Page:A Desk-Book of Errors in English.djvu/157

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Errors in English

lover of truth will speak the truth is highly probable, whereas that a confirmed liar will do so is so little probable that the probabilities are on the other side.

'most: Often used colloquially but incorrectly for "almost"; an inexcusable and unwarranted abbreviation. Do not say "my work is most done"; say rather, "… is almost done." Most is used occasionally and correctly for "very"—a use that some writers condemn as incorrect but which is sanctioned by literary usage. Shakespeare says: " So, Sir, heartily well met, and most glad of your company."—Coriolanus, iv. 3.

most is well used as a superlative. Most perfect, thorough, intense, complete, extraordinary, are in common use and have the support of literary usage.

Frederic Johnston says: "Concerning the phrase 'most perfect' some question might be raised. 'Perfect' means, literally, 'made through, to the end,' 'utterly finished,' therefore, of supreme excellence. In that case, 'more' and 'most' perfect are meaningless. We are to remember, however, that the literal is not always the true meaning of a word. Thus 'melancholy' does not mean full of 'black bile,' but 'gloomy' for any reason. ^Moreover, it has of late been pointed out by the best authorities that the true sense of a word is not what it ought to mean, but what it does mean, in the mouths and ears of the upper half of the people. And there can be little doubt that 'perfect,' in this case, merely expresses great rather