Sunday, 6 December 2009

'Last Best Chance'

I recently heard that phrase in a broadcast comment by the Leader of the Opposition.

I don't remember what he was talking about; my horror at his choice of words distracted me from his subject matter.

Did he mean 'this is the best chance, and it's also the last' or 'this is the best of the remaining chances'. I suspect he didn't mean anything so definite, but felt rather than thought that two superlatives were better than one.

I fear that others will now adopt the phrase - verbal ineptitude tends to be catching.

Alistair Cook once attributed the word 'normalcy' to President Harding's ignorance of the word 'normality', and we still hear that word from time to time.


Ged said...

It's a — presumably deliberate — misquote from Abe Lincoln, "the last best hope of earth". See here. I'm assuming that the correct way to parse it is to insert an implicit "and" (or equivalently, just a comma) between "last" and "best", so that they both qualify the noun, rather than that "last" qualifies "best", which would indeed be nonsensical as you point out.

Richard said...

I didn't know of Lincoln's words; that strengthens my suspicion that Cameron chose his words for effect rather than meaning.

It is most unlikely that the last chance would ever be the best - the best way to tackle a problem is usually to make an early start.