Inflected Adj/Adv

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Following up on my commoner posting, I write to ask for some data. What I'm looking for is cases where person A uses an inflected adjective or adverb (comparative or superlative) and person B objects to it, saying that A should have used the periphrastic variant instead, or declaring that the variant A used is "not a word" or "not English". It's ok if you are person B, so long as you can cite the source of the material you objected to. It's also worth noting cases where someone says explicitly that they are unsure of which variant to choose.

Some things that need flagging: if person A is not a native speaker; if person A is a young child; if the original production is likely to have been a deliberate invention, intended as play or display, or to have been a quotation.

Now some information about what's in my files already. The items are listed in their base forms; some of these were collected in their comparative form, some in their superlative form, some in both. (Judgments on comparatives and superlatives aren't always parallel, by the way.)

First, two items that caught my eye, though I haven't seen them complained about or queried:

corrupt [quite a few hits for corrupter 'more corrupt', including in "corrupter-than-corrupt", where the periphrastic variant just won't do]

solemn [some recent hits; and solemner and solemnest from Emily Dickinson; also in the OED]

Plus, of course, curiouser from Alice in Wonderland:

"Curiouser and curiouser!" Cried Alice (she was so much surprised, that for the moment she quite forgot how to speak good English).

This one seems playful. It's much quoted and alluded to, for example in the frequent variant "seriouser and seriouser".

And fun, which is a complex case that I will post on later.

On to the main list.

bitter
clever
common
cross
fond
highly
ill
often
open
pleasant
quickly
real
right
serious
solid
strict
stupid
vast
winning
wrong

Additions welcome. Note: I am not asking for nominations of adjectives/adverbs that someone judges to be unacceptable in their inflected forms, just of such forms that have been attested.

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66 Comments »

  1. C. said,

    November 26, 2009 @ 10:34 pm

    in Robert Heinlein's Friday there is an exchange to the effect:

    A: "How goes your recovery?"

    B: "If I were any weller, you'd have to bleed me!"

    A: "Well is an absolute, it has no comparative."

    B: "OK, then I'm wellest."

  2. Robert said,

    November 26, 2009 @ 10:53 pm

    What about badder and baddest as comparative forms of the slang meaning of bad? Is there another word that has different forms like that depending on the meaning?

  3. arianllyn said,

    November 26, 2009 @ 11:19 pm

    I was once A, and had a B say to me "Boringer isn't a word, so you should change it to 'more boring'."

    This was part of a comment to a story that I posted on the (now-defunct) The Young Writers' Club website when I was 15. (An archived copy can still be seen here). I believe the commenter was about the same age.

  4. Micaya said,

    November 26, 2009 @ 11:43 pm

    My mother the elementary school teacher says she has corrected students when they said, "stupider," "beautifuller," and "gooder."

  5. Michael Kleber said,

    November 26, 2009 @ 11:52 pm

    "tireder"

    I can find a few cases like of the form you request:

    http://uk.answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20071116082206AAKfUbs
    ("Tireder is not a word. As a medical herbalist, you should know that." in response to "…the longer nights this time of year might make you feel generally tireder.")

    http://www.volnation.com/forum/tennessee-vols-football/44167-auburn-vs-tennessee-game-thread-25.html
    This is a discussion thread in which people are responding to a televised football game in which evidently someone said "tireder." Note that the original use here is spoken, not written.

    What seems to be commoner is people using "tireder" while at the same time saying that they themselves think it's not a word. From the top five results on http://www.google.com/search?q=%22tireder+is+not+a+word%22

    http://asaradragon.blogspot.com/2009/02/older-and-tireder.html
    http://toomanyblags.wordpress.com/2009/01/22/i-hate-caffeine/
    http://truejerseygirl.blogspot.com/2005/11/yep-i-am-slacker.html

  6. J. Goard said,

    November 26, 2009 @ 11:54 pm

    Drunk.

    Recommendation of more drunk:

    http://www.chacha.com/question/which-is-grammatically-correct-to-say-'drunker'-or-'more-drunk'

    And this is interesting:

    COCA:
    "more drunk than" 8
    "drunker than" 30

    BYU-BNC:
    "more drunk than" 5
    "drunker than" 1

    I, an American, would definitely say drunker. More drunk seems extremely awkward.

