Meanings: “Size”

April 13, 2012

Libertarians to the ramparts!  Apparently “size” derives from government standards-setting:

size (n.) Look up size at Dictionary.com
c.1300, “an ordinance to fix the amount of a payment or tax,” from O.Fr. sise, shortened form of assise “session, assessment, regulation, manner” (see assize), probably a misdivision of l’assise as la sise. The sense of “extent, amount, magnitude” (c.1400) is from the notion of regulating something by fixing the amount of it (weights, food portions, etc.). Specific sense of “set of dimensions of an article of clothing or shoe” is attested from 1590s.

Shouldn’t “sizes” be relatively stable?  Apparently they aren’t.  “Research by The Economist finds that the average British size-14 pair of women’s trousers is today more than four inches wider at the waist than a size 14 in the 1970s, and over three inches wider at the hips.”

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About Doug Bennett

Doug Bennett is Emeritus President and Professor of Politics at Earlham College. He has a wife, Ellen, and two sons, Tommy (born 1984) and Robbie (born 2003).
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