I’m currently reading a book, That’s Not English, all about the similarities and differences between British and American English. It’s delightful! And I wish I had discovered it earlier. (I picked it up by chance at the library while browsing a stand of recommended books.)
I was especially shocked to discover a meaning for the word quite that I had never learned before:
The trouble begins when quite is used to modify an adjective that is gradable, like “attractive,” “intelligent,” or “friendly.” For, then, the British use quite as a qualifier, whereas Americans press it into service as an emphasizer. In British English, quite means “rather” or “fairly,” and is a subtle way of damning with faint praise. To an American, quite simply means “very,” and amps the adjective. No subtlety there.
I’m suddenly left wondering: How many times has someone tried to subtly suggest their distaste to me with the word quite, and I’ve completely missed their message? Or, even worse, when might I have accidentally insulted someone with the same word?
I haven’t finished the book yet, and some chapters aren’t as enlightening as this one, and yet if the rest of the book is complete rubbish I’ll still feel that I’ve learned something immensely valuable about this one word.