When Most is Enough

By Maeve Maddox

It must be one of those “in your face” gestures of defiance. It can’t be that they don’t know better.

I’m referring to the way so many bloggers create headlines that place a “most” in front of an adjective that already has the superlative -est suffix:

The internet’s Most Rudest and Obnoxious people

Mumbai, India is the MOST RUDEST city in the world

The Seven Most Awesomest ‘Idol’ Moments This Season

A Gawker Guide to the Most Awesomest Election Ever

Sometimes “least” is used instead of “most” in order to compare in the opposite direction:

100 Least Awesomest Things ever

Then there are the online novels:

… at that very moment the most awfullest, most terriblest, most unpleasantest thing imaginable happened!

Such pervasive examples of incorrect usage can’t be much help to readers for whom English is not the first language.

English adjectives form their comparative/superlative forms in one of two ways:
1. by adding the suffixes -er and -est:

dark/darker/darkest; simple/simpler/simplest; mean/meaner/meanest

2. by using the words more and most in front of the basic adjective:

pleasant/more pleasant/most pleasant
awesome/more awesome/most awesome

I won’t go into the various rules based on number of syllables and stressed or unstressed vowels.

It’s probably enough to know that adjectives that are short and/or easy to say, form their comparatives with -er and -est. Polysyllabic adjectives that sound clumsy with those endings form their comparatives with more and most.

Sometimes the choice is a matter of individual preference.

For example, one speaker may prefer handsome/more handsome/most handsome while another likes the sound of handsome/handsomer/handsomest.

When in doubt, go with the more/most construction.

“Most awesomest” is not an option for the writer who desires to write standard English.

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16 Responses to “When Most is Enough”

  • Mulled Vine

    A most superlative post. Thanking you mostly.

  • Bamboo Forest – PunIntended

    I hope I’ve never made this error : D It’s a pretty obnoxious one. Easy to prevent.

  • Grace S.

    The example you cite from the online novel sounds as though it could be from a children’s book, which would allow the excuse that it is intended to be colloquial. I would not be so sure, however, that the writers “know better;” expressions like these can be heard and read too often to ALL be merely “gestures of defiance.” Sad . . . especially if it carries over to more formal writings than blogs. I would hope it’s still unacceptable to college professors and business professionals for their students and colleagues to blatantly break “rules” this easy to follow.

  • Charlie

    I put this in the category of excessive emphasis. Going over the top to express whatever it is they are saying. Being most enthusiastic? Trimming or editing is always the best remedy.

  • Dottie

    I’m still hung up on “very wonderful”…
    Am I the only person who thinks it’s incorrect?

  • Britt

    I think that when it’s a blog title, it’s a little bit easier to get away with, it being informal.

    I know when talking with my friends I say something is the mostest epic thing ever. That must be sending someone into convulsions of disgust right now.

    Though I would never use most rudest in any kind of essay.

  • Kim

    I’ve noticed the trend, too. I despise incorrect grammar, but usually assume the blogger did it as a tongue-in-check/humorous way to get attention and suggest a youthful perspective. If that seems to be the purpose, the blogger did it intentionally and it flows with the post, I’ll allow some creative license.

  • Find Niches Online

    Excellent content here and a nice writing style too – keep up the great work!

  • 许欢

    I want to learn English,A lot of things can not read!

    (*T_T*)

  • nutmeag

    I use “most awesomest,” but just when I’m being facetious, and the audience I write for knows that. In more formal writing, however, I stick with correct grammar.

    And like Dottie, I have a “very” pet peeve: very unique. How on earth is something “very unique”? One thing cannot be more unique than another thing. It’s either unique or not unique.

  • Maeve

    Suresh,

    With all the words in the English language, I think one ought to be able to express strong emotion with something other than that overworn foul expression.

    You’ll find the source of that particular illustration here:

    http://www.jucee.org/japan/Mumbai–India-is-the-MOST-RUDEST-city-in-the-world.html

  • Sandi O’Brien

    This brought to mind a humbling experience from my youth. A friend, accompanied by our school’s foreign exchange student, was giving me a ride home. He asked me to remind him where I lived. I said, “It’s the very first house you come to on Third St.” The foreign exchange student looked at me, a puzzled expression on his face, and said, “If it is the first house, do you need to say ‘very’ also?” And I thought I was particular about my speech!!

  • thebluebird11

    Suresh, Perhaps that is why someone said that…if people respond to every little tossed-off comment with that sort of belligerence, appearing ready to fight to the death over some slight, I can understand the attitude. Calm down. Everyone is entitled to an opinion and you will never agree with everyone and not everyone will agree with you. Ever. The “most rude[est]” award has gone to many locales, and so Mumbai is now among them according to whoever said it. So what. Personally I think Miami is pretty full of the rudest people. Go on with your life and be happy if you live in Mumbai and love it there. Prove that person WRONG, not right.

  • arbee

    hi guys,

    You guys are the “most” coolest! 🙂 Hats off to those who are unselfish in sharing their knowledge on this. I am love writing but since English is not my native tongue, sometimes, I am faced with hurddles in expressing my emotions and ideas. This is where tips like these come into the picture.

    Thank you “mostly” much, guys!

  • arbee

    hi guys,

    You guys are the “most” coolest! Hats off to those who are unselfish in sharing their knowledge on this. I LOVE writing but since English is not my native tongue, sometimes, I am faced with hurddles in expressing my emotions and ideas. This is where tips like these come into the picture.

    Thank you “mostly” much, guys!

  • Manjusha

    Suresh

    That is exactly what came to my mind when I read that line: Mumbai, India is the most rudest city in the world.

    Who told them that the people of Mumbai are rude. I haven’t found better humans elsewhere.

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