[Ed. note: The following post was composed by none other than Cougar Clause, my very own sister. You can tell I didn’t write it because there are two spaces after every period.]
Your readers might want to know about a quite interesting experience I have recently had with word usage. I am sure they can probably guess that my roots, like yours, are in the south eastern [southeastern] US (I am your elder sister, after all). However, I have lived for the past twenty years in a Commonwealth country. That’s the background.
I almost didn’t make friends with a wonderful woman whom I met a few years ago for a coffee. After our meeting, I wrote an email to say “It was quite nice to meet you.” I had no idea that “quite” in Commonwealth usage means “almost” or “not completely.” In US usage, of course, it means “very” or “certainly.” Thank heavens she was interested enough in our friendship to forgive what must have seemed like quite an insulting sort of note.
The case presented itself again this week, when I got the reviewer’s report from a US press on a text book [textbook] I have edited along with another academic from [Commonwealth country name redacted]. The reviewer’s first sentence was “this is quite a good book.” While I cracked open the champagne, my co-editor’s heart sunk. He wrote me to say: “I was a bit scared of the opening understated tone – that the book is “quite good”!!
So, be quite careful when you write. English may be the same language in many different countries, but it doesn’t always mean the same thing. [Ed. note: Just ask Downith.]