How big is life?
A loyal reader of this blog (and who would have imagined that such people existed, or would admit to it?) saw in an article about a chess match a reference to “life-size” chess pieces: “I believe the reporter intended to convey that the pieces are as large as humans, but I’m not sure. I’ve seen ‘life-size’ used to describe other inanimate objects, and it always strikes me as odd.”
The term life-size can refer to inanimate objects as well as living beings, even if that does seem a little odd. But in the context here, it’s wrong.
Life-size describes a representation of a being or an object that is the same size as what it represents. A life-size sculpture of Abraham Lincoln would be six and a half feet tall. A life-size sculpture of Alexander Pope would be four and a half feet tall.
A life-size chess piece would typically be about two or three inches tall. The writer was referring to oversize chess pieces or human-size chess pieces.