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everyone!

So, if a sentence goes like this: "He has been the most clever, cunning, Macchiavelian, blasphemously wicked, satanic deceiver", does it mean that "most" refers to them all or is it the case only with the first one, namely "clever", and the other words would actually be in positive?

Long story short, is "clever" - preceded by "most", of course - the only superlative here or all the adjectives are?

TY

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    I would read it as referring to all of them. What do you mean about the other words being "in positive"? They're all pretty negative with or without the "most".
    – nnnnnn
    Aug 26, 2019 at 14:30
  • Routine conjunction reduction from the most clever, the most cunning, the most Macchiavelian, the most blasphemously wicked, the most satanic. BTW, if Macchiavelian is capitalized, why not satanic? Aug 26, 2019 at 14:44
  • @nnnnnn Thank you! I meant it as being in the positive form, i.e. not being comparative or superlative.
    – user358848
    Aug 26, 2019 at 14:58
  • @John Lawler Thanks, that's what I thought, but couldn't be sure since I'm not a native speaker. Judging by the name, I'd say you could be one, hh. Anyway, jokes aside, I was interested precisely in how a native speaker would read it. Many thanks again! Oh, and as for "satanic", I frankly wouldn't know; there's however one other mention of the word an it is capitalized.
    – user358848
    Aug 26, 2019 at 15:00
  • You'd need some 'a's if 'the most' didn't scope over all the adjectives. Aug 26, 2019 at 16:02

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The superlative marker most can distribute across any number of sequential adjectives:

Ferocious Competition: At the heart of Puyo Puyo Tetris is the fighting spirit of players competing against each other to be (the) most clever, cunning, and quick-witted one to set up devastating attacks on opponents. — GameDeal.it

This means most clever, most cunning, and most quick-witted.

The superlative ending -est does not distribute, so if you want a sequence of superlatives, you need a most after an -est:

Goblin chieftains are often the cleverest, most cunning and violent members of the tribe. — Christian Broadhurst, Raging Swan Press, 3 Aug. 2017.

They'd always kept the television in the tomb and, as a consequence, had spent most of their married life sitting in the darkest, ugliest, and most claustrophobic room in the house. — Stephen McCauley, Easy Way Out, 2012.

And if the sequence is interrupted by some other element, most can be repeated:

There is, in the very idea of this awkward political dance, the cleverest, most cunning and, in the end, most profitable of tributes being paid to the inescapable weirdness of America's electoral system. — Bernard-Henri Levy, CBS News, 11 July 2008.

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