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Reiko07
Posted: Tuesday, October 27, 2020 6:47:37 AM

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The little girl was as light as air.

Question: Is this sentence natural?

Romany
Posted: Tuesday, October 27, 2020 7:43:03 AM
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Reiko -

A "little girl" could be anywhere from 3 to about 12 years of age.

Do YOU think that a little girl could be 'as light as air'? So you could pick her up with one hand?

If she were, would it be a good thing? Why?

If she wasn't would it be a bad thing?

What would be the significance of her being 'as light as air?'

It's a very good idea to get hold of a saying and try to put it into a sentence, of course. But you yourself have to think first about what it would mean.

We know that these idioms don't have to to have a literal meaning. But they still have to have a meaning - and the meaning of this one is "to weigh almost nothing." "to be insubstantial".

We use it to talk about, say, a cake. A heavy, stodgy piece of cake is not enjoyable. But a cake which is 'light' weighs almost nothing, and melts in your mouth. It's a good thing. (And you don't get a tummy-ache after eating it.) It's so light it could float away...meaning its as light as the air around it.

A little girl is supposed to be healthy and growing. If she really was as "light as air" then she would probably be dying of malnutrition. If she were, it would be a serious thing. A terrible thing. We wouldn't use a comparison like that which is meant to be a good one.
Sarrriesfan
Posted: Tuesday, October 27, 2020 7:53:48 AM

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You can say “The little girl seemed as light as air”, in the right context.



This is Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson an Icelandic strongman and actor who appeared in the TV show Games of Thrones as Gregor “The Mountain” Clegane. He holds the world record for deadlifting at 500kg.
To him a lifting a little girl is nothing.
The girl is not actually as light as air, but is in a comparative sense is.
tautophile
Posted: Tuesday, October 27, 2020 11:29:25 AM
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When you think about it, human beings are about as light as water. That is to say, a body of a human being weighs about the same (or a little less) than an amount of water of the same volume; and that is why we can float in water. (Fresh water weighs one kilogram per liter or cubic decimeter, or about 62.5 pounds per cubic foot.) Thus a man weighing 190 pounds has a volume of about 3 cubic feet (that's about 86 kg, and thus a volume of about 86 liters.) Air at sea level and at O°C weighs about 1.2 grams per liter, so its density is a little over a thousandth that of water.

The sentence "The little girl was as light as air" is not scientifically accurate, but could be figuratively so, in that she could be light and graceful and seem (to her doting parents' eyes) to be floating on air as she runs and jumps about. Figures of speech express what we perceive as similarity, not identity.

FounDit
Posted: Tuesday, October 27, 2020 11:43:30 AM

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tautophile wrote:
When you think about it, human beings are about as light as water. That is to say, a body of a human being weighs about the same (or a little less) than an amount of water of the same volume; and that is why we can float in water. (Fresh water weighs one kilogram per liter or cubic decimeter, or about 62.5 pounds per cubic foot.) Thus a man weighing 190 pounds has a volume of about 3 cubic feet (that's about 86 kg, and thus a volume of about 86 liters.) Air at sea level and at O°C weighs about 1.2 grams per liter, so its density is a little over a thousandth that of water.

The sentence "The little girl was as light as air" is not scientifically accurate, but could be figuratively so, in that she could be light and graceful and seem (to her doting parents' eyes) to be floating on air as she runs and jumps about. Figures of speech express what we perceive as similarity, not identity.



Hmm...Think I always thought it was the air in our lungs that allowed us to float. If that air is replaced with water, do we not sink because we are then heavier than water?
Romany
Posted: Tuesday, October 27, 2020 12:45:02 PM
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Yeah, but Sarries,

it would be far more usual to say that, in comparison with the hefty bloke below, she was as "light as a feather", wouldn't it?

"As light as air" is not a phrase we use actually to relate to weight, is it.

We use it about cakes, and silk scarves, and flimsy knickers...it's an ethereal, floaty kind of comparison. And kids aren't usually ethereal, or floaty!

It's just not quite the right kind of phrase to use in this context - which was why I was trying to prod Reiko into thinking about it a little more.(Hope it didn't seem as if I were bullying her!!Pray )
tautophile
Posted: Tuesday, October 27, 2020 12:56:25 PM
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As with so many things, FounDit, it depends. Some people can float even when they've exhaled. Myself, I can float when I take a deep breath and hold it in; but when I exhale, I sink slowly. Some people can't float, but even those people have little trouble staying on the surface with little exertion. We have mostly dense bone in our lower legs and feet, so humans tend to float with their feet hanging down in the water and their trunks and heads high. Of course it depends on what sort of water you're floating in. Sea water, being salty, is denser than fresh water, so I can float in the ocean even when I've exhaled.

