From reader GW:
If a misnegation contains conflicting indicators of polarity, what is an expression that contains conflicting indicators of intensity?
I’ve been noticing expressions containing the ngram “by far one of the” followed by a superlative. COCA has twelve of them. A typical example is “I mean, it was by far one of the best nights of my life.” Such expressions seem odd to me. Imagine the goodness of someone’s nights plotted on a vertical axis. “By far the best night” would be a lone outlier at the top. “One of the best nights” would lie in a small cluster of outliers, but it wouldn’t be the topmost; if it were, it should simply be called “the best.” (Is that Grice’s Maxim of Quantity?) I can’t visualize where to plot “by far one of the best nights.”