Best is best! Language quirks

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I am constantly amazed at the number of authors who label their books ‘No 1. Bestseller’. Last weekend, I shared a platform with a new writer who did just that. A Google search reveals 2.2 billion responses for the term ‘No.1 bestseller’, but by the strict definition of the term there should be only one.

In any class there can only be one best.

The dictionary defines best as


of the most excellent or desirable type or quality.

“the best midfielder in the country”


to the highest degree, most (used with verbs suggesting a desirable action or state or a successful outcome).

“they named the pictures they liked best”


that which is the most excellent, outstanding, or desirable.

“buy the best you can afford”



outwit or get the better of (someone).

“she refused to allow herself to be bested”

Good, better, best

Here’s further proof, that best, is well best. We cannot get better than best. We learnt this in superlatives at age six. Now we have to unlearn good, better, best, because flashy marketing threw in an extra ‘number 1’, just in case it was missed that what ever was being thrust at us was not just best but the number 1 best.

You cannot have the best and the ‘number.1 best’. The English language has taken this one too far and it’s found favour to alarming effect among the authors of this world.

Not quite satisfied having made it to the best seller list, or be featured as the best seller, they insist on adding an extra label, number one. Now people please choose. You can either be Number 1 or you can be the best seller, but best is number one, so please do not be greedy.

Better than best

This extremely pompous brag – the No.1 best seller is never qualified so it’s not best seller among best sellers, or best-selling sales book, or best seller on emotional intelligence, or best seller in New York, or on Amazon or in a particular year, day or month or even decade.

So, without proper categorisation, you cannot trust any brand embellishment that claims No.1 Best Seller. Any author worth their salt would know that that is just plain bad grammar. It’s like saying wet water or warm heat, or Jewish rabbi – the latter in each case – i.e. water, heat and rabbi – just are. They do not need help. But when it comes to best, the English language wants to add a step ladder and prop it up on a No.1 just in case you did not get that it is a best-seller.

My point is you cannot argue with the dictionary and just by the way the Harry Potter series, having sold more than 500 million copies worldwide is the best-selling book series in history.

Wannabe best sellers have got a long, long way to go.

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