The Return of the Most Winningest

I saw the following today, on the internet, on Reddit, while taking a brief pause from work:

Boxing has always been massive in Ireland, with us being one of the most winningest countries at the Olympics per capita.

I don’t think I need to say too much about how absurd it is. I’ve already written about the use of winningest as an American-English term in sports journalism. And even though I think it sounds terrible, I accept that Americans are entitled to their own way of using English. Despite that though, the person writing this, this “Fraugheny,” was Irish. And we never say winningest. Perhaps this is someone who spends a lot of time online talking about international sport (he is on Reddit talking about Conor McGregor after all), and there’s a good chance he’d therefore encounter a lot of Americans using the word (about half of you reading this are American, so I tend to assume everyone online is American unless they indicate otherwise). Still odd though.

But, you’ve probably spotted what’s even odder about this phrase. Yes, it’s the redundant use of both most and –est. This person was attempting to use a superlative form of an adjective. The rules about such forms are very simple, and basically the same as comparative forms. If an adjective is monosyllabic, add –est (smartest). If it ends in –y, change the Y to –iest (happiest). If an adjective has more than one syllable and doesn’t end in Y, put the most before the adjective (the most beautiful).

It’s common enough for learners to use the most before all adjectives (without adding –est) for the same reasons they make errors with morethinking in their native tongue. And like with more, a native speaker will occasionally make the same mistake due to not having thought of the adjective they want to use. But why would a native speaker make the mistake of using both the most and –est?

I don’t think we can blame “Fraugheny” entirely. First of all, we have to consider the fact that winning is predominantly used in its superlative form in American English, and for reasons I can’t fathom, that form is winningest, and not the most winning. I think what happened then was that “Fraugheny” had the word winningest in mind, but as this is not part of his own version of English, he also had the logical instinct to use the most before a multisyllabic adjective (the most winning doesn’t sound so bad, does it?), and without thinking put it before winningest. Though the most successful would obviously have been the best thing to say, and wouldn’t have caused any confusion.

Anyway, however “Fraugheny” came to use this strange adjective in such a strange way, it was strangely appropriate, considering he was commenting in a thread about Conor McGregor. If you listen to Conor McGregor talk, you’ll notice that he uses superlative adjective forms a lot. Not too surprising, considering he thinks he’s the best, the greatest, the strongest, and so on. Maybe “Fraugheny” simply had his mind so full of all things McGregor that he unconsciously allowed a flood of superlatives to overwhelm his writing. Perhaps it was a deliberate, cheeky reference to McGregor’s fondness for superlatives. Or perhaps it was simply a mistake caused by typing without thinking. Whatever the reason, take this as a reminder that it’s not often to wise to look for flawless English on the internet.

Except for here. You can definitely always find it here.

6 thoughts on “The Return of the Most Winningest

  1. I’ve always been confused about the word ‘winninest’ (apart from the sheer horribleness of the word). Is it about the number of wins, or the percentage? The coach with the longest tenure will probably have the highest number of wins. But a coach with a shorter tenure may have a higher percentage.

    Indicated: Australian.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I always enjoy your posts but increasingly despair of all manglers and mangulations (made up word) of our mutual language. It’s not the mistakes themselves but the arrogance, the conviction that ‘If I don’t understand it, it doesn’t matter’. It’s the dumbing down of everything, the universal descent into sloppiness and mediocrity… Grrr!

    Funny, I realise that I too have been assuming that the majority of my readers at any one time are Americans (stats do bear this out) and I catch myself sometimes sort of angling things in their direction, even using words and phrases that wouldn’t have occurred to me in ‘everyday life’. Isn’t this phenomenon known as Convergence?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, and I think you can see this happening more and more in real life, as people get used to communicating online. I find younger Irish people use much more Americanised or generic language than in my day.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I had no idea “most winningest” was ever used seriously! Especially in journalism. Shows how much I pay attention to sports. I’ve only ever used it, or heard it used as a joke. Perhaps I’m the only Canadian not in on the joke… I just thought we were all saying it because it sounds ridiculous.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It was the same for me: I’d heard it a few times on American TV programmes and assumed it wasn’t serious, but then I was in New York for a summer. The first time I saw it in a newspaper I thought “Oh. They were serious…”

      Liked by 1 person

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