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I would like to ask for clarification to understand the meaning and the usage of the word "minify".

Let us read the following piece:

The New York Times
“But by no means do I ever overlook or minify the fact that this is one of the most extraordinary experiences of my life. I have never seen anything like this before. I have never seen anything so great and fine and real as this devotion.”

I'm under the impression that "minify" there means "reduce in importance or value", but I cannot find this word on Oxford Dictionary Online.

Also, according to Wiktionary, "minify" means "to reduce in size", not "to reduce in importance or value".

Can anybody explain if "minify" is the right word there? Shouldn't the journalist have used "minimize"?

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"minify" is very rare nowadays and would be considered a solecism by a modern writer; though it is a natural construction, it flatlines in comparison to 'minimize'. –  Mitch Feb 3 '13 at 0:53

2 Answers 2

up vote 2 down vote accepted

OED3 has two senses of minify, which are different from those defined in the Second Edition. The Third Edition uses the word significance:

1. trans. To diminish in significance or importance; to regard or represent (something) as less significant than it really is; to depreciate, belittle.
2. trans. To reduce in actual size or amount; (now) esp. to reduce the size of (an image). Also intr.

Thus Mark Twain is using it in its first sense, for which OED provides citations from 1676 to 1974; the second sense is first cited in 1874, when it is distinctly figurative:

Nature is original; we are poor servile plagiarists...Beyond..magnifying one creature to a giant or minifying another to a pigmy, we accomplish absolutely nothing. [Littell's living age, 7 November]

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Certainly not. The journalist is quoting the written words of the author Mark Twain. It would be unethical journalistic practice to change the words quoted. As for Twain's choice of word, "minify" and "minimize" can both be used figuratively or metaphorically (just as any word can). See: http://www.wordnik.com/words/minify for other examples.

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