Thursday August 25, 2011
Worst comes to worst
YOUR QUESTIONS ANSWERED By FADZILAH AMIN
WORST coming to worst” means a situation reaching its ultimate state of deterioration.
What I do not understand about the expression is that if “worst” already means absolute bottom, how can one’s fortunes sink any lower? I would have thought “if worse comes to worst” would be more apt. – I.Ho
I have no explanation to give for this expression, except that it’s been around in the UK since the 16th Century. Can we change an expression by using an alternative which sounds more logical? We can try, but whether it will catch on is another matter. Language is funny that way.
The British English version is usually “if the worst comes to the worst”, while the American English version is usually “if worst comes to worst”, but both use “worst” as a noun referring to a situation or a state of things.
Whatever version it is, it seems to me that the saying can only make sense if the first “worst” is not the absolute bottom, but can sink lower to the second “worst”, for instance, like something you thought most unbearable, undesirable or dreadful becoming even more so.
Perhaps what Edgar says in Shakespeare’s King Lear can shed some light on the use of “worst” in this expression. He says this in a scene where he is shocked to meet his blinded father, the Duke of Gloucester:
EDGAR O gods! Who is’t can say ‘I am at the worst’?
I am worse than e’er I was
And worse I may be yet: the worst is not
So long as we can say ‘This is the worst.’
(Act IV Scene i)
He had thought his situation was already at its worst, having been unjustly disowned by his father and having to disguise himself as a beggar for safety.
In the informal expression “the worst of the worst”, usually referring to a person such as a criminal, there is the implication that among a number of people who can be said to be “the worst”, there is one who is right at the bottom of the heap. Can’t situations be regarded that way too?
I think the answers to these question are wrong. I’ve asked my English teacher about them, but I would like a second opinion.
1. Teenagers are tempted to take drugs or smoke or drink for the same reason – simply because they are difficult or they want to be different. You must know it is better to show that you have confidence in yourself when the pressure is ___.
A) great B) greater C) greatest D) more great.
I think the answer is A, but the answer given is C. I would like to know why the answer is C.
2. Rich in “plant insulin”, carrot is reputed to be suitable for diabetes, kidney problems and a painful menstruation.
The word “reputed” as used in the sentence above means ...
A) proven B) believed C) found D) well-known.
I think the answer should be B, but the answer given is D. Can you please tell me why it’s D? – Michael
1. I must tell you first of all that I had trouble understanding the first sentence of this question, so I have inserted some words, in bold, that would make sense of it. Did you accidentally leave out some words when you were typing it?
As to the answer, I agree with you. There is no reason to write “greatest” there, when nothing that came before suggested that a superlative form of “great” needs to be used.
“Great” will do. However, if a superlative adjective is used earlier in the sentence, using “greatest” at the end would give a balance to the sentence, e.g. in:
“You must show most confidence in yourself when the pressure is greatest.
2. Here, too, I agree with you. “Reputed” means “generally thought to be” (Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary) or “said to be the true situation although this is not known to be certain and may not be likely” (online Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary). The closest word to that meaning in the answers is B “believed”.
I came across this sentence in an article from The Guardian. My question is, should the word “provide” be “provides” in this sentence?
Home Movie Day (homemovieday.com) holds worldwide celebrations to commemorate amateur film-making and provide venues where families can screen their old home movies to catch a glimpse of their heritage. – Annie
The word “provide” there is correct. The subject of the main clause is singular, i.e. “Home Movie Day”, and its main verb is singular, i.e. “holds”. Its object is “worldwide celebrations”, and this is followed by two infinitive clauses which give the reasons for the celebrations:
1. “to commemorate amateur film-making” and
2. “(to) provide venues where families can screen their old home movies ...”
The “to” before “provide” is left out because it is understood.
Let me give a simpler example:
“They came here to sing folk songs and (to) dance traditional dances.”
In this sort of sentence we often leave out the second “to”.