Today I said some event was a couple of weeks away. A native speaker from Australia corrected me and said, no it's at least three weeks away. What followed was a discussion as to whether a couple always means two, or if it can mean more than two.
What does a couple, in particular a couple of weeks, mean to a native speaker?
According to wiktionary:
- Two partners in a romantic or sexual relationship.
- Two of the same kind connected or considered together.
- (informal) A small number.
According to OED:
- two people or things of the same sort considered together:
'a couple of girls were playing marbles'
- [treated as singular or plural] two people who are married or otherwise closely associated romantically or sexually:
'in three weeks the couple fell in love and became engaged'
'a honeymoon couple'
- [informal] An indefinite small number
Yet my colleague — a native speaker — insists that a couple never means three, although there can be a small error bar on the two. We asked one other native speaker who agrees with him, yet three non-native speakers point at the above-mentioned sources to claim they're wrong. But it's a bit tricky for non-native speakers to claim native speakers are wrong. Note that both native-speakers are from Australia/New Zealand.