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Let's say I have a list of words that describes the weight (or size) of objects, like heavy, strong, light, soft. Which words should be used to have a complete semantic list from the heaviest element to the lighter one.

I always use something like: Heavy, stronger, strong, normal, light, lighter, softer.
or Maximum, large, normal, small, smallest, tiny.

How can I organize a list like that in semantical English?
PD: you can add or remove incorrect words from my lists.

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closed as unclear what you're asking by Brian Hooper, Andrew Leach, Kristina Lopez, user49727, Hellion Sep 20 '13 at 14:35

Please clarify your specific problem or add additional details to highlight exactly what you need. As it's currently written, it’s hard to tell exactly what you're asking. See the How to Ask page for help clarifying this question.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

    
Er...could you supply some more examples, please? Your first list makes a nonsense of the question, as strong and soft have nothing to do with weight, and the second is trivial. It is difficult to see what you are asking for. –  Brian Hooper Sep 18 '13 at 6:06
    
Sure, If I have a list of images with different sizes, how could I classify them in a semantic way? Or if I want to classify them by their weight. –  Cadence96 Sep 18 '13 at 6:10
1  
I would suggest people don't add incorrect words to your lists. :P –  James Webster Sep 18 '13 at 9:32

1 Answer 1

up vote 0 down vote accepted

A simple, yet workable answer to your question is to take the basic noun you are attempting to organize in the style of a continuum and simply add -er and -est (or the equivalent in correct spelling, such as -ier) to the root word.

heavy, heavier, heaviest

Or

light, lighter, lightest

Or

dark, darker, darkest

Or

pretty, prettier, prettiest

and so forth. Another variation on the theme is to use "helping words" such as less, least, more, and most, as follows:

offensive, more offensive, most offensive

Or

inoffensive, offensive, more offensive, most offensive

Using a "root" word and modifying it is only one way of indicating gradations, but it is the simplest, most straight forward, and perhaps least open to misinterpretation.

On the other hand, to stray from using a root word by attempting to describe gradations with words that have no root in common is to bring subjectivity into your description, which can be notoriously inaccurate and subject to conflicting interpretations, meanings, and connotations. For example,

large, massive, gigantic, gargantuan, King-Kong size, Empire-State-Building size, dwarf-star size, etc.

One can also add words (other than less, more, etc.) to intensify a characteristic, such as

snow white, shining white, brilliant white, dazzling white, blindingly white, whiter-than-snow white, etc.

Again, agreement as to how to arrange these descriptions in accurate gradations is difficult to come by.

Finally, a somewhat accurate way of indicating gradation is through the use of a questionnaire-type continuum from which you can derive, for example, an average number or score. For example,

On a scale of one to ten, circle the number that best describes your attitude about professional sports, with the number one being "couldn't possibly care any less" and the number ten being "couldn't possibly be any more enthusiastic."

Obviously, one could structure the continuum much more simply by assigning number one to "least enthusiastic" and the number ten to "most enthusiastic," with the numbers between one and ten being gradations of enthusiasm, with the amount of enthusiasm increasing with increasingly higher numbers (or conversely, the amount of enthusiasm decreasing with decreasingly lower numbers).

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Hmm. Is a number which is decreasingly low actually higher? –  Andrew Leach Sep 18 '13 at 18:41
    
@AndrewLeach: I thought initially upon reading your comment I was "busted." Now I'm not so sure. When one looks at the pattern of 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, etc., aren't the numbers (viz., 10 down to 1) decreasing in decreasingly lower fashion? Would replacing "decreasingly" with "correspondingly" make things clearer or more accurate? What thinkest thou? –  rhetorician Sep 18 '13 at 20:21

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