|Kurt Andersen:||I- I read somewhere that you said that now m- most of your audience, you believe, reads you not in English. They are not only overseas but people not in the United Kingdom or Australia. It's- it's people reading in-|
|John Irving:||I wouldn't say- I wouldn't say "most" but I'd say "more than half". Sure, more than half, definitely. I mean I- I sell more books in Germany than I do in the U.S. Uh I s- sell almost as many uh books in- in the Netherlands as I do in the- in the U.S.|
Most dictionaries agree with the OED in defining most as something like "modifying a plural count noun: the greatest number of; the majority of". Thus Merriam-Webster tells us plainly and directly that most means "the majority of". The American Heritage Dictionary suggests that a mere plurality might be enough: "in the greatest quantity, amount, measure, degree, or number: to win the most votes".
But Encarta's definition of most offers Irving some daylight: "a grammatical word indicating nearly all or the majority of the people or things mentioned".
I (think I) always took most to mean exactly "more than half", so Irving's "I wouldn't say 'most' but I'd say 'more than half"" took me aback. But apparently different native speakers of English have inferred different meanings for this simple word. Another challenge for "universal grammar"!
Also found on Studio 360, this hilarious YouTube trailer for Gary Shteyngart's new novel: