Friday, 30 March 2012

Overthinking a Phrase III

One phrase I hear a from time to time is "I spent the better part of an hour doing (something)."

Of course, the intention is that "I spent the majority of the hour doing (something)". But is 'the better part' really equal to 'the majority'?

Indeed, let me turn this around and ask "Was the best part of that hour spent doing (something)?" The reply will depend on what the person was going. Washing dishes? Possibly not. Eating chocolate? Possibly yes. So here the best part of the hour might be the activity you were doing, depending on the activity, but 'better part' does not indicate the quality of the activity.

But then consider how long those activities took. Washing dishes could take at least half an hour, depending on the number of dishes and how energetic you were. Eating chocolate would only take half an hour if it was a lot of chocolate. The point being that the majority of the hour was not spent doing (something) in both cases, so 'better part' does not necessarily mean the majority of the time either.

So the better part is not always the best part nor is it the most time consuming part.

And another flip to the point is "So the worst part of the hour was not doing (something)?" Even better if you aren't being general like I am.

"I just spent the better part of an hour driving here."
"So the worst part was actually arriving and seeing me?"


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