first ever!

Mark Mandel thnidu at GMAIL.COM
Mon Jul 20 14:41:36 UTC 2009

Mark Mandel:
>>ISTM that Victor's point hinges on the perception that the "ever" in "first
>>ever" always serves to stress that the NP is the absolute first of its kind
>>in that context. Given that perception, the word's use here overrides the
>>latitude we normally allow for elliptical headlines(e) and amounts to an
>>apparent reference to the first Japanese microscope that ever existed.
>>That's how I read it too.

Laurence Horn:
> How about ... from the first page of g-hits for "first ever":
> "First ever size 16 girl reaches Miss England final"
> First-Ever Layoffs Loom at Postal Service [USA]
> "Security Council Holds First-Ever Debate on Impact of Climate Change"
> Bangladesh beat West Indies to win first ever away Test
> It's true that the strong majority of "first ever" cites really do
> involve absolute first evers. Â But the Canadian headline is hardly
> one of a kind.

I'm forced to agree. Now I have to wonder just what it was about that
Canadian headline, if anything, that made me see it that way.

What comes to mind is, What's so special? Large-bodied girl in
national beauty contest final, layoffs at the USPS, Security Council
debate on climate change, an away Test win for an underdog (yes?) --
these are notable events, for those who follow such things. But what's
so special about a Japanese microscope? Why the shouting and flashing
lights implied by "first _ever_"?

m a m

The American Dialect Society -

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