dorsetgirl (dorsetgirl) wrote in linguaphiles,

Canadian usage of "quite"

I'm working on a submission to an academic journal with a research buddy - I'm in the UK, he's Canadian, we communicate by email and generally have a pretty relaxed relationship with a reasonable amount of humour.

Today I made some rather clumsy (ie possibly less than tactful) comments about his first draft for the abstract, and it was fairly obvious he wasn't too pleased. I then put together a first draft of my own for the abstract, and braced myself for an angry rejection.

I got this back:

"I quite liked your opening sentence but I made a minor change to the second one - I hope that's OK."

Now, if that had been written by a British person I would take it to mean

"I can just about bring myself to be polite about your opening sentence because after all you have to pick your battles, but the second sentence was so bad I had to take it apart before I could agree to have my name under it."

I may exaggerate slightly, but only in degree, not direction.

I seem to remember reading somewhere that Americans use "quite" in a very different way from us, and I'm wondering if that applies to Canadians as well.

So my question is: did he actually like my opening sentence (after all, he didn't change it) or was he being barely polite?

Unfortunately I don't like what he's done to the second sentence at all, so I really need a bit of a steer on this before I respond!

Edit: I'm still not getting notifications from LiveJournal, so my apologies in advance if there is a delay in replying to your comment.

If anyone is interested in what I've said here about some of our British speech habits, you might like to have a look at @VeryBritishProblems, which contains scarily accurate insights into the British psyche as well as laughing (at ourselves) at the way we phrase things.
Tags: american english, english

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