2009/02/22

An Irritation

I want to talk to you about the oft misused phrase "first and foremost..." Indeed, some things can be both first and foremost. I suspect, though, that most are either first or they are foremost.

If you are not an offender then you can stop reading and go on and do something interesting. But, if you are, then here are some guidelines to help you sort through it all:

  • First is the first of several things. So, if you are talking about the first thing on the list, that thing is first. You call that first.
  • Foremost is the most important of several things. So, if you are going to make your big point, then that is the foremost thing regardless of whether you say it first, last, or somewhere in the middle. You call that foremost.
  • If you only have one point to make, it is neither first nor is it foremost. So, don't use that phrase, OK?
  • Obviously, you may wish to make your foremost point first. Then, and only then, is it first and foremost.
I know I am being hugely weird about that. But, it bugs me. I do appreciate your indulgence.

3 comments:

Padre Mickey said...

First and foremost, I think you're being hugely weird about this. Secondly and secondmost, I just couldn't help but respond in this manner.

Diane said...

ok! I won't do it any more!

Lindy said...

That is just the sort of wickedness I expect from you Padre Mickey. Well done.

It's not proscriptive, Diane. And, your writing is so beautiful I doubt anyone would notice. Even a crusty pettitfogger like me.