BOOK - THE HOUSE IN NORHAM GARDENS by Penelope Lively
“So what I really wanted to say was that you must remember that language is an instrument, Clare. An instrument to be used precisely. Nobody can say what they mean until they use words with precision.”
“Language,” said Clare to Liz, “is an instrument. You have to use it precisely. Like a screwdriver or something. Not just bash around vaguely?”
“What are you on about?”
“But the trouble is people don’t. They say things like “quite” and “rather” and “ever so many” and “by and large” and “much of a muchness” and “quite a few”. Now what do you suppose a person means when he says “quite a few”?”
Liz said, “It would depend what he meant quite a few of. Bananas, or miles, or people living in Manchester.”
“Then it could mean anything.”
“Quite,” said Clare.
My sentiments exactly! I couldn’t have put it better myself. She has expressed succinctly in two passages the literary and conversational frustrations of a literal-minded and grammar-obsessed autistic. Enough said. I should just let the words speak for themselves. Shut up, Lisa, and sod off.