Sometime last week, my students and I were in a middle of a class discussion when someone pointed out that she was beginning to get stumped by a poem we were reading.
“I’m quite unsettled with the metaphor,” she said.
“Which part of the metaphor is very confusing?” I asked her.
“No, it’s not very confusing. Just quite.” the student replied.
Then, instead of going deeper into the metaphor and allusions of the poem, I sensed that I had to give them a brief introduction to the [apparently] confusing word, quite.
Later that day, I related the story to my college friends, and interestingly enough, they were also shocked to discover its meaning. Hmm, a curious scene. It seemed like they were also using quite as a synonym for slightly, or a bit as in “I am slightly irritated.” They didn’t believe it at first, until I challenge them to refer to a dictionary and swore that I would let them cut my ten fingers should they prove me wrong. A friend, Joyce felt really embarrassed that she thought of rummaging her previous academic papers to modify and revise any work she did where she used the word.
And that was quite a revelation.
So what does the word really mean? Well, contrary to the common thinking (of my students and friends at the very least), Mr. Google says it means “absolutely,” “completely,” and “to the utmost extent.”
So the next time you say, “I am quite mad,” that should mean that you are really, really in fumes. Do not say you’re quite mad when in reality, you’re only ticked off a little!