Translation:It was not this small before you came in.
gsir: I'm not familiar with Balzac (which come to think also lends itself to some good natured snickering), but (like others) I'm pretty chagrined at the innuendo. Let's hope DL's referencing one of those old VW-Beetle ads demonstrating how "easily" sex (i mean six) people can squeeze into one.
hughcparker: Out of context I agree w/ you since I can think of any number of scenarios where they wouldn't express the same idea: "They talked until the bar closed" vs "They talked before the bar closed." etc. But in the sentence above I tend to agree with AlfredMond1 that the two words seem to be interchangeable. Possibly an absurd scenario (Pazienza!): There's a small table in a bar capable of seating 4 comfortably. Three are already seated having some Chianti and 'tutto va bene'--ample room at the small table. Then a fourth person waddles in tipping the scales at 340lbs and he's 5'2". He sits down at the table which "before/until he came in wasn't this small".
Not directly, of course. But what else could it mean? The room got small when you came it - it's no longer big enough for everyone?
Anyway, I'm not suggesting piccolo by itself should be translated as "crowded", but that the sentence as a whole suggests idiomatic interpretation. Mainly because it's nonsense otherwise.
I don't think it's nonsense otherwise, I think you've just chosen a context for this sentence that doesn't work. Maybe this sentence is talking about engineers, scientists, or doctors watching a guage - "Those numbers are really small, particularly the blood-pressure guage. Should we do something?" "Hmm, I don't know. His blood pressure number is small, but it wasn't this small before you came in. Let's give him a moment and see if the readings improve.
I'm scraping the bottom of the barrel a bit with my example, I'll admit, but the sentence makes sense.
Blood pressure numbers are "low", not "small". Also, the sentence suggests some causal link, which your example lacks.
So far, nobody has been able to come up with a sensible context for this sentence, so I'm standing by my thinking until I see one that makes more sense.. I actually can think of one, but it's very much in the gutter, so I doubt it's part of Duo's thinking.
I don't usually go for the interpretative school of translation, but when we get this stupid sentences which don't seem to mean anything literally - what else is left but idiomatics? It's frustrating that Duo would give up such a cryptic phrase and then not allow some reasonable creativity in trying to decode it.