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As we hear in every commercial (ever?)

Our best price, ever.

Your thoughts please. Putting aside advertising allowances, should "ever" here mean "all time: past present and future", or should this be interpreted as "yet" (past/present). In advertising terms we must infer the latter (otherwise they'll contradict themselves next time they need a promotion), but from a linguistics perspective: what is the correct interpretation here?

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2 Answers 2

up vote 12 down vote accepted

Your general question: can "ever" apply to future? Yes.

  1. This is the best price you will ever see.
  2. Don't ever do that again.

As for the standalone phrase "our best price ever": from a linguistics perspective, there is no single "correct" interpretation. The phrase is ambiguous, such that in different surrounding contexts it could be understood as meaning "for all time", or it could be understood as "up to now".

For a linguist interested in pragmatics, one might even note that the actual interpretation of the word "ever" (as well as "never") is often not the literal meaning of the word — it is used as a hyperbole with relative ease. "You aren't ever home when I call!"

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Great answer. Also, completely off-topic, your circular reasoning avatar is awesome! –  Jonik Aug 18 '10 at 22:14
    
Thanks, though I can't take credit for making it :) –  Kosmonaut Aug 18 '10 at 22:17
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The specific context of "Our best price ever" refers to the past. Compared to the past, this is our best price. At least that's how I see it. –  Nick Bedford Apr 13 '11 at 2:19
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@Nick Bedford: That is the default context, but as I framed it in example (1), it can have a context where it refers to the future. –  Kosmonaut Apr 13 '11 at 3:17

"Ever" implies that this has never happened before, or will never again, similar to the phrase "at any time". Edit: Whether this is referring to the future or the past depends on context.

Alas, it's all too often used as a modifier to imply something is unique, which can result in confusion. (Think of the comic book guy on the Simpsons: "Best resurrection ever!", ad nauseum.)

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