Another Phrase for the Ick List

aaaiiiiiii!!!!!I haven't blasted any bogus phrases in a while, but I heard one of my all-time favorites on the radio the other day, so I may as well blast it now. This one tends to be used more in speech than writing, but either way it should be at the top of your ick list.

I promise to uphold the law as best as I can.

I intend to try, as best as I'm able.

I remember hearing the as best as phrase years ago, coming out of the mouth of an otherwise intelligent—and even eloquent—speaker. I don't understand it any better now than I did then; this is one messed up phrase. The words as best by themselves are fine, and there's nothing wrong with best as, either; it's the addition of that extra as word that really buggers everything up.

Really, the intended word is well, so the phrase ought to be as well as I can, or as well as I'm able. For some reason, best is being used in place of well, but if we absolutely have to keep best in the sentence, it shouldn't be surrounded on all sides with the word as.

I promise to uphold the law as best I can.

I intend to try, as best I'm able.

The sentences are better now, but may still seem a bit awkward to the modern ear. As is so often the case, there are other ways of expressing the idea without resorting to a particular phrase, thereby avoiding the problem altogether.

I promise to uphold the law to the extent of my ability.

I intend to try, to the limit of my ability.

With sentences like these, substituting as best with words that perhaps do a better job of describing the actual intent not only improves clarity, but avoids controversy over modern usage. On the other hand, sometimes it's best to just tear a sentence down and start over from scratch, instead of trying to salvage an inherently awkward construction. There are other ways of saying I'll do my best.


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