Subtle. The difference between a male and female jawline. The angle of the forehead, the curve of the brow.
There’s an algorithm for that: an electronic tongue taste differences in beer.
Minor. The delta between the girl and boy nutmeg trees. One bears fruit, the other, the flower. In the beginning, differences so subtle, they’re almost invisible.
From the Smithsonian: Is the skeleton male or female? The pelvis tells the story.
Little. The crevice between red and pink. The flavor variation between oregano and thyme.
Tiny. It takes special tools to tell the difference between a zirconia and a diamond.
Subtle changes in ocean temperatures can mean the difference between life and death.
Hidden. Which is the truth, which is a lie? Sometimes, subtlety is intuited from the gut. Sometimes subtle is a clue.
Subtlety is often a synonym for the small and barely noticeable. But what does it mean to be subtle, really? What does it mean to sport a change so minuscule indicating a variation on the majuscule?
Climate, terroir, and taste in wine: “Geology and soil do not produce these broad differences, but they do produce the subtle expressions of these qualities within the same climate or region.” The same could be said for cacao and wheat.
In the absence of externalities, i.e., skin, hair, fat, and muscle, forensic scientists can tell the difference between male and female skeletons based on subtle differences in geometric angles of key human bone structures, like the jaw, hip, and brow.
In the absence of light, dogs can smell the difference between a healthy mole and a cancerous one. In the presence of tastebuds, slight differences in flavor profiles of single-origin chocolate, coffee, or wine can signify variations of thousands of miles, cultural deltas of distant peoples, and chemistries of entire continents.
That is to say, the drastic is often indicated by the seemingly small. Whisper. Trickle. Glance. Brush. Tap.
Subtle things are not little. Subtle things are big. Subtle things the signifier, big the signified.