I swear they have got smaller! Damn chocflation!

I swear they have got smaller! Damn chocflation!

20110403 Smiling electric heater dial 150x150 I swear they have got smaller!  Damn chocflation!

Have you ever remarked that something used to be bigger?

It’s Mothering Sunday in the UK and flowers and chocolates abound.  Now that that’s nearly over it’s time to get the Cadbury’s Creme Eggs out for Easter.  Commercialisation – we loves it, but that’s a topic for another article.  I swear Cadbury’s Creme Eggs aren’t as big as they used to be.  I call it chocflation.  25 years ago they were only slightly smaller than my hands and now I can hold many of them in one hand.  Of course, I have grown and my hands have got bigger.  But regardless, there is a niggling feeling that many other things aren’t as big as they used to be: buildings, coins and so on.

A relative thing

Size perception is just that: perception; it’s a relative thing and I always derive joy in asking my mother how big she sees stars.  She will pinch her index finger and thumb together to form a circle, as if to give the A-OK.  When asked how big she sees the moon she uses two hands, fingers slightly bent, palms facing one another to create a negative space about the size of an average saucer.  “Wow!  You must be able to see little men (and women) walking on its surface,” I quip.  I see stars as small pin pricks of light and the moon smaller than my mother sees stars.  She is 154 cm tall, which might have something to do with it, though even when I was a child my perception of stars and the moon was not much different than it is today.

A few years ago I revisited an old street in Zeist, The Netherland, where I lived for a couple of years.  I hadn’t been back for 16 years and everything looked so much smaller than in my mind’s eye.  What appeared to be a massive tower block at the time was what I would now describe as medium-rise.  Again, the distorted perception of size.

How big do you really see something?

But how do you measure how big or small you see something?  Moreover, how do you convey it to someone else?  You can’t stick your hand inside your brain and measure the image inside your visual cortex, like you would a physical object.

When asked how big I perceive a distant object to be, I will have my arms in a relaxed, slightly bent position and move my fingers until the gap appears the same size as the distant object.  For some reason, I’ll cock my head slightly and pull a pensive face.  The more pensive the face, the more accurate the measurement – fact! 🙂  But how far do you bend your arm?  How long is your arm?

Make a circle with your hand, hold it at arms length and you see a relatively small circle occupying only a small portion of your field of vision.  Put it right up against your face and it is so big, you can see straight through it and it has virtually disappeared from view apart from your peripheral vision.

A confused picture

Some things actually are smaller than they used to be.  Remember the old 10p and 50p coins that were phased out in 1992 and 1998 respectively?  I wish I had a picture to illustrate it but they were quite cumbersome.  Even the current 50p is quite big for what it’s worth.  I like to call it nihilchobblerism.

I recently read that Cadbury’s were going to downsize their Dairy Milk bar from 140g to 120g for “economic reasons”.  That’s another example of physical shrinkage.  In some respects this is not necessarily a bad thing, as it can contribute to tackling the obesity epidemic in this country.  But that’s a topic for another article.

On the subject of obesity, how often have you noticed clothes not fitting anymore?  My mother used to tell me I had grown but the only growth I am capable of now is sideways.  Plenty of exercise and a healthy diet can combat this.  Still, I find after a few months clothes – particularly the lower quality ones – don’t fit as well as they used to.  Cotton is notorious for shrinking and trousers and tops get tighter and sleeves and legs get shorter.


In one of Nostradamus’ quatrains he said the world will get smaller and the following quatrain is often said to predict World War III:

“Pestilences extinguished, the world becomes smaller, for a long time the lands will be inhabited peacefully. People will travel safely through the sky, land and seas: then wars will start up again.”

I do like a bit of mystery, but my personal belief is that the quatrains are probably misinterpreted.  As an apothecary, he must have been a fairly practical man.  Perhaps this quatrain was nothing more than a cynical reflection on life: as you get older things will appear to get smaller and smaller.  Perhaps it was inspired by eating chocolate.  I can see him now, munching on his Cadbury’s Creme Egg whilst putting on his favourite, but ill-fitting jeans exclaiming, “Zut alors!  I swear they used to be bigger!”

The face of small

This face is a close-up of the dial on an electric heater in my flat.  It is small – to you and me.  But to an ant it is big and its mouth would be big enough to eat it.  It’s all relative.

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