1. boo_radley
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    boo_radley New Member

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    Diminutive vs. Small?

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by boo_radley, Dec 25, 2009.

    I was looking up a word (Diminutive) and found an example at wiki.answers.com. Here's the example:

    She could hardly see a diminutive figure waving at her from the other end of the tunnel.

    Diminutive means small, little, tiny.

    I was just wondering, what would compel you to use diminutive over small or vice versa? ie

    This is true for many things. When two words are almost exactly the same, would you just use diminutive because it sounds better?

    Thanks
     
  2. marina
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    marina Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'd use diminutive if the word just came naturally to my character, or was in line with the vocabulary used by the third-person narrator. Diminutive makes me think of more than small. It's more descriptive.
     
  3. Rei
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    Rei Contributing Member Contributor

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    To me, diminutive implys something other than size, whereas small really does just mean the opposite of big. It may not mean more than a small size in the official definition, but it just has a sound that to me makes it imply things that are sometimes assumed to go along with a small size.
     
  4. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Small can have a range of meanings that diminutive avoids. For example, referring to a small man my be a comment on his physical stature, but it may also refer to him as being petty and selfishly hurtful. If you refer to him as diminutive, you avoid the ambiguity, and are referring only to his physical size.

    Word choices often come down to connotations rather than denotations. Two words with nearly identical dictionary definitions can vary widely in secondary meanings or in contextual meaning. Mastering vocabulary requires an awareness of all the layers of meaning a particular word carries.
     
  5. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    Diminutive often carries connotations of daintiness, so I wouldn't use it to describe a gang leader who was small, squat and just generally a gross little man.

    If, however, the gang leader was a manipulating character with long pointed fingernails and an effeminate but sinister manner, I might.

    I would never use it interchangably with 'small', which is a neutral adjective.
     
  6. writewizard
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    writewizard Contributing Member

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    Of course, I'm not always right...

    It depends on the story. If, for example, you are working on a story for eight-year-olds, you would use the words "small." However, when you use the word in a "bigger" story, yes, you would use the word diminutive. That's what I would assume.
     
  7. NaCl
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    NaCl Contributing Member Contributor

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    Exactly. A dwarf would rarely be considered diminutive because the features in dwarfism often include a large head and thickness in otherwise short limbs. On the other hand, a midget is usually proportioned the same as a typical adult; they almost look fragile.
     
  8. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    as used in that example, it would seem pretentious to me, if i read it in a story... going over the top, as so many beginning writers are wont to do, trying to sound smart, or literary, with too-fancy words where plainer ones would do a better job...
     
  9. ManhattanMss
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    ManhattanMss Contributing Member

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    In addition to the various connotations of "small" that Cog mentions (which might require some disambiguation), personally, I think "diminutive" is a more suggestive word, because its comparatively limited usage gives it a tidbit of emphasis or literary significance that needs to be apparent in context and which I don't think "small" really has.
     
  10. boo_radley
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    boo_radley New Member

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    Nice feedback guys, this clears things up for me a bit :)
     
  11. marina
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    marina Contributing Member Contributor

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    I know you said it was pretty clear to you now, but I saw a good example of the proper use of diminutive in an article this morning:

     

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