Hyphens in second most desired?

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

  1. Capital1 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

    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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