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It is irrelevant whether small is nominally an adjective. The use of adjectives substantively, that is, as the grammatical equivalent of a noun, is well established for millenia.

"Out with the old, in with the new" is a modern English example. "The good, the bad, and the ugly" is another. It was actually a more common practice in Latin and Old English than in modern English.

Most of the time it is done where the modified noun that would have been there is obvious or generic. In this case, it is completely plausible grammatically that "small ones" be contracted to "smalls" with no change in meaning.

If the OED has an example of small being used to refer to children, there's no grammatical reason why they might be incorrect. 

Sorry Bess, I was in your camp but Yasamin may have us.

Rhodri

On Mar 8, 2014 6:58 PM, "SJPaterson" <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
And yet the word "child" is completely documentable  Small in both cases you cited are adjectives not nouns.   My child may indeed be small be he is not a Small.

Bess

-----Original Message----- From: Yasamin al-Hadiyya
Sent: Saturday, March 08, 2014 5:22 PM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: [CALONTIR] Cars, dragons, and sunglasses, oh my! (fwd)

Greetings-

As I have trouble deleting interesting email, here's a blast from the
past.  I'd love to know if there's been new information found in the last
12 years which changes things!  :>

Cheers,

-Yasamin
in the Outlands till this summer; no clue about what happens after that

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Mon, 15 Jul 2002 06:12:09 -0600
From: Fiskr <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To: Historical Recreation in the Kingdom of Calontir
    <[log in to unmask]>
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: [CALONTIR] Cars, dragons, and sunglasses, oh my!

From the Artemesian list:

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Date: Sun, 22 Jul 2001 21:13:18 -0600
   From: "Brian L. Rygg or Laura Barbee-Rygg" <[log in to unmask]>
Subject: SMALLS -- just for the record

     Subject came up on the Rialto, and since it has come up before within
our fair Kingdom, I decided to copy my response onto the Aerie as well:


     There is a persistent myth that, in period, no child would be called a
small.  There is a persistent co-myth that, in period, any reference to
smalls would be understood to mean underwear.

     In English, at least, both are incorrect.

     In the Oxford English Dictionary -- which lists meanings not by primacy
of their current use, but in the chronological order each meaning developed
in the language -- definition 1 for the noun form of small is:

"Persons or animals of small size or stature; little ones, children.  (Now
only with  *the*.)"

The citations for that meaning date back as far as 1220.

     Definition 9.a  -- "Small clothes; breeches." -- has as its earliest
citation an 1837 Dickens quotation.

     Small-clothes, also listed as smallclothes, is defined as breeches or
knee-breeches.  The first citation, from 1796, is, I think, amusing enough
to quote:

"The immensity of their breeches, (for, in spite of the fashionable phrase,
it would certainly be a perversion of terms to call them small-clothes).


Your honours in dutie.

Brendan Pilgrim
Cognitio et Cogitatio Vitae Pennas Dant

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Channelled by Fiskr