or, stuff that I dragged out of my head

Location: Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada

Friday, June 10, 2005


A movie review in today's Salon.com contains the following sentence:

"Regardless, it's important to note that "Mr. and Mrs. Smith" is one of an increasingly small number of big mainstream pictures made from an original script, as opposed to being a reworking of an old movie or TV show."

The sentiment is doubtless correct, but the usage is unexpected: "increasingly small". It's not wrong, exactly, but it sure is strange. "Increase" metaphorically means "to become more so" (as in, say, "increasingly rare"), but its literal sense is "to become larger or greater". Saying "increasingly small" is almost like saying "more less". The metaphorical sense of "increasingly" works with many adjectives, but not with adjectives of size: "ever-smaller" would have been a better choice.

Increase, by the way, comes from the Latin "crescere", "to grow", which gives English such words as "crescendo" and "excrescence", as well as the crescent moon--growing, that is, from a new, or invisible, moon. We think of "crescent" as a noun, but its origin is as an adjective; "cresc-" plus the verb-to-adjective suffix "-ent" so common in such words as "fluorescent" and "indolent".


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