<At least> there’d be a look in his eyes sometimes, and then I knew I’d got to give in

longxianchen

Senior Member
chinese
Hi,
Here are some words from the novel Lady Chatterley's Lover(page 348, chapter 16) by Lawrence (planetebook,here):
(background: Connie was leaving for Venice, Mrs Bolton was helping her pack. Mrs Bolton said men are all like babies, who need flattering and wheedling. Connie asked whether Bolton's husband was the lord and master thing, Bolton said:"No! At least.…………")


‘No! At least there’d be a look in his eyes sometimes, and then I knew I’d got to give in. But usually he gave in to me. No, he was never lord and master. But neither was I. I knew when I could go no further with him, and then I gave in: though it cost me a good bit, sometimes.’


I feel at most is better than at least. But Lawrence just used it to show Bolton was not well-educated and not good at expressing herself in standard English.
Is that right please?
 
  • Hermione Golightly

    Senior Member
    British English
    'At least' modifies the No! her first response to Connie asking if her husband had ever behaved like her 'lord and master'. She denies that, exclaiming 'No!', then she acknowledges that she knew she had to agree with him, by a certain look in his eye.

    'We aren't rich, at least not what most people call rich'.

    It's an idiom defined in the WR dictionary as:
    at least:
    • at the lowest estimate or figure:We'll have to pay $500 at least to cover that damage.
    • at any rate;
      in any case:At least she wasn't hurt.
    We could say 'only in the smallest way'.

    An idiom often defies language logic or a literal translation. This is good standard English.​
     

    longxianchen

    Senior Member
    chinese
    Thank you two. I think I have understood your explanations.
    "At least" can mean "The preceding statement may be overstatement, exaggeration, simplification, or over-simplification; but this is true:".
    This makes sense. And I feel it's a little close to but in this case
     
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