I just came across this documentary:
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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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.
It seems we are talking about two meanings of bad. The first meaning is well recognised:
bad: of unacceptable standard, unfavorable, inadequate, etc.
The second meaning is informal, and is not considered Standard English, but usage is fairly common:
bad: badass, not to be trifled with
The documentary is clearly referring to the second meaning, so baddest is the correct usage here.
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".
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
'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.
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".)