least worst

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Albert Schlef

Senior Member
Hebrew
I was searching for a YouTube video for a certain song. All I found were awful. At last I picked the one that looked the least worst and sent it to a friend, explaining: "that's the least worst I could find."

Is "least worst" correct English? How else can I say this?
 
  • se16teddy

    Senior Member
    English - England
    It is a phrase that people use because they are aware that
    - it evokes a logical paradox
    - and is probably grammatically suspect too
    - and it therefore seems to reflect the dilemma faced.
     
    Last edited:

    A90Six

    Senior Member
    England - English.
    'Least bad' is also possible, but usually only as a colloquialism or joke.
    'Best' would still be preferable.
     

    George French

    Senior Member
    English - UK
    Least worst
    http://www.ldoceonline.com/dictionary/least-worst gives
    "least worst [only before noun]
    the least worst choice is the best choice from a list of choices that you think are all bad:
    Often it's a question of choosing the least worst option."​

    GF..

    In our case the noun video is not written, but the least worse video is implied.
    Also a Google on "the least worse" gives many a hit including http://www.independent.co.uk/voices...rst-option-for-the-british-press-8492336.html I know it is in a headline. :)


    http://www.renewal.org.uk/articles/the-least-worst-way-to-improve-public-services/
    All methods of improving public services have their problems. The search is not for some theoretical error-free method of producing high quality, responsive services, allocated with perfect equity and produced at maximum efficiency. Rather, it is to find the least worst way of doing things: to produce as much by the way of quality, responsiveness, efficiency and equity given the limitations imposed by resources and human nature. And finding the least worst way cannot rely upon theoretical constructions or even romantic visions of a past golden age:​

    Mind you it is use a lot in constructs with no verb as well....

    I've use this for years. No one has gone "Uh!" to me: yet.
     

    RM1(SS)

    Senior Member
    English - US (Midwest)
    'Least bad' is also possible, but usually only as a colloquialism or joke.
    'Best' would still be preferable.
    Best implies that there are good ones and better ones as well. If none of the options are good, then the one that is least objectionable would be the least bad one.
     

    Parla

    Member Emeritus
    English - US
    I agree with RM1 that the only grammatical phrase is "least bad". (It's how I've sometimes heard people describe the person for whom they voted in an election.:rolleyes:)
     

    nodnol

    Senior Member
    English UK
    Least worst is the most emphatic and expressive. (see post #2) It suggests that it seemed to you almost like the videos were part of a competion to create the worst version of the song.

    Also: I like ''this is the least worst'' or ''this is the least worst (worse?) video''
    but I don't like
    "this is the least worst I could find."

    In other contexts, or if you wish to use more restrained (and, possibly, more 'correct') language: 'It was the best of a (very) bad bunch' , 'This video isn't much good, but it was the best I could find. They were all pretty awful.' (But the following could be confusing: 'All the videos were bad but this was the best': you are expecting to hear 'worst')

    I don't like its use in the results I see in a web search; maybe it has become a part of a jargon?
     

    Wodwo

    Senior Member
    UK English
    "Least bad" is a more "grammatically correct" way to express this idea, but "least worst" is the more idiomatic - it's the solution generally adopted by English speakers and is instantly understood. Semantically speaking, it's a compound noun - both words together convey a single, if complex, idea. I suppose that's why you sometimes see it hyphenated, though I wouldn't do that myself.
     

    Parla

    Member Emeritus
    English - US
    "Least worst" is wrong because worst is a superlative; something cannot be "least worst" any more than it can be "most best".

    You can, however, say "the best of the worst", which is essentially the same as "least bad": Among those comparatively terrible (worst) possibilities, this one is not as terrible as the others.
     

    Wodwo

    Senior Member
    UK English
    But the thing is, English speakers don't worry about things like that. So you can (and people do) say "least worst" and be easily understood. "The best of the worst" takes much longer to decode because it isn't a current, idiomatic expression.

    So if someone wants to know whether "the least worst" is "correct English", my answer would be – in the UK at least, but I think in reality more widely – yes it is. It's a phrase learners of English can use and be understood and sound far more fluent than if they insist on saying "the best of the worst".
     

    pob14

    Senior Member
    American English
    So if someone wants to know whether "the least worst" is "correct English", my answer would be – in the UK at least, but I think in reality more widely – yes it is. It's a phrase learners of English can use and be understood and sound far more fluent than if they insist on saying "the best of the worst".
    It's also important for learners to know that some people, like me and (I assume from the above post) Parla, will not think they sound fluent; we will think they are simply repeating an error they heard somewhere. And we think that regardless of whether the speaker is native or not.

    Is it used? Yes it is. Would I suggest using it, particularly in a formal setting? Not a chance.
     

    Wodwo

    Senior Member
    UK English
    Well perhaps it is more offensive to American sensibilities. A very brief google finds two examples from respectable British publications - both use the hyphen solution to form a compound noun as I described above.

    I can see that the scare story is a nuisance in the surgery, but it may be a least-worst solution outside it.​
    BRITISH MEDICAL JOURNAL (2002)

    So democratic government, of one kind or another, appears to be the least-worst system we can envisage.​
    George Monbiot THE AGE OF CONSENT (2003)
     

    ewie

    Senior Member
    English English
    I've no very strong objection to the least worst (yes, people will say it, but then people will say a lot of things), but take exception to the notion that the best of the worst is somehow 'not current and not idiomatic', much less 'difficult to decode':eek:/:mad:
     
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