  7. HP said,

    November 27, 2009 @ 12:39 am

    Mere and merest, but not *merer.

    In this case, person A is the dictionary for computer word games such as Wordsplay, which IIRC is based on the Scrabble dictionary. But I (person B) cannot imagine a sentence in which merer makes any sense whatsoever.

  8. Simon Cauchi said,

    November 27, 2009 @ 1:54 am

    Evelyn Waugh has a character (Whitemaid, in Scott-King's Modern Europe) say: "In every degree and by every known standard I am very, very much more drunk than you are."

  9. Jerry Friedman said,

    November 27, 2009 @ 2:26 am

    Solider and more solid here. Search the page for the second and third occurrences of solider. Also in this page cached by Google. (The actual page wouldn't load for me.)

    Google decided it knew better than me on this, by the way. When I searched for 'solider "more solid"', not only did it ask me whether I meant soldier, but the first hits it gave me had soldier, not solider. What if I'd been searching for solder?

    By the way, I'm convinced that Yeats was right (but then he often was): "More solid" wouldn't have worked in that line in "Among School Children".

  10. Jerry Friedman said,

    November 27, 2009 @ 2:28 am

    Sorry, now I see "solid" on your list.

  11. Jerry Friedman said,

    November 27, 2009 @ 2:32 am

    To make up for that, here is uniquer and more unique, with an outstanding example of Muphry's/Skitt's/etc. Law.

  12. Jerry Friedman said,

    November 27, 2009 @ 2:53 am

    Silverer (the writer isn't sure about it) at

    http://thesquirrelboard.com/forums/showthread.php?t=7591

    (The link didn't work in preview.)

    Are you interested in golder in quotation marks here?

    Also defending golder before it's attacked here.

  13. Irina said,

    November 27, 2009 @ 4:53 am

    "Vaster than empires and more slow."

    (also "Absence makes the heart grow fonder")

  14. Chris said,

    November 27, 2009 @ 5:02 am

    I was surprised to see some of those words on the list, because the inflected forms seem completely idiomatic to me (native UK English speaker). For example

    clever ("She's the cleverest girl in the class.")
    fond ("I have the fondest memories of … .")
    strict ("Mr X was our strictest teacher.")

    But HP's example of merest but not *merer makes me wonder whether the comparative sometimes sounds less natural than the superlative. For example, fonder sounds more like the name of an actor than a comparative adjective. The one exception is vast, where Google lists vaster twice as pften as vastest.

  15. Abi said,

    November 27, 2009 @ 5:33 am

    As I mentioned in the other thread, some Scots dialects allow more sorer and more calmer. As in

    I tripped up and it made my knee more sorer.
    I need to sit down, have a nice cup of tea, and be more calmer.

    I don't actually speak Scots though, so I don't know what other adjectives permit this form. These are the two I've heard, and a quick google turns up hits for each.

  16. Adam said,

    November 27, 2009 @ 5:42 am

    Remember Hyman Kaplan?

    The comparative and superlative of good … "good, better, high-class!"

  17. mollymooly said,

    November 27, 2009 @ 8:37 am

    Oh and i died my hair, it's not very different, just a little oranger (is "oranger" a word? probably not). blog posting

    I was wondering if anyone could tell me who makes the purplest (if thats even a word) HID kits for an EG. board posting [cf. "I Love You the Purplest", children's book by Barbara M. Joosse; "purplest prose"]

    Glenn Beck: We're back with our special, "The Civilest of Wars," which I'm pretty sure isn't a word. Fox News transcript

    Googlefights:
    -"gravelliest voice" 75 "most gravelly voice" 61
    -squirrelliest 594 "most squirrelly" 852

  18. Alex Boulton said,

    November 27, 2009 @ 10:09 am

    Re "drunker", not objected to but attention drawn to the suffix in a Terry Pratchett novel (Guards! Guards!):
    "Lessee…he'd gone off after the funeral and gotten drunk. No, not drunk, another word, ended with "er." Drunker. that was it."

