Like X but a (little/lot) less Y and a (little/lot) more Z.

Is there a name for this type of comparison? It's not really an analogy (or is it?) It's not a simile or a dissimile.

Examples of usage:
- Detest is a lot like despising but a little less personal and a little more abstract
- To the eye, he seems to be a lot like Margy Time, but a little less power and a little more speed and flash (context link)
- Quixote is pronounced like peyote but a little less pee and a little more keex

Any suggestions? I added as well, as the answer could be an idiom, but if there's a definitive answer that's not an idiom, then please feel free to remove the tag (and this note).

PS: Apologies in advance for any lost productivity caused by the TVTropes link.

  • Can you give specific examples of what you're talking about?
    – Barmar
    Nov 6, 2014 at 16:10
  • Added a few examples in main post. Nov 10, 2014 at 0:54

2 Answers 2


I'm inclined toward the phrase: complex comparison.

A is like X is a simple comparison, or simile. It is simple because the comparison is between a homogenous range of qualities ignoring differences:

My dog is like his dog because it has brown fur.

iPads are like laptop computers, because they are self contained units.

By introducing heterogenous qualities (but) and dissimilarities (less Y and more Z) we complicate the comparison for a clearer definition:

My dog is like your dog, but a little less threatening and a lot more noisy.

iPads are like laptop computers, but a lot less bulky and a little more convenient.

Weaving more complex dissimilarities into the comparison helps people discover the true nature of my Pomeranian in comparison to his Pit Bull, or the actual qualities of an iPad in comparison to a laptop computer.


1650s, "composed of parts," from French complexe "complicated, complex, intricate" (17c.),

from Latin complexus "surrounding, encompassing," past participle of complecti "to encircle, embrace," in transferred use, "to hold fast, master, comprehend,"

from com- "with" (see com-) + plectere "to weave, braid, twine, entwine," from PIE *plek-to-, from root *plek- "to plait" (see ply (v.1)).

Emphasis mine



Take the following link as an example: http://www.grammarly.com/handbook/sentences/parallelism/4/parallelism-with-not-only-but-also/ Not only ... but also ... > Parallelism / Correlative Conjunction

I think the "Like X but a (little/lot) less Y and a (little/lot) more Z" is similar to it. When you remove the X, Y, and Z; you get no meaning. Same with Not only ... but also ...

They both are comparison of things. It is a saying to compare things.

Hence, I think that the answer may simply be: Comparative Conjunction.


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