Friday, February 12, 2010

Grammar Warriors Mount Up

New grammar problem. A work sheet today read "My most favorite sport is ________" I immediately said "You can't say that because both are superlatives. You can't be the most tallest." The teacher answered, "Really, but that's what it says in the book." Gong, like Chuck Barris for not the first, nor the last time. I went back to the lab to huddle and research only to find that not every expert considers the word favorite to be a superlative. Some do. I would. But then again, I have no problem with saying "It is my least favorite." Is that because favorite is a positive so you can rank its negatives? I would stay away from saying "most favorite." You don't call John "The most dead Kennedy." We don't call Sartre "The most French." If we did either of these things, we would be making a joke. Thoughts?


The Morholt said...

Least favorite is an idiomatic expression for least favored. In spoken English, favored and favorite sound alike in most dialects, and it has come to be fairly accepted accepted as far as i know (by the way, I'm going by what seems likely here, not what a reliable source says, so take it for what it's worth). Most tallest is not part of common usage and complies with no formal rule. There is nothing to recommend most tallest, and against it is the fact that native speakers would just about all recognize it as non-idiomatic after they get past 5 years old.

The Morholt said...

Also, you can have favorites and those are not necessarily superlative, but as an adjective, i would say it is among my favorite superlatives. If, however, it simply is my favorite superlative, then superlative it is and only superlative must it be. IMHO.

The Morholt said...

Okay, still thinking it through: Favorite is always superlative when it is singular(when it's a noun) or takes a singular object (when it's an adjective.) Even when it refers to a plural object, it is superlative in naming that group above all others. No matter how you look at it, unless you are saying a thing is "a favorite," it is a superlative.
I will now go to bed hoping not to stay awake trying to find exceptions to prove myself wrong.

attempting to silence the voices in my head.