  19. Andrew (not the same one) said,

    November 27, 2009 @ 10:19 am

    A couple of the examples given here don't seem to fit the normal pattern. 'Gooder' would be widely seen as wrong, but the standard form is not 'more good' but 'better'. 'Merer' would also be seen as wrong, but so, I think would 'more mere'; the meaning of 'mere' doesn't seem to admit comparison (with 'merest' being an idiom, and not equivalent to 'more mere than other mere things'). Daisy Ashford in The Young Visiters wrote about mere people who are terribly mere and want to be less mere, but that is part of the humour of the work.

  20. Pat said,

    November 27, 2009 @ 10:26 am

    HP, you saw a monster but lo! it was just a merer.

  21. Michael Kleber said,

    November 27, 2009 @ 10:42 am

    "Richard there is no such word as awesome- est " – I was being facetious – part of my facetious-ness…
    http://twitter.com/RichardHardiman/status/5826575551

    This looks like a response, but being twitter-incompetent, I don't know how to trace the thread backwards…

  22. John Walden said,

    November 27, 2009 @ 11:14 am

    Here's a differently prescriptive take on things:

    "Which English adjectives are compared by -er/-est and which by more/most is a complex matter of English idiom. Generally, shorter adjectives (including most monosyllabic adjectives), Anglo-Saxon words, and shorter, fully domesticated French words (e.g. noble) use the suffixes -er/-est.

    Adjectives with two syllables tend to vary. Some take either form, and the situation determines the usage. For example, one will see commoner and more common, depending on which sounds better in the context. Two-syllable adjectives that end in the sound [i], most often spelled with y, generally take -er/-est, e.g., pretty : prettier : prettiest.

    Longer adjectives, especially those derived from Greek and Latin, and including most adjectives with three or more syllables, require more and most, though the use of -er/-est extends to more longer words in American English than in British English. A fair number of words, especially longer adjectives that end in Anglo-Saxon derivative suffixes like -ly, can take either form.

    Adjectives which end in ous do not take -er/-est. (Curiouser is a curiosity. It is found in both Websters Third and the Oxford English Dictionary Second Edition, on the strength of a coinage by Lewis Carroll who deliberately used it incorrectly in curiouser and curiouser to produce a particular effect.)

    A good general rule is to use whatever form sounds natural and gives the desired effect. It should be remembered in particular that the suffix -er has other meanings. For example it is an extremely common way of converting action nouns to the individual who performs the action (e.g. talk, talker). Putting -er on an unfamiliar adjective can easily lead to confusion."

    This article can be found in various places but I think its origin might be here:

    http://july.fixedreference.org/en/20040724/wikipedia/Adjective

    The etymological angle is beguiling, though of doubtful merit, I suspect. Was this the rule when borrowed words began to appear in Anglo-Saxon? Do vestiges of it survive or is it baloney?

    Do "doer" nouns block inflected comparatives a la mode de Pinker? Is the comparative of "broke" avoided?

  23. J. W. Brewer said,

    November 27, 2009 @ 11:52 am

    Two data points that are hopefully not too far afield from Prof. Zwicky's inquiry (with "A" being real examples I have encountered in the wild and "B" as my own ear reacting thereto).

    For "ill," I thought of what is to my ear a marked-sounding usage in the old Run-DMC line "me and my Adidas do the illest things." Wiktionary, however, is on the job and claims that for this particular sense of "ill" (described as "hip-hop slang,") the inflected versions are more common than the periphrastic. On further reflection, however, I find that my reaction is really not that "illest" should be replaced by "most ill," but instead (at least in a context involving the standard non-hip-hop meaning) by "sickest." In other words, "ill" to my ear or in my idiolect is just an adjective that "sounds funny" (perhaps not "sounds wrong" but certainly sounds odd or marked) when used in comparative or superlative form whether inflected or periphrastic, with the preferred solution being to avoid the issue by turning to a synonym or near-synonym which doesn't pose that problem. What's perhaps odd about this is that I certainly don't seem to find "ill" non-gradable in the usual sense, in that I have no such "sounds funny" reaction to uses like "very ill," "rather ill," "a little ill," etc.

