This blog is for everyone who uses words.

The ordinary-sized words are for everyone, but the big ones are especially for children.

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Very best wishes: a rant.

I feel rather pleased with myself: it's not often I break a language rule so many times in just a couple of days

It's even less often that someone has a rant about it in the press as I'm doing it.

When David Foster Wallace died, God bless him, he left some notes for what's being called a dictionary, though what it really seems to be is a series of rants.
David Foster Wallace didn't like it, for example, when people used the expression very unique; and here any sane person must agree with him because unique means there's only one, and so very in this case is absolute nonsense.

But it seems that David Foster Wallace also didn't like very best, and I've spent rather a lot of the last week writing very best wishes on Christmas cards. Now, I can see that best has things in common with unique, but I think we can get away with very best.

Think of socks. Your best socks will be the ones without holes in them. You may even have a best sock drawer for their accommodation. But contained in that best sock group may be a couple of pairs, perhaps in the colours of the Weston-under-Lizard Croquet Club, or proclaiming to the world that you love bagels, that stand out as favourites. And these, surely, are the very best.

There might be those who would argue that the original best sock group is really a better sock group; but I rather think that your better socks are those with the holes that can't be seen unless you take your shoes off.

With Very best wishes for Christmas and the New Year,


Word To Use Today: best. This word comes to us from the Old English betst, and is related to the Gothic batista.

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