Sticky Notes of Thoughts

…because some thoughts are worth remembering

On Size and Language

2013-08-29 13.02.37

My linguist friends told me that the words in any language for small and big tend to have sounds that allow us to guess which is which for the most part. To think that there is something inherent in our association with sounds that links to largeness or smallness despite our many cultural differences fascinated me.

But then there are other aspects of size and language: the word count. Most of the Danish-English dictionary pages are devoted to listing English words and their meanings in Danish, and the Danish to English portion is significantly smaller.

Other things are smaller in Danish. A common way to express the highest gratitude in Danish is “tusind tak” (a thousand thanks). In the US, we often say “thanks a million” and not a thousand. My Danish friend told me that when you want to say something will take a long time, they have the expression, a hundred years. In English (or at least in American English), we don’t hold back: we say “forever”, as in “I just missed the bus, it’s going to be forever before the next one comes” (or another expression may be “a million years” but I’ve never heard “a hundred years” as a hyperbole for length of time).

It may be easy to attribute the size difference to the land mass difference. Things do feel grandiose in the open wilderness in the US. But we must keep in mind that Denmark’s control extended much farther than it does now, and even in the present day, we mustn’t forget about Greenland (though they have some independence in governance).

I wonder if English spoken in other parts of the world as the official language contains as many extreme expressions of size, and use of superlatives and exclamations that seem to dominate the American culture.

2 comments on “On Size and Language

  1. bifyu
    July 6, 2015

    “A different language is a different vision of life.” —Federico Fellini

    Liked by 1 person

    • lavayoda
      July 6, 2015

      a quote is often made more significant by noting the person who said it… this is one of those quotes…. oh, Fellini….


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This entry was posted on March 15, 2015 by in Biography, Denmark, language and tagged , , , , , .
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