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I just came across this documentary:

The World's Biggest & Baddest Bugs by Animal Planet

The World's Biggest & Baddest Bugs by Animal Planet

Is "baddest" a proper word? Shouldn't it be "worst"? What is going on here?

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4  
It's not proper, it's slang. NOTE: The Animal Planet network has a wide audience with middle-school-aged budding scientists, and this title would appeal to that demographic. –  J.R. Aug 22 '12 at 18:11
    
OIC. This could be the accepted answer if you posted it as an answer. –  Mehper C. Palavuzlar Aug 22 '12 at 18:13
    
Thanks for the kind words. :^) I like Marcus' answer, too; it's just as good as mine. You might as well accept his. –  J.R. Aug 22 '12 at 18:17
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If you wanted to emphasize how bad the Big Bad Wolf was when telling a fairy tale, I don't think the biggest worst wolf ever would have the right impact. –  TimLymington Aug 22 '12 at 18:19
    
Hah, see you posted your comment while I was typing my answer. Had you put it as the answer I just would have skipped mine. –  Marcus_33 Aug 22 '12 at 18:19

7 Answers 7

up vote 14 down vote accepted

The OED shows baddeste and baddyst as Middle English forms and baddest as being in use from the sixteenth century onwards. It notes, however, that baddest is now non-standard and regional. For that reason it should be avoided in formal Standard English. Not all contexts, however, require formal Standard English and the package illustrated is clearly one that does not. It was no doubt chosen for alliterative effect.

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I'll give you alliterative, partially, but in point of fact it was chosen because "baddest" in modern American slang means "toughest" or "meanest" or "most capable of winning a fight." –  Robusto Aug 22 '12 at 19:05
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@Robusto; I believe the origin is Badass, but not even a gangsta could say badassest and keep a straight face, let alone worstass. –  TimLymington Aug 22 '12 at 19:36
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@TimLymington: See here‌​, young man. –  Robusto Aug 22 '12 at 20:09
    
@Robusto: your sources are unimpeachable, but my point was that, appearances notwithstanding, I believe baddest to be the superlative of badass (an irregular formation, no doubt, but not illegitimate). –  TimLymington Aug 22 '12 at 21:14
    
@TimLymington Bad, bad Leroy Brown / Baddest man in the whole damn town. - Jim Croce, 1973. From the same song, The south side of Chicago / is the baddest part of town. 'Badass' is a spondee and wouldn't occur in this context. 'Baddest' is the superlative of 'bad' in the sense of 'tough'. –  StoneyB Aug 23 '12 at 2:33

It seems we are talking about two meanings of bad. The first meaning is well recognised:

bad: of unacceptable standard, unfavorable, inadequate, etc.

comparative: worse

superlative: worst

The second meaning is informal, and is not considered Standard English, but usage is fairly common:

bad: badass, not to be trifled with

comparative: badder

superlative: baddest

The documentary is clearly referring to the second meaning, so baddest is the correct usage here.

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The word "baddest" does not describe the least desirable outcome. When talking about the least desirable outcome, the word you want to use is "worst". Many wouldn't accept "baddest" as a proper word at all.

"Baddest" is common slang though, especially when used in conjunction with "biggest". Its usage comes from using "Bad" as slang word to mean "Cool" or "Tough".

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I'm torn because it is a good observation that this has to do with an informal/slang sense of 'bad' implying toughness, but I object to the characterization of it as "not a proper word". It does have an entry in some dictionaries, at least: dictionary.reference.com/browse/baddest?s=t –  nohat Aug 22 '12 at 18:46
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"Worst" is obviously not the correct definition of "baddest" as used in the question. –  horatio Aug 22 '12 at 18:48
    