Certainly, if you replace the air in your lungs with water--that is, if you breathe in water--you'll sink; but you'll drown if you do that. When you exhale, you push air out of your lungs but don't replace it with anything until you inhale (air) again. That decreases the volume of your upper body.

Wikipedia tells me that the typical volume of a human breath ("tidal volume") is about half a liter when the person is at rest; but up to 2 or 3 liters during exercise.
Reiko07
Posted: Wednesday, October 28, 2020 3:07:24 AM

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Thank you all. 😊

The following example motivated me to start this thread:

I picked the little girl up. She was as light as air.
[From an English-Japanese dictionary.]

The second sentence of this example struck me as slightly odd, and hence this thread.

By the way, does the following sentence sound natural to you?

I can pick you up easily – you’re as light as a feather.
[From Cambridge Dictionary.]

Even this sentence sounds a little off to me.

Audiendus
Posted: Wednesday, October 28, 2020 9:04:23 AM
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Reiko07 wrote:
The following example motivated me to start this thread:

I picked the little girl up. She was as light as air.
[From an English-Japanese dictionary.]

The second sentence of this example struck me as slightly odd, and hence this thread.

By the way, does the following sentence sound natural to you?

I can pick you up easily – you’re as light as a feather.
[From Cambridge Dictionary.]

Even this sentence sounds a little off to me.

Are you concerned about the construction or the meaning?

"As light as air" and "as light as a feather" sound completely natural. The as + adjective + as + noun construction is very common in English.

"As light as air" and "as light as a feather", in particular, are common expressions. Of course, they are exaggerations (hyperbole).
Reiko07
Posted: Wednesday, October 28, 2020 8:53:28 PM

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Audiendus wrote:

Are you concerned about the construction or the meaning?

The latter.

Audiendus
Posted: Wednesday, October 28, 2020 9:27:28 PM
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Reiko07 wrote:
Audiendus wrote:

Are you concerned about the construction or the meaning?

The latter.


OK. Please see the last line of my post above.
Reiko07
Posted: Wednesday, October 28, 2020 9:47:20 PM

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Audiendus wrote:
Reiko07 wrote:
Audiendus wrote:

Are you concerned about the construction or the meaning?

The latter.


OK. Please see the last line of my post above.

Thanks, Audiendus. Angel

Do the following sentences sound perfectly natural to you?

The girl was as light as air.
The girl was as light as a feather.

Audiendus
Posted: Thursday, October 29, 2020 1:42:43 AM
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Reiko07 wrote:
Do the following sentences sound perfectly natural to you?

The girl was as light as air.
The girl was as light as a feather.

Yes – especially the second one.
Reiko07
Posted: Thursday, October 29, 2020 8:58:42 AM

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Thanks, Audiendus. 😊

Romany
Posted: Thursday, October 29, 2020 1:31:52 PM
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Reiko,

I don't think Auds saw my post but, if it is the meaning that concerns you, then it's worth repeating.

Yes, as he says, both are completely natural and common, there's nothing wrong with them at all.

However, just as no word means exactly the same as another, neither do such Phrases.

"Light as air" may without doubt be used by people to refer to solid things like a little girls body - but here's why it's problematic.

Sometimes we get a new pair of Trainers (shoes) and say "OH, I love wearing them - they're light as air.". Its another way of saying "I can barely notice I'm wearing... these shoes/or this dress/my new bra/this mask."

It's also what everybody wants from their baking (making cakes etc.): that they are as light as possible:so it's a phrase which would thrill cooks!

(As well: no-one wants to have people think about manky old bird-feathers in relation to their cooking, so "light as a feather" is not the best choice.)

On the other hand no mother (I can only speak for women; maybe dads feel differently?) could hear "as light as air" and not immediately start thinking of children wasting away - and dying!! - from disease: "OMG Is she THAT skinny? Is something wrong with her? Am I too close to even notice what other people have all seen? My child is sick! Do they all think I'm a terrible mother?".

And will go on wondering about it for days. (She will probably never, ever, say these words out loud.)

Just as light as air is better used when meaning light enough to float away, hardly there at all; insubstantial; "light as a feather means hardly weighing anything at all, not too big, not too heavy to carry.
Which was what i pointed out from the picture: to a great big man like that the child weighs very little.

