while continuing to read a heartbreaking work of staggering genius, i encountered that phrasing that has become so familiar as to be almost meaningless: "I slept like i hadn't slept in years."
consider the ambiguity: is the narrator sleeping in the manner of a person who has not slept in years - voracious for sleep? tired beyond belief? or is he sleeping in a way in which he hasn't slept in years - in the comfort of his hometown, tucked in by old friends?
this usage is all over the place. 'she's a maniac, maniac, on the floor, and she's dancing like she's never danced before,' 'i'm gonna love you like nobody's loved you.' i think the double readings come from two different understandings of 'like,' which is slippery, as we've discussed before. it either indicates a comparison between two manners of doing the action, or it indicates a manner of doing the action as if it had not been done before.
but, usually, the two readings are very similar, and we don't even consider the semantic meaning of the phrase - we read it as a whole, and understand the extremeness of action it conveys. in almost every case where the ambiguity appears, it doesn't matter at all.