10 April 2011

Deceptively large

On the newsgroup alt.usage.english we have discussions about English usage and the variations in different dialects. One question that came up recently was the meaning of the phrase "deceptively large".

Some thought that it meant that a thing was smaller than it looked, while others thought that it meant that it was bigger than it looked.

What do you think?


6 comments:

Clarissa said...

A colleague from Africa and I have been engaged in a discussion of whether it makes sense to encourage and support the use of an African-American variation of English in the classroom. I'm sure that he and his readers will really appreciate it if you find it possible to participate in the discussion:

http://www.ktravula.com/2011/04/wen-e-go-come-of-creoles/

Clarissa said...

P.S. This is not my own blog that I'm promoting here. I just want people to participate in a great discussion my friend and colleague started.

Feel free to delete my comments if you have a no-backlink policy on your blog.

Steve Hayes said...

My first inclination was to think that "deceptively large" means that something looks bigger than it really is. A "deceptively large" house might be small and cramped inside; a car with a deceptively large boot would hold less luggage than your would expect.

But then I thought a couple of weeks ago there were stories about a "big moon", and one might dsecribe the moon as being "deceptively large" because was closer to the earth and thus looked bigger than it usually does. But no matter how close the moon comes to earth, it always looks deceptively small, even at its biggest.

So it depends on the context, really.

James Higham said...

I voted. Interesting conundrum.

The Western Confucian said...

Here's a video of a local Buddhist temple I visited today in which the phrase "deceptively large" is used -- Dragon Ball Temple

Mark E said...

This 'deceptively large' being said, by the majority apparently, as meaning larger than it looks is driving me nuts. Anyone who thinks this, is clearly wrong. And I can prove it. In the BBC TV sci-fi series 'Dr Who' which has been running since 1963, the Doctor travels space and time in an old fashioned police phone box (the Tardis) which confounds the laws of physics by being cathedral-sized on the inside. The Tardis has often been described as being "deceptively small" owing to this bizarre anomaly. It would be completely absurd to call something a metre square as deceptively large. The clue is in the word 'deceptive'. The Tardis (or anything that looks smaller than it really is from the outside) is 'deceiving' the eye as to its true proportions. The only reason that real estate agents have corrupted the phrase is that they like the sound of the phrase but cannot bring themselves to use the unfavourable word 'small'.

A deceptively large property would therefore be smaller inside than it appears from the outside.

The Prime Minister's London home, 10 Downing Street is an example of a house than is deceptively 'small' as from the street it looks like a modest terraced home but in fact is attached to a second, much larger property behind which can't be seen from street level.

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