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    #1

    "a very small little town" vs "a very small town"

    Dear teachers,

    Just now I watched the last lecture of English Professor James Warren of Washington and Lee University on Youtube and heard him say in his lecture that he grew up in "a very small little town" in Alabama, where his father was working. My questions are: Why did this professor not simply say "a very small town" instead of "a very small little town" ? Do the two phrases have any subtle difference? If so, then what is the subtle difference? If not, then is it that we tend to have more redundancy in our daily English(or any language) speaking than in our English(or any language) writing?

    Thanks.

    Richard
    Last edited by ohmyrichard; 20-Sep-2014 at 06:06.

  1. MikeNewYork's Avatar
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    #2

    Re: "a very small little town" vs "a very small town"

    Redundancy is not uncommon in spoken English. We speak quickly and don't have time to precisely plan what we will say. When we write, we can plan and edit.

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    #3

    Re: "a very small little town" vs "a very small town"

    Quote Originally Posted by MikeNewYork View Post
    Redundancy is not uncommon in spoken English. We speak quickly and don't have time to precisely plan what we will say. When we write, we can plan and edit.
    Thanks, Mike.
    Then, do you mean that in this speaking situation we can say "a very small town" or "a very little town" or "a very small little town" to mean the same?

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    #4

    Re: "a very small little town" vs "a very small town"

    They would all have the same meaning, but "very small town" would be the best.

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    #5

    Re: "a very small little town" vs "a very small town"

    For some reason, I don't find this redundancy so objectionable. I think it's because there are many "little towns" in America.

    The professor wanted to stress that he lived in a very small little town. It's sort of like saying it's a quaint village.

    I know it's redundant, but for some reason it doesn't hurt my ear so much and it actually sounds appropriate in the context. There are many small towns in the deep south.


    --lotus

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    #6

    Re: "a very small little town" vs "a very small town"

    How do you know what the professor intended?

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    #7

    Re: "a very small little town" vs "a very small town"

    I don't. We can only guess from reading words on a screen. Mine is but one perspective, however humble.


    --lotus

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    #8

    Re: "a very small little town" vs "a very small town"

    Quote Originally Posted by lotus888 View Post
    For some reason, I don't find this redundancy so objectionable. I think it's because there are many "little towns" in America.

    The professor wanted to stress that he lived in a very small little town. It's sort of like saying it's a quaint village.

    I know it's redundant, but for some reason it doesn't hurt my ear so much and it actually sounds appropriate in the context. There are many small towns in the deep south.


    --lotus
    Thanks for helping me, Lotus888.

    James Warren, the professor who delivered the last lecture of "Place of Imagination" posted on Youtube, talked about the "very small little town" of Auburn, Alabama at the time when his father worked there and he grew up there. I agree with you that this professor may mean that this town, where he grew up as a very carefree, happy kid but which now has, a bit to his disappointment, expanded unprecedentedly in area and population, remains in his memory a quaint and charming town for ever. Along this line of thinking, I guess this quaintness and charm comes more from the descriptive word "little" than from the word "(very) small"or, to be accurate, comes from the mutual enhancing of "small" and "little"; I may be wrong on this guessing, though, for I am sure I, as a nonnative, cannot acquire a feel for the English language which is as good as yours as a native speaker. I would appreciate it if you would give me further explanation about this. Thanks a lot.

    Richard
    Last edited by ohmyrichard; 20-Sep-2014 at 08:26.

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    #9

    Re: "a very small little town" vs "a very small town"

    James Warren grew up in Auburn, Alabama. It was a college town since the mid-19th century. The college became Auburn University in 1960. Based on the picture I saw of him on the Internet, he is probably between 50 and 60 years old. So Auburn became a university town at around the same time he was born. The first time I visited Auburn, Alabama was the mid-1970s. At that time, I would have not have called it a small town town or a little town. Certainly not a very small little town. It was home to a major University. The closest town to Auburn is Opelika. That I would call a small town.

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    #10

    Re: "a very small little town" vs "a very small town"

    Quote Originally Posted by MikeNewYork View Post
    James Warren grew up in Auburn, Alabama. It was a college town since the mid-19th century. The college became Auburn University in 1960. Based on the picture I saw of him on the Internet, he is probably between 50 and 60 years old. So Auburn became a university town at around the same time he was born. The first time I visited Auburn, Alabama was the mid-1970s. At that time, I would have not have called it a small town town or a little town. Certainly not a very small little town. It was home to a major University. The closest town to Auburn is Opelika. That I would call a small town.
    Hi, Mike. Thanks for your replies to my questions. At 2:58/ 59:28 of the Youtube video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7hrrI32pxRU) Professor James Warren did say, "I was born in Texas - Bryan, Texas... My dad was teaching there. And when my father got a position teaching animal science at Auburn University in Auburn, Alabama, and so I grew up in Auburn, Alabama, a very small little town at that point, about the size of Lexington though now it's more than in size Charleston(?) ." Taking your impression of Auburn into account, I guess this professor's remarks reflect, to a great extent, his idiosyncratic memory of his home city.

    What I here care most about is: Are there any subtle differences between "a small town", "a little town", and "a very small little town"? In post #4 you said "They would all have the same meaning, but "very small town" would be the best." Now let's again focus on the language issue itself decontextualized. Can you take your time to figure out for me any possible differences between the three phrases of "a small town", "a little town", and "a very small little town", while putting aside the issue of whether Professor James Warren's treasurable memory of his hometown is in accordance with reality or not? Thanks.
    Last edited by ohmyrichard; 20-Sep-2014 at 17:27.

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