My doctor wanted me to inquire which generic medication would be the smallest burden on my wallet before issuing a prescription. When I asked the pharmacist which of the generic options was "least expensive," his response irked me.

The generic for Flonase is the most inexpensive.

It seems clumsy, and I feel that the "most" adds an incorrect perception of weight.

Am I alone on this?

  • It could be that he has been advised or instructed to accentuate the positive wherever possible. In the phrase most inexpensive both words have a positive feel, and the opposite is true of least expensive. Mar 2, 2012 at 17:06
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    I agree, "lease expensive" is a common way of phrasing things and "most inexpensive" -- while logically equivalent -- sounds like legalese or marketing talk. I couldn't tell you why your pharmacist preferred it, though it doesn't sound like he was being misleading.
    – octern
    Mar 2, 2012 at 17:09
  • @octem I had no implications of malintent, it just struck a chord.
    – MetalFrog
    Mar 2, 2012 at 18:24
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    I've had salesman insist that their product is not "cheap", it is "inexpensive". I presume they are concerned that "cheap" may be taken to mean "of low quality".
    – Jay
    Mar 2, 2012 at 21:51
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    @Jay Very true. I used to work retail and I learned early on to be distinctive when it came to cheap and inexpensive.
    – MetalFrog
    Mar 2, 2012 at 23:23

2 Answers 2


Are you alone? That depends on what you're asking.

If you mean, "Am I the only one who thinks that least expensive is preferable over most inexpensive," then, heavens, no. Methinks you're in the majority.

If, on the other hand, you're asking, "Wouldn't you get irked at your pharmacist if he said this?" well, that's another matter altogether. So long as he gives good advice and fills my prescriptions correctly, what do I care about how he speaks? He's a pharmacist, not a linguist.

P.S. Why are visions of Dr. McCoy flashing through my mind now?

  • 2
    Damnit J.R., I'm a pharmacist, not a linguist! Heh, great response.
    – MetalFrog
    Mar 2, 2012 at 18:23

Are you sure he wasn't joking?

If he was joking then it sounds something along the lines of "you think we sell only expensive medicines like other pharmacists and you're asking for the one that does the least damage to your bank balance. But we sell inexpensive drugs, and you're (unnecessarily) asking for the very cheapest, when you can afford any of them".

If this was in Britain, there's a fair chance a joke like this was told with an entirely straight face. (I'm a Brit myself and it's the sort of thing I'd say).

If you're certain he wasn't joking, then he's plain wrong. Your construction is not just correct, but the better of the two.

  • I'm pretty sure he was not joking. Reminded me of a friend that once said "pretty not inconspicuous". Just one of those awkward exchanges that sticks with you.
    – MetalFrog
    Mar 2, 2012 at 18:52
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    A friend of mine once told a woman she was "not unattractive". I said, Wow, really laying on the flattery there, aren't you, Jim.
    – Jay
    Mar 2, 2012 at 21:52

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