Larger than life
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Reader question:

In this sentence – Pavarotti was known as much for his larger than life personality as he was for his voice – please explain "larger than life".

My comments:

Why not, let's begin with Luciano Pavarotti (1935-2007). The Italian tenor1, one of the best opera singers of his generation, is better known in China as one of the Three Tenors2 (José Carreras and Placido Domingo being the other two) who performed in the royal Palace in Beijing. Pavarotti also shared the stage with pop singers (Pavarotti with Friends, including notably3 Bryan Adams), something few classical musicians would stoop themselves to do. In 1993, he sang for 500,000 fans in New York's Central Park. The next year, he performed under the Eiffel Tower in front of 300,000 Parisians. And in 2003, at the age of 68, he married his former secretary Nicoletta Mantovani....

So you see, Pavarotti had quite an appetite (he had a big belly4 to show for it too) for music and life.

Before giving definitions, let's bring on more people who are considered larger than life. Albert Einstein was larger than life – his influence went far beyond physics. Louis Armstrong was and remains5 larger than life – he epitomizes jazz. Yao Ming is larger than life – the guy is 7-foot-6, for starters. Michael Jordan is certainly larger than life – it sometimes felt that he was bigger than the NBA in his playing day. Mahatma Gandhi was larger than life despite his small stature6 – he brought down the British Empire and closed the entire colonial era....

These people have all been described as larger than life. Do you see a common thread?

They are unusual. They're extraordinary. They're uncommon7. They seems larger than (what we experience in everyday)life. Their achievements seem enlarged, exaggerated and unbelievable. Wilt8 Chamberlain, for instance, once scored 100 points in one game. In another, he grabbed 55 rebounds9 alone. Ask Yao and he'll shake his head – One-hundred points and 55 rebounds, come on. No-one will be able to duplicate these numbers (the 55 rebounds especially) ever if they don't change the rules.

Anyways, you get the idea what it means to describe people or things to be larger, or bigger, than life.

Here are more media examples.

1. A headline:

Composer is larger than life; concert isn't

- Los Angeles Times, February 5, 2007.

2. Love the music or not, (Richard) Wagner cannot be ignored. Larger than life in his own lifetime, posthumously10 he gets no smaller.

- What is it about Wagner? The Sunday Times, August 5, 2007.

3. Long before Elvis Mitchell's last movie review for the New York Times was published, on April 30, it was clear he'd been hired to play against type. Mitchell, over six feet, with two-foot-long dreads11 (which he tends with Kiehl's products), robed in Costume National and Helmut Lang, will never be your average be-khaki'd Timesman. He's bigger than life, or at least bigger than most print journalists, a road show of pop-culture exuberance12 who makes the rounds of TV shows, film festivals, and lecture appointments, hobnobbing with stars and industry figures.

- Elvis and His Times, New York Magazine, May 3, 2004. 


1 tenor LIxza     
  • The tenor of his speech was that war would come.他讲话的大意是战争将要发生。
  • The four parts in singing are soprano,alto,tenor and bass.唱歌的四个声部是女高音、女低音、男高音和男低音。
2 tenors ff8bdaf78be6bbb227baf80345de3b68     
n.男高音( tenor的名词复数 );大意;男高音歌唱家;(文件的)抄本
  • Three celebrated tenors sang at the president's inauguration. 3位著名的男高音歌手在总统就职仪式上演唱。 来自《简明英汉词典》
  • His one -- a-kind packaging thrilled an opera world ever-hungry for tenors. 他一对一类包装激动世界的歌剧以往任何时候都渴望的男高音。 来自互联网
3 notably 1HEx9     
  • Many students were absent,notably the monitor.许多学生缺席,特别是连班长也没来。
  • A notably short,silver-haired man,he plays basketball with his staff several times a week.他个子明显较为矮小,一头银发,每周都会和他的员工一起打几次篮球。
4 belly QyKzLi     
  • The boss has a large belly.老板大腹便便。
  • His eyes are bigger than his belly.他眼馋肚饱。
5 remains 1kMzTy     
  • He ate the remains of food hungrily.他狼吞虎咽地吃剩余的食物。
  • The remains of the meal were fed to the dog.残羹剩饭喂狗了。
6 stature ruLw8     
  • He is five feet five inches in stature.他身高5英尺5英寸。
  • The dress models are tall of stature.时装模特儿的身材都较高。
7 uncommon AlPwO     
  • Such attitudes were not at all uncommon thirty years ago.这些看法在30年前很常见。
  • Phil has uncommon intelligence.菲尔智力超群。
8 wilt oMNz5     
  • Golden roses do not wilt and will never need to be watered.金色的玫瑰不枯萎绝也不需要浇水。
  • Several sleepless nights made him wilt.数个不眠之夜使他憔悴。
9 rebounds 87b0c2d1da6e752183ab26d425c5acd4     
反弹球( rebound的名词复数 ); 回弹球; 抢断篮板球; 复兴
  • V is the velocity after the gas particle rebounds from the wall. V是粒子从壁上弹开后的速度。
  • In the former case, the first body rebounds with practically its original velocity. 在前一种情况下,第一个物体实际上以原来的速度弹回。
10 posthumously posthumously     
  • He was confirmed posthumously as a member of the Chinese Communist Party. 他被追认为中国共产党党员。 来自《简明英汉词典》
  • Her last book was published posthumously in 1948. 她最后的一本书在她死后于1948 年出版了。 来自《简明英汉词典》
11 dreads db0ee5f32d4e353c1c9df0c82a9c9c2f     
n.恐惧,畏惧( dread的名词复数 );令人恐惧的事物v.害怕,恐惧,担心( dread的第三人称单数 )
  • The little boy dreads going to bed in the dark. 这孩子不敢在黑暗中睡觉。 来自《简明英汉词典》
  • A burnt child dreads the fire. [谚]烧伤过的孩子怕火(惊弓之鸟,格外胆小)。 来自《现代英汉综合大词典》
12 exuberance 3hxzA     
  • Her burst of exuberance and her brightness overwhelmed me.她勃发的热情和阳光的性格征服了我。
  • The sheer exuberance of the sculpture was exhilarating.那尊雕塑表现出的勃勃生机让人振奋。