Take the 2-minute tour ×
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

A friend of mine announced her pregnancy via email. I wanted to tell her how pleased I was to hear she was going to have a baby, as this was something she'd wanted for a long time.

I was about to say "I've never been happier to hear someone's pregnant", but then realised that of course I had been even happier when my own wife found she was pregnant. I wanted to imply that that was the only time I had been happier to hear such an announcement.

I wrestled with putting it succinctly for a few moments before writing "you're the person I've been second happiest to hear is pregnant ever".

I shuddered as I sent it, as I could see it was poor English. However, I was in a rush and knew she would understand what I meant.

I hope you can see what I was aiming for: I didn't want to mention my wife explicitly, and I wanted to use "second-most" in some way.

Even with hindsight, I struggle to put this into a single brief sentence. What should I have written?

share|improve this question
    
Your sentence certainly is awkward but I can’t say that there is anything ungrammatical about it, per se. –  nohat Sep 7 '10 at 17:01
add comment

6 Answers 6

up vote 3 down vote accepted

To rephrase without losing any of the meaning and disregarding the pragmatics of the questioner’s sentiment, I might say:

Of all the times that hearing news of a pregnancy has made me happy, yours ranks second.

But I think this formulation casts more light on the awkwardness of the sentiment than the questioner would have wanted.

I agree with the other answerers that although your intentions are kind, this is going to be an uncomfortable thing to hear, no matter how unawkwardly you phrase it.

share|improve this answer
    
Perfectly pedantically accurate - just what I needed! Thank you! :-) –  teedyay Sep 14 '10 at 8:28
add comment

Of course you were happier at the birth of your own child, but that goes without saying.

In other words almost everyone prefers an inaccurate pleasantry to something accurate but less effusive.

It would be lovely to hear "I've never been happier..." from a friend, accurate or not.

Years ago my mother used to say to me, she'd say, "In this world, Elwood, you must be" -- she always called me Elwood -- "In this world, Elwood, you must be oh so smart or oh so pleasant." Well, for years I was smart. I recommend pleasant. You may quote me.

James Stewart as Elwood P. Dowd,
Elwood P. Dowd's 'Philosophy' of Life

share|improve this answer
add comment

Some people refer to the couple as being pregnant and not just the woman. If you find that usage acceptable, you could have said "I've never been happier to hear that another couple is pregnant".

Or you could have said "Except for my wife's pregnancy, I've never been happier to hear that someone is pregnant!"

I think if you try to say "second-most" or not mention your wife you are always going to have a sentence that sounds too stilted or make the compliment sound back-handed.

share|improve this answer
add comment

You could've said:

  • This is the happiest news I heard for a long time!

This way you implicitly mean that you've had happier news but that was a long time ago.

share|improve this answer
add comment

You could leave off the comparisons and just say, "I couldn't be happier for you."

share|improve this answer
add comment

I couldn't be happier to hear you're pregnant!

In this tense, you're talking about the here and now as well as future, instead of from going back into the past.

Of course, one day you "COULD" end up being happier... but you can deal with that later. :-)

"Why say today what you could say tomorrow?"

share|improve this answer
    
I couldn't have been happier... –  kajaco Sep 10 '10 at 15:08
    
Thanks, editing error. Actually meant couldn't be. –  Armstrongest Sep 14 '10 at 16:15
add comment

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.