6

There's a phrase that goes Put your best foot forward. Given this phrase usually offers advice to humans who have two feet, shouldn't it be Put your better foot forward?

  • 2
    It's better than the other one, but it's the best of the two! – starsplusplus Mar 21 '14 at 15:57
  • I suspect the idiom dates from before some meddler made up the nonsensical rule against using superlatives for sets of two. (The OED has the phrase from 1577, and I guess that, like some other arbitrary rules, the rule was made up by the writer of a grammar book in the 1700s) – Colin Fine Jul 18 '17 at 23:27
8

Aside from the astute observation made in snailboat's comment, I still think the wording is best left as "best," because we're not really dealing with two literal feet. In the idiom, "best foot" means "best appearance," or "best first impression." In the context of, say, a job interview, putting my best foot forward means picking out my nicer clothes and shoes, making sure my hair is neatly groomed, giving a warm smile with my confident handshake, and being cordial but not arrogant. Interpreted that way, there are many more than two feet.

Very interesting question, though.

4

Firstly, put your best foot forward is an idiom, and hence trying to reason with it at all - never mind questioning its grammatical is likely to get you into trouble.

And secondly, if you have two of anything, then the one which is better is also the one which is best.

  • 3
    +1. The prescription against superlatives of two has never been widely followed. – snailcar Nov 23 '13 at 9:44
  • @snailplane I didn't even know such a prescription existed. – starsplusplus Mar 21 '14 at 15:57

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