Reiko, these are the kind of distinctions that many English-speakers don't see themselves; or think are too tediously picky (pedantic) to make a difference. But words do effect people. If there's something I might say that could effect someone - no matter how slim the chance - I can choose to say something else. Even something else that may please them. So I just think students should have the same choice wherever possible. I know the uncertainty about saying the wrong thing in a foreign language. And,sometimes,the embarrassment.Boo hoo!

Drag0nspeaker
Posted: Thursday, October 29, 2020 8:33:15 PM

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I probably wouldn't have noticed the difference myself, but I agree with Romany.

Both mean "very light" and both are exaggerations (hyperbole).

However, there's a difference in when I would use them - and it's just what Romany says.

"Light as a feather" very particularly refers to weight, but not so much to solidity.
"Light as air" refers to weight, but also has an implication of lack of substance, lack of solidity.

It's not really a strict rule or "dictionary definition" - just an implication or "feeling".

"Light as air" is related to "airy" - which is defined in various dictionaries as
"unsubstantial; unreal; imaginary
a. Having little or no substance; thin or immaterial: an airy apparition.
b. Light or delicate: an airy dress.
Synonyms: airy, filmy, gauzy, gossamer, sheer
These adjectives mean so light and insubstantial as to resemble air or a thin film: airy curtains
weightless and insubstantial: an airy gossamer.
" (gossamer is spider-web silk)

I would use "light as a feather" (or "light as a wren" [a tiny bird]) for a girl who is VERY small and light.
"Light as air" gives the idea of being unnoticeable - insubstantial.
Audiendus
Posted: Thursday, October 29, 2020 9:24:39 PM
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Drag0nspeaker wrote:
I probably wouldn't have noticed the difference myself, but I agree with Romany.

Ditto.
Reiko07
Posted: Thursday, October 29, 2020 11:17:50 PM

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Thanks, Romany, Drag0n, and Audiendus. 😊

In Japanese, we say as light as a balloon. Whistle


Drag0nspeaker
Posted: Friday, October 30, 2020 7:46:29 PM

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Reiko07 wrote:
In Japanese, we say as light as a balloon. Whistle


Ah - but, is that a balloon filled with air or Helium? Eh?
Reiko07
Posted: Friday, October 30, 2020 11:09:32 PM

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Drag0nspeaker wrote:
Reiko07 wrote:
In Japanese, we say as light as a balloon. Whistle


Ah - but, is that a balloon filled with air or Helium? Eh?

I've never thought about it. If someone said "The little girl is as light as Helium gas", I would take it as a joke.

Drag0nspeaker
Posted: Friday, October 30, 2020 11:47:04 PM

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Reiko07 wrote:
If someone said "The little girl is as light as Helium gas", I would take it as a joke.

Yes.

Unless she's Natsumi Hayashi!




(Images from Yowayowacamera.com)
Reiko07
Posted: Saturday, October 31, 2020 12:35:50 AM

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Thanks, Drag0n. Applause Those pictures remind me of some of Chagall's paintings.

Drag0nspeaker
Posted: Saturday, October 31, 2020 1:01:23 AM

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Yes - that's right. I didn't think of that. I'm much more impressed by Chagall's stained-glass than his paintings.

This is totally off-topic, of course, but I don't think anyone will complain.

I think that both are true artists. That means that some people may not like their work, of course.

The thing which made me really look at her photos is the fact that SHE is the photographer and 'model'. They are selfies taken at 1/500 of a second exposure. That is some skill! And a lot of work too. Apparently some of them have taken up to three hundred attempts until she is satisfied.

Reiko07
Posted: Saturday, October 31, 2020 3:26:16 PM

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Drag0nspeaker wrote:
They are selfies taken at 1/500 of a second exposure.

I didn't know that. Thanks, Drag0n. Angel

By the way, is there an English equivalent of the Japanese idiom "as heavy as lead"?

I couldn't even stand up—my body was as heavy as lead.

Audiendus
Posted: Saturday, October 31, 2020 9:40:57 PM
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Reiko07 wrote:
By the way, is there an English equivalent of the Japanese idiom "as heavy as lead"?

I couldn't even stand up—my body was as heavy as lead.


"As heavy as lead" is a common expression in English too.
Reiko07
Posted: Sunday, November 1, 2020 8:03:35 AM

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Audiendus wrote:
Reiko07 wrote:
By the way, is there an English equivalent of the Japanese idiom "as heavy as lead"?

I couldn't even stand up—my body was as heavy as lead.


"As heavy as lead" is a common expression in English too.

Thanks, Audiendus. 😊

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