    Relatedly, when googling in connection with some of the recent "go rogue" discussions, I found various copies of a proposed "slogan" that felt like joking wordplay (and thus "wrong" but acceptable in context once deemed jocose): "When the terrorists go rogue, the cops go roguer." Here, my intuition is that this sounds wrong/jocose in part because "rogue" in the "go rogue" formula (and perhaps also in the "rogue elephant" etc. formulae) may not even be an adjective and thus would not be expected to have a comparative form, whether inflected or periphrastic. This is perhaps further confirmed because "go very rogue" and other tests of gradability also generally sound odd to me (with "go a little rogue" feeling more ok but also feeling a bit jocose). That said, some anonymous off-the-record McCain aides are said to have used constructions like "go more rogue" when complaining about Sarah Palin.

  24. Jerry Friedman said,

    November 27, 2009 @ 12:37 pm

    @Chris: I think the problem with clever is the difficulty of pronouncing cleverer for some of us rhotic Americans who pronounced unstressed -er as a syllabic /r/. Same with bitter, slender, etc.

    @Abi: the inflected-periphrastic form (?) is common in AAVE, as in Spike Lee's title Mo' Better Blues, and I hear it now and then here in New Mexico. I hadn't thought that it might depend on the adjective. I'm pretty sure most bestest is usually a joke.

    A=B: "I know 'goldest' is not a word" here.

    specialer

    Wiktionary says handsomer is obsolete.

    How about a post for people studying for the TOEFL? It says two-syllable words ending in -ous, -ish, -ful, -ing, -ed, -ct, -nt, and -st take the periphrastic form. (I don't know what langugage most of that is written in, by the way.)

    Modern criticism of Tom Sawyer's "lonesomest, awfulest" in this pdf.

    Here is one for differenter, complete with discussion of "a great big grammar stick lodged in my rectum."

  25. Aaron Davies said,

    November 27, 2009 @ 12:39 pm

    @John Walden: surprisingly, i've never found anyone but myself making the joke that a stock broker is called that because the more stock you buy, the broker you get.

  26. Aaron Davies said,

    November 27, 2009 @ 12:41 pm

    @arianllyn: i wonder if some are blocked because their spelling is easily misinterpreted? "boringer" desperately wants to be pronounced like "porringer", which completely obscures its meaning.

  27. mollymooly said,

    November 27, 2009 @ 12:55 pm

    I think "ill" and "well" are mainly/originally adverbs that acquired adjectival uses. That may influence their inflectability. Or not: cf. soonest.

    In other converted adjectives:

    -the liveliest "outest" gay scene east of San Francisco huffingtonpost (cf. out-outer-outermost)

    -he is far downer with the kids than I blog commenter

  28. Kate G said,

    November 27, 2009 @ 1:06 pm

    The teenage boys in my life all like wordplay. One day when I picked a bunch of them up as I returned from grocery shopping, I had them all help to unload the groceries from the car as they came into the house. Of course it turned into a competition, culminating in the victory cry, "I'm the helpiest!" Is it worth wondering whether "try to be helpier" is good advice?

  29. Gav said,

    November 27, 2009 @ 2:01 pm

    Several years ago after giving a concert (in the UK) my wife was approached by some ladies from the audience who said, amongst other things " … you do get betterer and betterer every time we do hear you!"

  30. J. W. Brewer said,

    November 27, 2009 @ 2:38 pm

    mollymooly may be on to something insofar as I think I react to "well" much the same as "ill," i.e. if I needed to form a superlative in a health
    context (which seems like it might be the most common context for the adjectival use?) I would try to switch over to "healthiest" in preference to either "wellest" or "most well."

  31. Philip TAYLOR said,

    November 27, 2009 @ 4:45 pm

    Jerry Friedman : to avoid Google returning hits containing "soldier" when you ask it about "solider", quote the search term even though it be but a single word. In your example, although you would still have been asked whether you meant "soldier", the returned hits would not have contained "soldier" unles it co-existed in the same page as "solider" : thus the preferred search pattern would be '"solider" "more solid"' rather than 'solider "more solid"'.

