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I found the phrase America is “the workingest nation” on earth in the following sentence of Time magazine’s (November 14) article titled “Whatever happened to upward mobility.”

For the first time in 20 years, the percentage of the population employed in the US is lower than in U.K., Germany and the Netherlands. “We like to think of America as the workingest nation on earth. But that’s no longer the case,” says Ron Haskins, a co-director of the Brookings Institution’s Center on Children and Families.

I know the word “working” as an adjective, but I don’t think I’ve come across the word being used in the superlative degree like this. MS Windows 7 spell-check on my PC keeps demanding to correct “workingest” into “work ingest” and “workings” when I'm posting this question.

Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary defines “working” as an adjective, meaning;

  1. Having a job for which you are paid.
  2. Having a job that involves hard physical work rather than office work, studying etc.
  3. Connected with your job and the time you spend doing it.

Plus five other, situational definitions.

Is “workingest nation, (people, men, women, laborers, students)” used as often as “the hardest working” or “the most hard-working nation, (people, men, women, laborers, students)” in the world?

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It sounds like a really bizarre word to me (Brits don't use it at all except maybe facetiously), but I'll hazard a guess that workingest normally means most committed to the Protestant work ethic. Clearly in context here, Ron Haskins simply means nation with the highest percentage of people in employment. He's certainly not talking about how hard people work - he's only really interested in the corollary that less people working means more unemployed (disadvantaged citizens he wants to support). –  FumbleFingers Nov 28 '11 at 3:38
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I don't know of the validity of this superlative present participle but as a resident of the United States, I have never heard it used. –  Anicul Nov 28 '11 at 4:55

1 Answer 1

Workingest is not an accepted word in English (American or British). This verb+ing+est word structure is a form that is very occasionally used in uneducated circles or when attempting a casual, "folksy" style for a superlative. You can find various examples of the form being used at low frequencies, such as drinkingest, fightingest, cussingest, etc.

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Winningest is often used in sports commentary, and has also made it into a few dictionaries. –  jackgill Nov 28 '11 at 6:02
    
@Jackgill. I can find the word, “winningest” meaning “winning the largest number of victories” in most of English Japanese dictionaries at hand, but not “workingest,” and it (wnningest) seems to be remote from the instance of the superlative of working. –  Yoichi Oishi Nov 28 '11 at 7:32
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Both winningest and workingest make me cringe. –  Bjorn Nov 28 '11 at 10:42
    
@YoichiOishi I wasn't suggesting that workingest should be used or found anywhere, just that similar constructions are around. –  jackgill Dec 1 '11 at 5:44

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