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What does the phrase "little big" mean?

Samples (game titles):

  1. Little big planet
  2. Little big adventures
  3. Little big magazine
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This reminds me of a college friend, who was fascinated by the sentence "It was a little big, and pretty ugly". –  PSU Feb 25 '11 at 14:16
    
There's also "big little". –  ShreevatsaR Feb 25 '11 at 14:58
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5 Answers 5

up vote 4 down vote accepted

It usually implies that something is little in one way but big in another; for example, a game may want to imply that it is "little" in being approachable and friendly, but "big" in having lots of things to do.

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This is probably the best explanation of this phrase. Looks like you right that this phrase refers not only to the physical size but to something much more. –  Evgeny Vinnik Feb 25 '11 at 18:11
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My take on the titles you mention is that "little" refers to physical size, and "big" refers to aspiration or scope. So "little big magazine" would be a small sized magazine aspiring to cover a great deal of subject matter.

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Thank very much you for your comment. I love it. –  Evgeny Vinnik Feb 25 '11 at 18:10
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Probably best known is the Battle of Little Big Horn of 1876 (other spacing and names are also used). It is named for the nearby Little Big Horn River, a tributary of the Big Horn River, in turn a tributary of the Yellowstone River, and then the Missouri River and Mississippi River.

The apparent oxymoron makes it easy to remember, but in fact little does not apply to big but to Big Horn River; similarly big does not apply to Horn River, but river applies to big horn. I would not be surprised is your examples copied this.

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It's actually Little Bighorn; a Bighorn is a type of North American sheep. As a result, it's not an oxymoron at all. –  Dancrumb Feb 25 '11 at 4:07
    
@Dancrumb: indeed - hence "apparent oxymoron". Many people, like me, hear it before we see it –  Henry Feb 25 '11 at 8:58
    
@Dancrumb; although technically not the same, the arguments still seem valid in my mind. +1 –  falstro Feb 25 '11 at 10:09
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"Little big" isn't really a standard phrase in English, so it's subject to interpretation. It's meant to be more evocative than precise.

In the above cases you could take it to mean something that is suitable for both little and big people (children and adults), or something that is big in scope but miniature in size.

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I hear it all the time. "You're a little big for those pants, aren't you?" –  oosterwal Feb 25 '11 at 1:39
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@oosterwal - that is shorthand for "You're a little too big for those pants?" which isn't exactly the same usage as the OP seems to be referring to. –  Dusty Feb 25 '11 at 1:42
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