What is the difference between

It was as big around as a truck wheel.


It was as big as a truck wheel.

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    I couldn't make sense of your sentences, so I edited them. I might've guessed them wrong. Please feel free to edit them. – Damkerng T. Jul 3 '14 at 9:06

A good question, Dmitry! I've looked around the interwebs and found this definition:

Around: (chiefly US) — used to indicate a measurement that is made along the outer surface of something circular.

“How big around is the tree?” “It's five feet around.” [=(chiefly Brit) round] [=the circumference of the tree is five feet]

So, by saying

It was as big around as a truck wheel.

we are stressing the fact that this something is round or roughly round in one of its sections.

I've met around being used in this way before, and used to imagine a person circling his arms around something to take stock of its girth.

There is a very good poem I know that applies this word in this sense, adding to the imagery:

Good blocks of beech it was I split,

As large around as the chopping block;

And every piece I squarely hit

Fell splinterless as a cloven rock.

The blows that a life of self-control

Spares to strike for the common good,

That day, giving a loose to my soul,

I spent on the unimportant wood.

Note that the blocks of beech could be much thinner than the chopping block, but they are as large around as it is.

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    Thanks for the thanks, @DmitryFucintv! By the way, it's "I've looked for" (I have looked for). But probably the best choice is "I have been looking for". – CowperKettle Jul 3 '14 at 9:40
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    +1 Exactly. Something as big as a truck wheel is of the same size as a wheel in all dimensions; something as big around as a truck wheel is of the same size in only two dimensions. – StoneyB on hiatus Jul 3 '14 at 12:16

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