@nohat: it's certainly "improper" in some contexts, such as, "That was the baddest question I've seen on EL&U," when I'm referring to the worst I've seen. Given that the O.P. asked about worst in the question, using the word "proper" to do so, I'm willing to let Marcus' opening comment slide. (Even the dictionary link you reference uses the qualifiers slang and nonstandard; one could temporarily define "proper word" as a word that isn't slang and isn't nonstandard, and then all is well with this answer.) Just a thought. –  J.R. Aug 23 '12 at 0:12
    
I'm going to revise my answer to make it clearer what I meant, since I agree with horatio that I didn't express my thought correctly. It originally said "Baddest is not a proper word. (Worst is the correct word)." –  Marcus_33 Aug 23 '12 at 14:17
    
@Marcus_33: I knew what you meant, but some folks here may call you out when you make the claim that something that isn't a "proper word." That said, it would have been much badder for you if had said that something wasn't a "real word." :^) –  J.R. Aug 23 '12 at 15:23

NOAD gives the following description for the word baddest:

8.( badder, baddest ) informal good; excellent: they want the baddest, best-looking Corvette there is.

Trawling through Google Books reveals a significant use of baddest in book titles, which is probably for humorous reasons. Here are a few examples:

The Biggest Baddest Wolf

For Boys Only: The Biggest, Baddest Book Ever

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I think it is not the appropriate one compared with the worst. But it IS an acceptable word, as illustrated in the sentence below:

Stede Bonnet might be known as the baddest pirate captain of them all.

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@Lynn I don't know why you try to edit my answer. I used the "google the sentence " i provided above, which means guy should dig it, the sentence is just a clue. –  Aiping He Aug 23 '12 at 4:43
    
I think the edit is proper. –  Noah Aug 23 '12 at 5:42
    
@Brake - I didn't think that "google the sentence" was useful - what are they looking for when they google? The sentence by itself is a good enough illustration. If you disagree with the edit, feel free to edit it again, that's how the system works :) –  Lynn Aug 23 '12 at 14:27
    
@Lynn Hello, I think the best "edit" is something about editing the errors and formats etc but not my intention. You edited my intention, that is the reason why i feel uneasy. As an Chinese guy who is studying English, I should say thank you if you do the edit like 'it is a word acceptable' to 'it is an acceptable word'. But I cannot accept that my intention is gone. This is my point. But anyway, this is NOT a big deal, just let it go :) –  Aiping He Aug 23 '12 at 15:47
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@Brake: I do not mean to belabor the point, but I feel it's important to point out some of the SE philosophy since it appears you're new. When you see a post that you feel is low-quality, it is not only acceptable to edit it, but you are encouraged to edit it to improve it. See Community Editing and Low Quality Posts Review. You are of course free to disagree, and adjust or revert the edit if you feel it changes your intent. –  Lynn Aug 23 '12 at 16:21

'Baddest' is not standard English these days, though as Barrie says it's been around for a while in various forms. In my opinion the specific term here, 'biggest and baddest', is a play on 'big bad', as in 'the big, bad wolf'. It just emphasises the comparison.

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Not my donwvote, but if 'it's been around for a while', how can it not be a word? –  Barrie England Aug 23 '12 at 7:17
    
You're right - I wasn't thinking there! –  Daniel Buckmaster Aug 23 '12 at 7:18
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'Proper English' is a vague term and makes too many assumptions. It's preferable to speak of categories such as 'standard' and 'non-standard', 'formal' and 'informal', 'regional' and non-regional'. –  Barrie England Aug 23 '12 at 8:04
    
Again, good point. My main reason for responding was to bring in the link to 'big bad', which I believe is what the title was playing on... I just didn't do so well at answering the definite part of the question! –  Daniel Buckmaster Aug 23 '12 at 9:32

As many people have noted, baddest is not in proper use. However, in the context of this particular DVD it is used for purposes of alliteration and rhyme with biggest to generate a much catchier title than biggest and worst allows.

Also I think in the context baddest does not imply 'worst'. It is used for its colloquial meaning of 'mean' (The same way Michael Jackson wasn't implying that he was rubbish when he released the song "Bad".)

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