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Chris -- 2018-04-11

#1 2020-01-27 07:14:07

From: United Kingdom
Registered: 2015-12-20
Posts: 10

Superlative replacing comparative in traditionally set phrases


Recently I’ve noticed several set phrases where ‘most’ replaces ’ more’ in a very small minority of cases.

Examples are ‘most often than not’

‘The old homes do have their charm, but most often than not also needs hefty maintenance fees that has to be borne by others…’

It seems most prevalent with ‘worse/worst’, e.g. instead of ‘to make matters worse’ you get ‘to make matters worst’, & instead of ‘to go from bad to worse’ you get ‘to go from bad to worst’.

‘The rest of the day went from bad to worst to be perfectly frank.’

‘And just to make matters worst, Vucinic missed a penalty in the 91st minute to…’

Some make sense semantically, I guess, some don’t.

Has anybody else noticed this?

Last edited by JemButters (2020-01-27 07:14:47)



#2 2020-01-27 19:40:54

From: Victoria, BC
Registered: 2007-08-28
Posts: 2725

Re: Superlative replacing comparative in traditionally set phrases

Indeed, have seen this in some contexts.

“None the worst for wear”: … 3&bih=1024

Reminds me how people often use “perfect” to mean “ok.”

Hatching new language, one eggcorn at a time.



#3 2020-01-28 13:08:37

From: Mexico
Registered: 2007-10-11
Posts: 2383

Re: Superlative replacing comparative in traditionally set phrases

Most often than not is likely enough to be a blend of most often with more often than not , besides or instead of any eggcornish reanalyzing of more into most .

This was my collection of worst < worse :

a town that is even worst than Los Molinos.

Lying under oath is worst than any other type of lying.

O! It’s MUCH worst than that.

“My first reaction is a simple one: It could have been a lot worst,” Sen. Charles Schumer of New York, one of the Demcrats on the committee, said.

The latest census shows that Germans—especially young people and eastern Germans — believe living conditions are much worst than they actually are.

Nuclear weapons in the hands of Iran and its international terrorist allies will be a worst threat than Hitler ever was.

She rubbed her temples hoping the pain would decease, but the more she rubbed the worst it felt

(Pain deceasing is a nice image too, and certainly related to the theme of a superlative replacing a comparative. Nice blend of ceasing and decreasing, besides.)

Sure, there’s worst places to be left behind – if you were a tank. North Dakota would be one such locale.

her news couldn’t have come at a worst time.

Things go the other way too, maybe even more commonly (I have a number of other examples):

The nuclear material, said to be the most toxic substance known, will be encased in casks that are designed to withstand the worse possible accident.

Of all the people he had ever come across in his life, the vermin who peddled narcotics were the worse.

I have two friends who say abortion is the worse thing they’ve ever done.

The next bump seems the worse jolt yet.

The U.S. is at its worse when it plays against a bunch of guys it doesn’t know and doesn’t respect.

“It appears the refining industry, the oil and gas industry, (suffered) a glancing blow at worse,” Perry told CNN.

While the astronauts beamed down the images, Gibson was thinking the worse. ¶ “I think the words ‘we’re in deep doo doo’ were said in the cockpit, this could be a problem, guys, you know? This looks bad.

Anyway, what’s the worse that could happen?

Here it was repeated, usually a sign that it is standard:

he alternated between believing that the delay was because Elizabeth had not yet found the concealed communications to thinking the worse. If that were not bad enough, he could not see a way to end his uncertainty. […] if she had already found his envelope and was purposefully trying to avoid him, his appearance would seem, at best, domineering and, at worse, pathetic. […] she would be embarrassed and ashamed if it
became general knowledge. People would assume the worse.

Last edited by DavidTuggy (2020-01-28 14:30:26)

*If the human mind were simple enough for us to understand,
we would be too simple-minded to understand it* .

(Possible Corollary: it is, and we are .)



#4 2020-01-29 09:28:19

From: Mexico
Registered: 2007-10-11
Posts: 2383

Re: Superlative replacing comparative in traditionally set phrases

More/most and worse/worst are unusually common, but also unusual in that their phonological poles sound so close to each other. Worst also has the final hard-to-pronounce three-consonant cluster rst , which in some other words (burst, first) is independently simplified in many people’s speech by deleting the t (burss, firss, worss). (It just occurred to me: is first a kind of superlative?)

Other comparative/superlative pairs sound more clearly different, and they do not seem to be subject to the same tendency for confusion in general. But in some constructions the meanings work out to nearly the same, and in those cases both forms can legitimately be used.
That was one of the stupider/stupidest things I have done in the last few years.
He got the better/best? of them that time.
That looks like the heavier/heaviest one.
Always buy the cheaper/cheapest one.
They don’t mean exactly the same thing. But if you mentally separate a pool of possibilities into the majority and the more/most Adjective minority, that minority are both the Adj-er and the Adj-est group. Also, the Adj-est of a small group is, if you consider them pairwise, the Adj-er of any pair. So both Adj-er and Adj-est are legitimate ways to mentally structure things.

(Of course this does not prove true for all usages. And you don’t get substitutions in those other contexts. E.g. Things just got better and better/*best and best; that was the quietest/*quieter one of all. And so forth.)

Last edited by DavidTuggy (2020-01-29 09:55:25)

*If the human mind were simple enough for us to understand,
we would be too simple-minded to understand it* .

(Possible Corollary: it is, and we are .)



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