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.

What does this mean:

This slowly becomes annoying at best

I cannot understand what the last two words of this phrase signify.

share|improve this question
    
at best = in best case = in its best form = in best case scenario –  Unreason Jun 30 '11 at 14:22
add comment

4 Answers

up vote 6 down vote accepted

It means that the maximum positive quality of the subject ("this") is to be annoying; that is the most it can ever achieve. The likelihood is that it is worse than annoying, since the odds of a thing being at its best all the time are small.

Often constructions like this are counterbalanced with a "worst case" scenario. For example,

This is annoying at best, and at worst it's downright destructive.

share|improve this answer
add comment

"At best" means that whatever has just been mentioned is considered to be the least detrimental of all probable ramifications or outcomes of a particular event/scenario. Appending the words at best to the end of a sentence implies that you expect much more serious or damaging things to occur as a result of something.

share|improve this answer
add comment

"At best" used in this sentence means that, the nicest way to describe the thing is "annoying".

It's that bad, that the most favourable thing about it is, it's annoying.

This can be compared with "at worst", when describing situations e.g.

At worst, we could only die.

This is stating that the worst possible outcome, is to die. In the same way, "at best" is describing that the most desirable outcome, or most positive description, of something or someone, is "annoying."

share|improve this answer
1  
I would broadly agree, but to me it's not that "the nicest thing about it is that it is annoying"; rather "the most favourable way of describing it is that it is annoying", which is not quite the same. –  Colin Fine Jun 30 '11 at 16:20
add comment

"At best" means that nothing better could happen, and most likely that something worse will.

In this case, the best thing you could hope for is for the situation to merely become annoying. What the situation will actually become will probably be worse, (e.g. torturous or unendurable).

share|improve this answer
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.