Debate: How many is "a couple"?

I'm really confused.  I always thought "a couple" meant just what it says.  Two.  A pair. One, and two.  Not three, not four.  In the past week though, I've had at least two people interpret "a couple" as more than two. 

In the first case, my friend said something was "a couple miles away."  15-20 minutes later, I was like, "Geez, this place is hella far.  It's totally more than two miles."  She was like, "who said anything about two miles."  I was like, "that's what a couple is!"  In the second case, I said "a couple of friends," meaning two, and was asked exactly how many "a couple" was, but by this time I realized that "a couple" did not unequivocably mean two.

So tell me if I'm wrong, but this is the system of numbers I've always had in my head:

"a" = 1
Ex. "I want a cat."  Means I want ONE cat.

"a couple" = two
Ex. "I had a couple of drinks."  Means I had TWO drinks.

"a few" = 3 - 5 
Ex. "I've visited a few cities around China."  Means I have traveled to FOUR cities in China.

"several" = 5 - 8

Ex. "John has had several partners in the last couple of years."  Means John is someting of a manslut, having spread himself around with approximately SEVEN women in TWO years =P

"many" = 8 - 15, depending on what you're talking about
Ex. "I want to do many different things when I go to Chicago in a few days."  This gets a little hazy, but I probably could come up with more than EIGHT things I want to do in Chicago in the THREE days I have left before my trip.

"a lot" = more than 10ish
Ex. "I have a lot of e-mails to send tonight."  You get the point.

Of course, interpretations of "a few," "several," "many" and "a lot" can differ depending on what you're talking about.  If it's cars in a parking lot, for example, "a few" could mean up to 10, "several" can mean up to 20, "many" can be up to 100, "a lot" can be like 500.  But, "a couple of cars" is still just 2 cars.

Anyway, just some thoughts for an unproductive Thursday night.
10 responses
LOL i agree
then there is:

"a bunch" = 10-20
"a whole lot"= 15-30
"a sh*t ton" = hundreds or thousands. too many to count.

that manslut example is too funny. great post. Ive wondered about "couple" also at times.
I guess some people are just natural polyamorists ;-)
Technically, you can't use "a lot" for countable objects. You should say "many". "A lot" should be used for uncountable substances.
Then you have wonderful Southerisms that make you laugh like "fixin to". I'm fixin to walk to the office. To tie into your number fixation, a great sentence using fixin would go like this:
Y'all, I'm fixin to go eat some grits.

Now, define some when talking about grits. ; )

Susan I from Alabama all my 26 years and I still don't get "fixin". I refuse to use it and I cringe when I hear it. I doesn't make sense to me. I use to correct the way my parents speak certain words but now I give up. My mom doesn't pronounce "r". Ex. "I'm traveling to 'Decada' (Decatur) today for a meeting." That's how she pronounces it. And my boss at work pronounces pool as "pooh" and told as "toad". Lol wtf.
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Way back several years ago I worked rodeo and my Boss came up to me and asked would I ride the couple of extras. Extras in Rodeo are broncos that were ridden less times than the other Broncos. All of the Broncos’ have to be ridden the same amount of times each day.

I said, “Sure I could use the practice!”

I geared up and went chutes and rode the first Bronc. The second bronc I also rode no problem. By the third one I was getting sore and beginning to bail off. Then I saw the chutes being reloaded with another six Broncs!. And asked Gary, my boss, ”How many is a couple?”

In Gary’s case it turned out to be 15!

Many people I know use "a few" and "a couple" interchangeably. It bugs like none other.
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