Words and Language: July 2003 Archives

Speaking of Quite


Speaking of Quite

We all know that there are some profound differences between English as spoken in the U.S. and English as spoken in the Commonwealth (if that term holds any meaning--The Queen's English, if it does not). Yesterday we received a short lecture about a difference I was unaware of, and which for a time caused some fairly sore feelings in one citizen of Britain. He was working over here in the states and was told that some of his ideas and work were "quite good." In the U.S. "quite good" is seen as a complement, meaning precisely that the work was very good. Apparently the phraseology in the U.K. is used only in an ironic sense as though begging the question, "This is the best you could do?" So the modifier "quite" may be "quite" a no-no when speaking with those who hold to the Queen's English.

Just so's you know.

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This page is a archive of entries in the Words and Language category from July 2003.

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