  32. Spectre-7 said,

    November 27, 2009 @ 6:53 pm

    @Jerry Friedman

    How about a post for people studying for the TOEFL? It says two-syllable words ending in -ous, -ish, -ful, -ing, -ed, -ct, -nt, and -st take the periphrastic form. (I don't know what langugage most of that is written in, by the way.)

    I may be wrong, but I suspect it's Indonesian.

  33. Ellen said,

    November 27, 2009 @ 8:01 pm

    I note that "merer than" and "more mere than" both get google hits. ("than" added to weed out irrelevant uses.)

  34. Adrian said,

    November 27, 2009 @ 8:18 pm

    closeder
    - You have a mind that is closeder than anything I can recall
    - By the way, closeder is not a word
    http://bit.ly/84QqyN

  35. Adrian said,

    November 27, 2009 @ 8:23 pm

    Non-native speakers discuss whether it's possible to say "fuller":

    http://bit.ly/4mTpD1

  36. Adrian said,

    November 27, 2009 @ 8:30 pm

    Moderner Warfare – Is moderner even a real word
    http://midnightmultiplayer.blogspot.com/2008/05/call-of-duty-5-moderner-warfare.html

    moderner…(woah, moderner is a word? Ok, spellchecker, if you say so..
    http://bit.ly/8BMSDI

  37. Jerry Friedman said,

    November 27, 2009 @ 9:03 pm

    @Philip Taylor: Sorry, I was thinking that the procedure you recommended was how I'd found the hits on solider. It was kind of you to help out, though.

    @Spectre-7: I was wondering whether it might be from that part of the world.

  38. g caldwell said,

    November 27, 2009 @ 9:35 pm

    "Fittest" is common ("survival of the fittest"), but "fitter" sounds very strange to me, although a Google search for "fitter subject" turns up such illustrious authors as George Washington.

  39. J. Goard said,

    November 27, 2009 @ 11:44 pm

    A good general rule is to use whatever form sounds natural and gives the desired effect.

    In other words, just shut up and talk?

  40. Dan T. said,

    November 28, 2009 @ 12:47 am

    In William Labov's Principles of Linguistic Change: Internal Factors (p. 217), he writes "The highest and frontest words are before voiced apical stops and voiceless back fricatives; the lowest and backest vowels are before voiceless velar stops." I wouldn't have thought to apply superlative suffixes to "front" and "back" myself, and Firefox doesn't seem to like them either; it underlines those words as possible errors.

  41. Peter Taylor said,

    November 28, 2009 @ 4:41 am

    In today's (London) Times Feedback column: instanter.

  42. Kapitano said,

    November 28, 2009 @ 7:00 am

    I'm pretty sure most bestest is usually a joke.

    Probably, and I've heard Bestissimo as a joke. But I've also heard Bestest used quite seriously, though for some reason not Worstest.

    What about "Hostess with the mostest"? Does Mostest exist only in this set phrase?

  43. marie-lucie said,

    November 28, 2009 @ 9:44 am

    A good general rule is to use whatever form sounds natural and gives the desired effect.

    Great advice for non-native and other insecure speakers!

    The way I learned the rule is that words of one syllable and those with two syllables ending in -y take -er/-est. Two-syllable words like common, little or clever (which end in syllabic resonants rather than full syllables) can be used either with the endings or with more/most. All others have to use more/most. With these simple rules, there is no need to memorize a list of suffixes such as -ish, -ful, etc.

    I think that those who object to cleverer have no problem with cleverest, so the objection must be a question of articulatory convenience, especially for non-rhotic speakers (but those speakers apparently do not object to wanderer). For other two-syllable words, the choice available to some of the words leads some speakers to generalize the endings to other two-syllable words such as boring or instant.

    The availability of most and non-availability of more for some other adjectives must have to do with the other use of most as a near-synonym of very. With happy, for instance, one can say I am happiest when … (in comparison with other occasions of relative happiness), but I am most happy to recommend …, where most means 'very, extremely', without an implied comparison, so that happiest is impossible here (and more happy would also be disallowed).

  44. Ellen said,

    November 28, 2009 @ 10:22 am

    It is good advice for "other insecure speakers". It's good advice for anything native speaker, the insecure too. Just because they are insecure doesn't mean they shouldn't trust themselves.

