Garner’s Usage Tip of the Day: utmost, adj.; upmost, adj.

utmost, adj.; upmost, adj. The usual word is “utmost” (= most extreme; of the greatest urgency or intensity) {an issue of the utmost importance}. “Upmost” (= highest; farthest up) is a fairly uncommon variant of “uppermost.” Yet writers have begun misusing “upmost” in contexts where “utmost” is called for — e.g.: o “In a competitive industry where repeat visitors are of upmost [read ‘utmost’] importance, how long can Legoland focus primarily on 3- to 12-year-olds?” Mike Freeman, “Legoland Is Zoned for Kids,” San Diego Union-Trib., 19 Mar. 2000, at I1. o “Hayes’ death was of the upmost [read ‘utmost’] importance.” Anwar Richardson, “We All Share Blame for Senseless Deaths,” Tampa Trib., 27 July 2000, at 10. o “‘The Cockettes,’ a full-length documentary . . . , treats its subject with upmost [read ‘utmost’] respect.” Ruthe Stein, “Cockettes Resurrected in Documentary,” S.F. Chron., 4 Aug. 2000, at C4. The error occurs also in British English — e.g.: “Britain is doing its upmost [read ‘utmost’], however, to ensure that the group’s mandate and role are as limited as possible.” Andrew Osborn, “UK Fights Plans for Regulator,” Guardian, 17 July 2000. Language-Change Index — “upmost” misused for “utmost”: Stage 1. For information about the Language-Change Index click here. ——————– Quotation of the Day: “The most plausible way to unify your paragraphs is to concentrate on building each one on a thought expressed in the first sentence.” Richard Marius, A Writer’s Companion 52 (1985).
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