For some reason I have it in my head that I can use the word "rather" at the end of a phrase to indicate that I am correcting a previous misstatement.

For example:

Down the hall, you'll find the bathrooms on your left...right, rather.

Is this in typical usage anywhere, or am I just crazy?

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    Are those questions mutually exclusive? ;-) I've heard that usage of rather and it's not extremely common but not unheard of. – Kristina Lopez May 3 '13 at 20:21
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    Thanks for the comment. If I'm crazy, at least it's not without company. – Daniel Kessler May 3 '13 at 20:36
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    It's more common than you suggest on this side of the Atlantic, Kristina. Rather in this incarnation is a pragmatic marker subclass correction marker. The Australians use 'correction' before the corrected version. The nearest definition I can find is this from the AHD: 3. More exactly; more accurately: He's my friend, or rather he was my friend. However, this is showing improved precision rather than outright correction of an error. (The AHD also sadly has rather in the dustbin adverb class.) Rather has quite a few senses - none adverbial in my estimation. – Edwin Ashworth May 3 '13 at 22:40
  • @EdwinAshworth Guess that counts for an answer. This is one of those few good Qs. in the usage tag. – Kris May 4 '13 at 5:49
  • You could sub-classify that as conversational, teen-lingo, or such I suppose. – Kris May 4 '13 at 5:50

That's fairly acceptable usage.

As with so many words in the language, rather can be used to mean several different things.

  • somewhat/moderately,
    e.g. "In height he was rather over six feet, and so excessively lean that he seemed to be considerably taller" - A Study in Scarlet
  • considerably/considerably (yup, kindof the opposite of the previous meaning),
    e.g. "“I flatter myself that I have managed it rather neatly,” the detective answered proudly" - A Study in Scarlet
  • preferably/instead,
    e.g. "If my view of the case is correct, and I have every reason to believe that it is, this man would rather risk anything than lose the ring." - A Study in Scarlet
    e.g. "Having finished his scrutiny, he proceeded slowly down the path, or rather down the fringe of grass which flanked the path, keeping his eyes riveted upon the ground." - A Study in Scarlet
    e.g. "‘Arthur would rather that we spoke the truth,’ the girl answered firmly." - A Study in Scarlet

It's in the third sense that your sentence employs rather. I've used several examples for this particular meaning to demonstrate usage.

Of course, the way you use it is more common in speech than in writing. What you are doing is squeezing out the "or" from the sentence and flipping the sequence.

That is why I have chosen my own particular profession,—or rather created it, for I am the only one in the world. - The Sign of the Four

  • Not entirely sure the examples in your third sense are all the same, but +1 anyway for finding so many examples from one book. – TimLymington Jul 18 '13 at 22:57

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