At one time, I remember, it was all quite simple. You just picked up a packet of cereal or bar of soap, or whatever it was, and if you proposed breakfasting or washing in a really big way you chose a large packet of cereal or a large bar of soap.
Then some bright young man in advertising realised that this was no way to sell things, and the Monster Size was born. I had always had the impression that monster was a noun, but presumably the idea of a monstrous bar of soap has undesirable associations, suggesting a huge, evil, Quatermass sort of thing with warts, bursting out of its packet and overcoming everybody with its carbolic miasma. This is definitely not what the public wants when it buys a bar of soap, so Monster Size it has to be.
Since then the position has deteriorated further. Nowadays, practically anything consumable – disinfectant, cigarettes, indigestion powder and so on – comes to us in sizes named in such a way that comparison is impossible without looking for some 6-point type that says 120g or whatever.
When I was quite young I had worked out the exact significance of Large Sizes. They were, I realised, different from Small Sizes because there was more in them; in short, they were bigger. When I reached the age of economic awareness I also came to understand that they cost more, and yet, in a way, less.
This knowledge stood me in very good stead for many years but is now quite useless. I simply have no idea whether the Family size or the Economy Size is the one to go for. I know that the Jumbo Size must be pretty big, but how does it compare with the New Double Size? To make matters worse, the good old Small Size seems to be fighting a losing battle against the Trial, Handy and Pocket Sizes.
The development of the idea, it seems to me, has gone quite far enough. The trouble is, the possibilities are by no means exhausted. No manufacturer, as far as we know, has yet introduced a Goliath Size, a Grand Canyon Size, or a Czar of All The Russias Size. And, if my unpractised brain can toss these out, how many hundreds more will the bright young men in advertising produce? Trying to keep track of them is a Man-Sized problem.