Tiny Little

A discussion of word histories and origins.
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Grand Panjandrum
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Tiny Little

Postby Slava » Tue Apr 08, 2008 9:23 pm

Why is this phrase almost always the way it is? Why not say tiny, or little? Are the words too small to use alone?

If they're an accepted pairing, as they seem to be, how did it come about? They have uses without the other, but there is a time that they are both used.

Any thunks on the matter?


Postby bnjtokyo » Wed Apr 09, 2008 3:12 am

Why is this phrase almost always the way it is?
It isn't always. There are 4,250,000 hits on Google for
"tiny little" and 1,140,000 hits for "little tiny" Admittedly the former is more common but the latter is hardly rare.

Why not say tiny, or little?
Of course you are right; it is redundant. But I think people do it for emphasis in informal speech. In a similar way, some languages repeat adjective to intensify them. Although English sometimes doubles adjectives ("A tiny tiny book"), "little tiny" or "tiny little" feels less redundant.

How did it came about?
I am not sure. But Festa's song at the end of Twelfth Night begins with "When that I was a little tiny boy."

There is also a carol words attributed to Robert Croo 1534 that begins "lully lully thou little tiny child"

So I guess it has been around for awhile. (In contrast to the results from Google, these examples use the less common expression, which should serve to increase it's status.)

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Grand Panjandrum
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Postby sluggo » Mon Apr 21, 2008 2:35 am

I like to think such a combo gets popular because of its easy consonantal flow, especially the L > T of little tiny.

I sense tiny little differences in how they're used: little tiny feels like an emphasis on the smallness of this current example which you may know well in a bigger form; tiny little kind of holds back on what it's talking about until the noun is presented. That's a little tiny impression, but then I'm out of my tiny little mind.

Never use a big word when a diminutive one will do.
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