Hyphens in second most desired?

Discussion in 'English Only' started by Capital1, Jan 16, 2011.

  1. Capital1 Junior Member

    English-Ireland
    Where (if anywhere) would one put a hyphen in second most desired?

    Context:

    Apple is the second most desired brand in the USA.

    Thanks!
     
  2. ewie

    ewie Senior Member

    This septic isle!
    NW Englandish English
    Hmmm, tricky. I'd either have none (second most desired) or I'd have two (second-most-desired). If I only put one in, no matter where, it doesn't feel right.
     
  3. brian

    brian Senior Member

    Montréal
    AmE (New Orleans)
    Well, let's first remove second and see what we have:

    (1) Apple is the most desired brand in the USA.

    I would not use any hyphen at all between most and desired in (1), though some people might - the argument, perhaps, being that [second most] acts as an adjectival unit modifying brand, and we often connect the subparts of units with a hyphen.

    Now, we can also modify most by changing its meaning to second most, in which case [second most] acts as an adverbial unit modifying desired, which all three together act, again, as an adjectival unit modifying brand. To give you a better picture (hopefully):

    (2) Apple is the [ [ second most ] desired ] brand

    In the end, I agree with ewie that you should have either no hyphens at all, or have two, and I think my analysis explains why: it would be weird/illogical/inconsistent to have a hyphen within one unit and not the other.

    My vote is for no hyphens at all.
     
  4. St. Nick Senior Member

    English
    We generally do not compound an adjective with a superlative, but in this case, "most desired," within quotation marks, is frequently used as a category in popular media "Top Ten" lists. Under pressure to hyphenate, I'd join "most" with "desired."
     
  5. Parla Senior Member

    New York City
    English - US
    I agree with Ewie. Two or none, preferably the latter.
     

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