Christophe Grandsire wrote:
> > Jim wrote:   I think Ed Heil's remarks about an "implicit standard" are
> > useful here.
> >
>         Where can I find them, I don't remember reading something like

I think I may have accidentally replied privately to Jim instead of
to the list.

I pointed out that intensification is in fact comparison to an
implicit standard.  "Tom is very big" means nothing more nor less than
"Tom is bigger than the size which is implied by the term 'big' used
without an intensive."  If you use the word "very," you are suggesting
that there is a standard which would be implied if you did not use the
word "very," and you now wish to exceed that standard.

This sort of thing is common enough.  Many bare adjectives display a
similar phenomenon: if you say something is "big," you are saying that
its size is greater than some implied standard of size.  Obviously
this standard varies by context; there is a different implied standard
when one talks about a "big earthworm" and a "big galaxy."  What is
common is that in each there *is* an implicit standard and it is being

So in "very big" you have a standard of normal size, and that
standard is exceeded because the object is "big", but the degree to
which one would expect the standard to be exceeded is *itself*
exceeded because the object is "*very* big."  Whew!

Thanks, Jim, for your kind comments about this suggestion.

If I understand the "absolute" correctly, the difference between it
and a positive is that the absolute specifically suggests that the
implicit standard within it is not exceeded, whereas the positive
leaves the possibility open.  So the intensive "he is very big"
contradicts the absolute "he is simply big," but neither of them
contradicts the positive "he is big."  Is that right, or did I not
quite get it?