    Seems to me it's good advice also for native speakers once they have a certain level of familiarity with English (including a lot of reading/hearing). Though I agree it may not be the best method for those learning English.

  45. Ellen said,

    November 28, 2009 @ 10:26 am

    Oops… that should have been those learning English as a second language. Those learning it as a first language (or even young children learning it as a 2nd language — young children in general I guess) would use the "do what seems best" method, and perhaps not always match what adults do, but that's okay.

  46. Aaron Davies said,

    November 28, 2009 @ 10:28 am

    @Dan T.: firefox's dictionary is notoriously limited; i wouldn't take its judgements seriously at all. that said, os x's dictionary, which is much better, agrees.

  47. Aaron Davies said,

    November 28, 2009 @ 10:30 am

    @Kapitano: i'm pretty sure i've heard "worstest" before, but only in a "fake kids' speech errors" context.

  48. mand said,

    November 28, 2009 @ 2:56 pm

    There's daft, and i'm sure others will occur to me if i sleep on it. Oho, already: friendly.

    One definitely-wrong term i love to use is 'beautifuller'. ;0) And a Classics teacher once, addressing our class on the subject of grammar, claimed that the terms on the blackboard meant, 'bad, badder, baddest…'!

    Quite a few in your list i would have used myself without even thinking they were controversial – strict and vast, for example.

  49. SK said,

    November 28, 2009 @ 9:10 pm

    Peter Taylor may have been joking, but presumably the 'instanter' in the link he gives is not a comparative (as in 'my instant ready meal is instanter than your instant ready meal') but the adverb borrowed from medieval Latin with the meaning 'instantly'.

  50. Jerry Friedman said,

    November 29, 2009 @ 12:20 am

    @Kapitano and Aaron: Here's an AAVE worstest that's apparently from a real reminiscence in a book called Honey, Honey, Miss Thang.

  51. marie-lucie said,

    November 29, 2009 @ 2:02 am

    Ellen: Just because they are insecure doesn't mean they shouldn't trust themselves.

    Spoken by a secure person! if "they" are insecure, they do NOT trust themselves. That's what insecurity is. Perhaps they are so used to being criticized that they cannot trust that anything they do or say will be considered right, especially in a formal context. I recall reading about a rural child who was told by the teacher that "it don't" was wrong and he should say "it doesn't", so he repeated "it doesn't", then added "but it don't sound right!" What sounded right to him was wrong, what sounded wrong was right. After a number of experiences of this type, how could this speaker trust his own judgment?

  52. Ellen said,

    November 29, 2009 @ 3:13 am

    Yes, they don't trust themselves; thus telling them to go ahead and trust themselves.

  53. Ellen said,

    November 29, 2009 @ 3:17 am

    Oh, and "it don't" is not incorrect English. It's just a particular register/dialect. It's incorrect in Standard English (School English? Formal English?), but it's not incorrect English.

  54. marie-lucie said,

    November 29, 2009 @ 8:27 am

    Ellen, of course it is a particular dialect, but that is not what most teachers would say.

    Speaking as a formerly very insecure person (decades ago), just telling such a person "Trust yourself! Trust your instincts!" will not do the trick, instead it can leave the person paralyzed with fear. For instance, reread the discussions some months ago about Strunk and White and why many people found the rules so useful, for themselves and for their students, even when they as teachers very well knew the shortcomings of the book, but for some students almost any advice was better than none.

  55. Peter Taylor said,

    November 29, 2009 @ 12:03 pm

    Peter Taylor may have been joking

    I wasn't, but I do appear to have been a bit hasty. I saw "instanter" and immediately thought of this LL post. You're quite right that the example given does appear to be of an adjectival form. (I'm not familiar with it, I might add).

    The comments on that page now include a reference to "goodest", which sounds odd to me and which the commenter implicitly calls incorrect (but preferable to the "correct" alternative).

  56. Richard Sabey said,

    November 29, 2009 @ 1:15 pm

    Breadier.

    http://blog.pennlive.com/go/2009/11/kokomos_wings_express_offers_a.html
    The pizza choices won’t turn heads with their prefabbed pie crusts. The crusts are ready-made and breadier — my word and a good one.

    http://www.yelp.com/biz/sals-pizza-new-york
    We ordered a pie from here the other night, and while it was not your typical New York style pizza, it was satisfying. Expect the breadier (I know that's not a word) variety with a decent sauce and cheese.

