query on usage (a not quite clear result)

ronbutters at AOL.COM ronbutters at AOL.COM
Fri May 22 21:07:44 UTC 2009

Maybe means 'pretty well but not quite well well'--ie, ' things are OK for him but he is having small health problems '?
------Original Message------
From: Joel S. Berson
Sender: ADS-L
ReplyTo: ADS-L
Subject: Re: [ADS-L] query on usage (a not quite clear result)
Sent: May 22, 2009 4:18 PM

What is the question?  Usage in 1815?  Usage today?


At 5/22/2009 11:24 AM, Laurence Horn wrote:
>I was struck by this line in Jane Austen's _Emma_ (1815):  "pretty
>well but not quite well".  The larger context is:
>"Oh! good Mr. Perry- how is he, sir?"
>"Why, pretty well; but not quite well. Poor Perry is bilious, and he
>has not time to take care of himself."
>For my intuitions of what is natural in contemporary U.S. English,
>this is not a possible utterance, given what "pretty X" and "not
>quite X" convey.  If "quite" really just meant 'wholly, completely'
>even in negative contexts (as the OED entry suggests), this should be
>possible, as indeed are
>"He's pretty well, but not completely/totally well"
>For me these are impeccable, with natural stress falling on
>"completely/totally"--but such stress on "quite" doesn't help for me
>with "pretty well but not quite well", and indeed stressing "quite"
>in a sequence of "not quite [Adjective]" often seems  Is my judgment
>here  idiosyncratic?  A google search of this sequence, not
>surprisingly, pulls up many hits for the line from Emma and various
>irrelevant ones like "pretty well, but not quite well enough", which
>is fine for me.  I'm not sure this is conclusive, though, since there
>are no hits at all for the "completely" or "totally" counterparts
>above, which as noted I find impeccable.
>Of course YMMV, but that's why I'm posting.
>The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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