I came upon the following sentence when reading this article on Erdogan.

The president’s portrait stares down on Recep Tayyip Erdogan University in his family’s hometown of Rize, on Turkey’s Black Sea coast. Little says “personality cult” like naming an institution after a leader while he’s still alive.

I believe "personality cult" here refers to cult of personality. I do not see what the words "little says" mean in this context - is it sarcasm ? What effect is the writer to trying to produce?

  • It is a bit sarcastic. It means basically the same as "Nothing says 'personality cult' like naming ..." – Hot Licks Apr 17 '17 at 0:27
  • @HotLicks, but why write in a sarcastic tone? Also, does personality cult have negative connotations? – CL. Apr 17 '17 at 0:40
  • Well... yeah... – Hot Licks Apr 17 '17 at 0:48

Such sentences are part of the linguistic style of English. 'Little' means 'nothing' or 'nearly nothing' here.

"Little / Nothing says (something 1) like (something 2)" means that (something 2) is one of the best indicators of (something 1)

It need not be sarcastic or have any negative meaning.

Example 1: Nothing says (wealth misused) like (a million dollar wedding)

It means that a million dollar wedding is an extreme example of misuse of wealth.

Example 2: Little says (national prosperity) like (children drinking milk twice a day)

It means that children drinking milk twice daily is one of the best indicators of national prosperity.


In the given context, little means practically nothing:

Definition of little
1 : a small amount, quantity, or degree; also : practically nothing • little has changed

You could rewrite the sentence as:

Practically nothing demonstrates a personality cult like naming an institution after a leader while he’s still alive.

  • Like issuing a coin with the image of the current ruler. – Xanne Apr 17 '17 at 1:07
  • Sorry, I am still confused with what is meant. What do you mean by "Practically nothing demonstrates"? Is there another example? – CL. Apr 17 '17 at 3:25
  • 1
    I am not sure how to make this any clearer. Perhaps "*Naming an institution after a leader while he’s still alive is a very strong indication of personality cult. " – michael.hor257k Apr 17 '17 at 7:39

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