"Most unlucky" or "unluckiest"?

1

  • googling "unluckiest" return 459000 results

  • googling "most unlucky" return 225000 results

It seem that "unluckiest" is the right one because prefix "un" won't count when we take into account long or short adjective right?.

Tom

Posted 2016-02-27T00:43:27.120

Reputation: 9 656

3Both forms are acceptable. And you should never pay any attention to those "results" Google reports; they have no basis in reality. – StoneyB on hiatus – 2016-02-27T01:17:51.753

@StoneyB "no basis in reality" => "difficult relevance to interpret generally, but especially for those new to the language and/or search engine mechanics" – HostileFork says dont trust SE – 2016-02-27T01:18:50.663

@HostileFork The Internet is by no means a reliable corpus of standard English. And what the Google search algorithm might index and consider a relevant result has no correlation to common or correct usage. Google NGrams might be difficult to interpret correctly, but at least they have some basis in reality. – ColleenV – 2016-02-27T01:29:30.513

@ColleenV To say something has "no basis in reality" is dismissive on a level of saying that it has no reasonable interpretation or was not derived from data of any kind. (e.g. "What Donald Trump says has no basis in reality") Google's results certainly have a basis in reality. They're just measuring a thing you're probably not asking about. To say they have "no basis in reality" suggests that no one--regardless of situation or skill/insight--could draw any meaningful or useful inferences from the data, and I disagree. It's heavily dependent on the nature of the query and situation. – HostileFork says dont trust SE – 2016-02-27T01:41:14.180

1@ColleenV "And what the Google search algorithm might index and consider a relevant result has no correlation to common... usage". I doubt that very much. "And what the Google search algorithm might index and consider a relevant result has no correlation to... correct usage". I definitely believe that. – TOOGAM – 2016-02-27T01:45:08.213

@TOOGAM Talk to an SEO expert and listen to how they mangle the language to get a web page to appear higher in search results. You're assuming that what Google indexes is text that people sit down and write to communicate with each other, but how a result is ranked as relevant is much much more complex than what words are next to other words. Also, don't get me started on the distribution of the types of pages that are indexed and those that aren't... – ColleenV – 2016-02-27T01:48:50.560

1@ColleenV An "SEO expert" is getting a bit out of the realm of ell.stackexchange.com and into the realm of webmasters.stackexchange.com. Although some sites may be affected by SEO (admittedly, quite heavily affected), I'm sure some sites aren't. If you had simply said suggested that Google has "little basis", and NGrams more, you probably wouldn't have generated these responses from HostileFork and myself. Saying "no basis" is quite harsh, and may be beyond what Google deserves, considering the fact that people keep using the search engines (thereby implying a level of some amount of trust) – TOOGAM – 2016-02-27T01:54:10.103

@ColleenV Why not leave it saying english learners shouldn't be afraid to tinker a bit with Google and look at the results, but think of it as a good source of questions--not a good source of answers. It can be mentioned as long as it's just treated as a data point vs. authority of any kind; it's more metrics-based than "I heard a friend say" which is quite valid to put in a question. As TOOGAM points out we're really just griping about the "no basis in reality" remark which is also not giving credit to the Google anti-spam team, who are likely peer with dictionary editors in dedication. – HostileFork says dont trust SE – 2016-02-27T05:56:58.900

@HostileFork I'm not disparaging Google at all, just as I wouldn't criticize the person who designed the hammer if someone tried to use it as a screwdriver. If you're looking at strictly the number of hits each phrase returns, it has no basis in real usage. The sample being searched isn't necessarily representative of colloquial, native spoken English, and Google's search algorithm applied to their entire index of pages was not designed to tell you anything about English. This question would be a hit for someone trying to compare "most unlucky" with "very unlucky" - it's not informative. – ColleenV – 2016-02-27T12:15:53.627

Answers

2

"luckiest" is a rather common word. So is "unlucky". "Unluckiest" isn't common.

I can't say why "unluckiest" isn't more common... I agree that "most unlucky" (or "least lucky", which almost means the same thing *) is quite common when compared to "unluckiest". I do NOT think that "unluckiest" is wrong.

*- That's the main part of my answer. However, I think a piece of that answer deserves a bit more explanation. The word "unlucky" can refer to:

  • lacking luck (of any type)
  • lacking good luck
  • actively having bad luck

"least lucky" could just mean a person has no (good) luck, but who does not actually have bad luck. This is why I suggested that there may be a minor difference between "least lucky" and "unluckiest". The term "unluckiest" could refer to the person who had the most luck, if the luck was bad luck.

This is rather unusual. For most words, "un" simply means not. That pattern would suggest that "unlucky" simply means that there is no luck (the first bullet point). However, the words "lucky" and "unlucky" are a bit unusual. The word "lucky" usually refers to positive luck, and using that to refer to "bad luck" would be very uncommon, and usually wrong. For that very same reason, the word "unlucky" will usually refer to bad luck (because it is the opposite of being lucky).

TOOGAM

Posted 2016-02-27T00:43:27.120

Reputation: 798