exception of the last digit." On second thought, I think the second interpretation is however the correct one. There are instances in German where "bis" is used to say "including", let me see if I can come up with some good examples: "etwas bis ins kleinste Detail erläutern", "sie gleichen sich bis aufs Haar" (there are quite a few "googles" for that, compare http://www2.t-online.ch/dyn/c/23/64/90/2364906.html
So yes, I think it's ambiguous, however I believe if the speaker had intended the meaning "down to ..." he might have put "bis hin zu..." in order to rule out any other interpretation.
Thanks to all in this discussion - it was all most useful It was hard to choose whose answer was "most useful", but I chose No 5 because of the various alternatives suggested. 4 KudoZ points were awarded for this answer