Garner’s Usage Tip of the Day: worst.

worst. Part A: For “most.” “Worst” is a casualism when used as an equivalent of “most” {what they need worst is food}. It is related to “badly in need.” It occurs chiefly in reported speech — e.g.: o “‘The library is the place that needs me the worst,’ she said.” Joy Murphy, “Library Volunteer, 71, Enjoys Books,” Ledger (Lakeland, Fla.), 27 Sept. 1995, at F6 (quoting Dot Hart). o “These reforms would help schools that need them worst — failing urban ones — where children have no alternatives.” Tony Lang, “Entertainment ‘Neighborhoods,'” Cincinnati Enquirer, 25 July 1997, at A18. Part B: “Two worst”; *”worst two.” The first is more logical than the second, and about three times as common in print. *”Worst two” is loose phrasing — e.g.: “Their worst two [read ‘two worst’] positions for offensive production have been catcher and third base.” Phil Rogers, “Help Needed: Where Do Sox Turn?” Chicago Trib., 26 June 1997, Sports §, at 10. Language-Change Index — *”worst two” for “two worst”: Stage 3. *Invariably inferior form. For information about the Language-Change Index click here. Quotation of the Day: “Show me the person who has never written a lousy sentence and I’ll show you the child who has yet to learn the alphabet.” John Humphrys, Lost for Words: The Mangling and Manipulating of the English Language 69 (2004).
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