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Back-To-Basics

I'd like to thank you for all the warm messages on my last entry, friends.

I hadn't blogged for more than a month. A month is a fairly short time in real life, but feels like a very long period of time in this virtual sphere. Oh, and I hadn't even visited my fellow bloggers' sites during the period. Too bad. If there's something new, please let me know. It's like I were in the state of Urashima Taro. Hm? What was I doing instead of blogging? Well, reading, playing PC games, thinking about my life, et cetera, et cetera.... It's interesting that once in a long while, you will want to spend days without connecting to the Net. Or is it just me?

So, it may take a little while before I can get my second wind in blogging. Now I'm trying to remember the days when I started this blog site -- I simply enjoyed writing things as I liked. Yeah, that's what I am to do. And I wrote every three days. OK, that's my goal for now. And also, I wanted to practice writing in English. Yeah, that's it.

Well, speaking of going back to the basics, I still remember the English dialogues in a textbook I recited by rote at the English club in college. The first part goes like this:

A: Hello, B.
B: Hello, A. How are you?
A: Fine, thank you, and you?
B: Pretty good.
A: You were off yesterday, weren't you?
B: Yes, I was.
A: What was wrong with you?
B: Well, I had a little bit of a headache when I got home the day before yesterday. I thought it was the flu that is prevailing now. So I rested in bed until I felt all right. .....

How interesting human memory is!

Comments

Today I had a lesson for a little bit aged woman, who's just started studying English. And on our text book, actaully such conversations were written. She asked me "I think "pretty" means "cute", right?. So "pretty good" sounds funny" ".I couldn't response to her. Please teach me about this question,KIYO-sensei!

Pretty in this case is an adverb, meaning like "very." There are many intensifiers in the English language, and they are pretty puzzling to Japanese learners of English, dayo ne. ;)

Mieko,
In this case, "pretty" does not mean "beautiful". It's a mild intensifier: that is, it's better than plain "good" but not as good as "very" good.

"Pretty good" is just an expression. You shouldn't try to understand it or translate it literally because it's not actually grammatically correct. However, it is such a common and often-used expression, that it is considered idiomatically correct (especially in American English).

Heh, that last sentence in the conversation just wanders off on its own. "I thought it was the flu that is prevailing now" is terrible! First of all I think "at the moment" would be better than "now". Second... well, no one uses the word "prevailing" in that context. Ever. Wind can be prevailing, but that's about it. A more natural way to put it would be "I thought it was the flu that's going around, so I rested in bed until I felt better". I guess the english is fine in the textbook version, but you would never ever hear a native speaker say something like that.

I wonder how many language text books around the world teach equally unatural examples? I remember learning German at school, we'd always learn slightly ridiculous things like how to describe our family, or how many floors our school has (what?!). When I actually went to Germany I virtually had to start from scratch. The phrase "my brother is quite tall and my father has a beard" doesn't get you lunch.

'Pretty' is extremely common here in Britain too.

"How was your exam?"
"Pretty good"

"This house is pretty small"

"How much work did you get finished?"
"Pretty much all of it"

('pretty much' makes the least grammatical sense -I use it all the time, but can't explain exactly how those two words fit together.)

But, yes, pretty also means beautiful or cute.

"That's a pretty dress"

"She's a pretty girl"

Woo! Thank you for lots of response! I'M VERY VERY happy! I didn't know that "'Pretty' is extremely common here in Britain too.". And it is true that " you shouldn't try to understand it or translate it literally" , actually even in Japanese, one word often has lots of meaning. DAYONE--KIYO-sensei!

You know, I'm glad I haven't been asked that kind of question about english yet. I've spent three months teaching now, and all I've really been asked are mild grammar questions. *whew* Knock on wood.

It's always fun to hear the views on the English language by native speakers.

Mieko-san, I've blogged about some English intensifiers before.

http://kec-journal.com/kiyo/journal/archives/000175.html#000175

and

http://kec-journal.com/kiyo/journal/archives/000176.html#000176

Enjoy!

Hi. First-time caller.

"Pretty" is an intensifier? It seems to me that most people use it as a de-intensifier. "Pretty good" isn't somewhere between "good" and "very good"; rather, it's somewhere between "good enough" and "good". Let's say I have to assign grades between 10 and 1, 10 meaning "excellent", 6 meaning "pass", 1 meaning "as bad as it ever gets". Let's say that 8 means "good". Now, where is "pretty good" on that scale? I'd say it's 7.5 rather than 8.5: not quite as good as "good".

However, "pretty good" *can* mean "better than good", but that's a bit of quirkiness which seems to be hard-wired into the British mind in particular: you don't want to get overly excited about anything because that shows a lack of refinement. So if you want to praise something more, you praise it less. "That chocolate is pretty nice, actually" probably means nicer than plain old "nice". It's an *understatement*.

A lot also depends on the way you say it, on intonation, tone of voice, facial expression, gesture. You can say "pretty good" in such a way that it means *mah mah*. Then again, you can say it in such a way that it means "great".

This is a late comment, as I just happened to find this while looking for some other stuff on "pretty," but as far as I can tell, "pretty" is a rare beast in English, in that it can either be an intensifier, as most people here mentioned, or a de-intensifier, as Rudolf said, based purely on intonation.

For instance, "Wow, this cake is pretty good!" means the cake is better than good, just not great.

"Eh, the cake is pretty good," means the cake is OK. It's lower praise than a simple "This cake is good."

(Note you could say either of those sentances without the "wow" and "eh,". I just used them to denote intonation on the Internet, where it's obviously impossible).

That's not a Brittish usage either. It's used like that here in the USA as well.