miconazole (miconazole) wrote in linguaphiles,
miconazole
miconazole
linguaphiles

How many is a couple to you?

I've noticed that at work, customers often ask me for a couple of this or a couple of that, with "couple" invariably meaning "two". Now I know that a "couple" consists of two people, and that a "thermocouple" is made up of two metals, and any number of increasingly ridiculous examples, but to me, a "couple" of [object] means some arbitrary small number, so I always have to ask them "Two?" and then they will patiently roll their eyes a little and say "Yes, two." What I find most weird about this is that I have no recollection of anyone using "couple" in this manner before, but now I hear it all the time. So would you agree with me that "couple" is an unspecified number, or have we discovered some inexplicable gap in my knowledge of the English language?

I guess it would also help if you posted where you're from. I live in Australia.

ETA: My own definitions:
Pair - Exactly two
Couple - Between 2 and maybe 5
Few - Synonymous with "couple"
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  • EUROPA, etymology

    "... Agenor, king of the Phoenician city of Sidon, had a beautiful daughter Europa, literally (in Greek) the "wide-eyed". In fact, of course, not…

  • Word 'Climax'. A note for aspiring etymologists.

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