[Ads-l] "best" as invariable modal verb

Ben Zimmer bgzimmer at GMAIL.COM
Thu Aug 10 13:59:02 EDT 2017


There's also some evidence for cliticized "bettern't" (as in "You bettern't
try that again"), mentioned in the OED entry for "better" v.2 and the
Language Log comments. But "bestn't" is vanishingly rare.


On Thu, Aug 10, 2017 at 1:02 PM, Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at yale.edu>
wrote:

> One odd difference between “best” as a verb/post-verbal adverb and
> “better” is that the latter allows a “neg-raising” version while the
> former, at least for me, does not:
>
> You (had) better not try that again.
> You hadn’t better try that again.
> You (had) best not try that again.
> *You hadn’t best try that again.
>
> (YMMV, but Google backs me up on this.)
>
> LH
>
> > On Aug 10, 2017, at 11:40 AM, Ben Zimmer <bgzimmer at GMAIL.COM> wrote:
> >
> > For Language Log, I wrote about Trump's threat, "North Korea best
> not...":
> >
> > http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=34000
> >
> > Towards the end there's a 66-year antedating of OED3 "best" v.2 (1900 ->
> > 1834).
> >
> > 1834 Charles Augustus Davis _Letters of J. Downing, Major_ 256 'Well,'
> says
> > Mr. Van Buren, it's a pretty severe letter, but we best not translate it
> --
> > I'll read it as it is, with pleasure.'
> > https://books.google.com/books?id=Vk0LAAAAIAAJ&pg=PA256
> >
> >
>

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