    (to pick 2 examples from several that describe pizzas).

    Erectest

    The stranger now assumed such an unpleasant air of successful admonition, that – quite involuntarily again – I stepped back upon the hearth, and threw myself into the erectest, proudest posture I could command.
    – Herman Melville, "The Lightning Rod Man"

    The point of my choices is that SOWPODS, the official word list for English-language Scrabble tournaments outside North America, allows BREADY and ERECT but not their adjective-inflections.

  57. mollymooly said,

    November 29, 2009 @ 9:14 pm

    Famously from Dennis Potter's deathbed:

    And instead of saying, 'Oh, that's nice blossom', looking at it through the window when I'm writing, it is the whitest, frothiest, blossomiest blossom that there ever could be.

    "two-syllable words ending in -ous, -ish, -ful, -ing, -ed, -ct, -nt, and -st take the periphrastic form. "

    Pace crookedest, damnedest, tiredest, wickedest, winningest, swingin(g)est.

  58. Ellen said,

    November 29, 2009 @ 9:42 pm

    We aren't talking about me telling them to use what sounds right. We are talking about authorities saying that. As in, "this particular case is one where you should do what sounds right".

    Which works, I think, because there's little variation between formal and informal English in this. Which is very different than "it don't".

  59. marie-lucie said,

    November 29, 2009 @ 10:12 pm

    Things "sound right" to us because they follow patterns that we are used to. Different people may be used to different patterns, so there is not always agreement about what sounds right, as shown in the examples above and many others where there is doubt about the acceptability of a form or construction. Speakers of relatively standard English have few problems (although some authorities and teachers are adamant about what they consider acceptable), but those who are learning the language, or the standard form of it, need more concrete guidelines than just "do what sounds right". If I were learning Russian and told to "do what sounds right", I would be out of luck.

  60. Ellen said,

    November 30, 2009 @ 11:58 am

    And now let me repost what I posted before, correcting my errors. Note the last sentence (which is exactly the same as I originally wrote it).

    It is good advice for "other insecure speakers". It's good advice for any native speaker, the insecure too. Just because they are insecure doesn't mean they shouldn't trust themselves.

    Seems to me it's good advice also for non-native speakers once they have a certain level of familiarity with English (including a lot of reading/hearing). Though I agree it may not be the best method for those learning English.

  61. speedwell said,

    November 30, 2009 @ 12:28 pm

    "Breadier" is a perfectly good form of "bready."

  62. John Brezinsky said,

    November 30, 2009 @ 2:27 pm

    When the last iPod touch came out, Apple made a point of calling it "the funnest iPod ever." This got plenty of attention and disagreement in the press.

    For me personally, this kind of wordplay is far funner than "most fun" would have ever been, and accomplished what the marketers were hoping for–a positive impression of their product.

  63. Andy Hollandbeck said,

    November 30, 2009 @ 4:10 pm

    The dictionaries I have at hand don't include number and numbest, I suppose indicating that "more numb" and "most numb" are preferred, but according to http://www-personal.umich.edu/~cellis/heteronym.html, number=more numb has been included in the American Heritage Dictionary.

  64. Simon Cauchi said,

    December 14, 2009 @ 6:24 pm

    I've just come across George Du Maurier's "scene of the noisiest, busiest, and cheerfullest animation" (Trilby, Part Fourth, on the second page in my copy). Can anyone postdate that "cheerfullest"? Trilby was published in 1894.

  65. Ray Girvan said,

    December 30, 2009 @ 10:30 pm

    Here's one that I just took the time to debunk on Yahoo! Answers: Fierce, Fiercer, Fiercest, are the last two even words?.

  66. Ray Girvan said,

    December 30, 2009 @ 11:34 pm

    Simon Cauchi: Can anyone postdate that "cheerfullest"?

    Here's one for April 1938 in The Rotarian: "the brightest, cheerfullest thing in sight".

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