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Not even a little

From an actual conversation in a medical office:

X-ray technician: Are you pregnant at all?
Natasha [after a pause]: No, not even a little.

This is one of those linguistic differences that we explored elsewhere. Brits insist on adding “at all” to questions very frequently, and that throws us off. We view that as a suggestion that there are degrees to which the answer can be positive or negative. With answers that do not leave any middle ground between a simple “yes” or “no”, it sounds comical to our ears.

Are you married at all? Do you have children at all? No, but my friend over there is slightly pregnant.

[update] I suddently realize that there is a vague inference from the above that Natasha may be having some medical issues. Not at all (hey, this is a case where I normally use that construct). The office was, in fact, dental, and the X-rays were part of a regular check-up.[/update]

Posted in Expat Archive

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