My main reason for blogging about this is his use of the word "Foremost" — "China’s Foremost Environmental Preservation Demolition Expert." "Foremost" was the word of the day on this blog 2 days ago, and Chen's usage underscores my point that there's something comical about that word.
By chance, I was just listening to a passage in an audiobook where the word turned up. The book is one of my favorites, Bill Bryson's memoir of childhood, "The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid."
In 1957, the movie Peyton Place, the steamiest motion picture in years, or so the trailers candidly invited us to suppose, was released to a waiting nation and my sister decided that she and I were going to go....So I'm making a tag for "foremost," and with this, I declare that I have become The World's Foremost Philosopher of Foremost.
On the way there my sister told me that many of the characters in the movie—probably most of them—would be having sex. My sister at this time was the world’s foremost authority on sexual matters, at least as far as I was concerned...
“Do you know what sex is?” she asked...
“No, I don’t believe I do,” I said or words to that effect.
So she told me, in a grave tone and with the kind of careful phrasing that made it clear that this was privileged information, all there was to know about sex, though as she was only eleven at this time her knowledge was perhaps slightly less encyclopedic than it seemed to me. Anyway, the essence of the business, as I understood it, was that the man put his thing inside her thing, left it there for a bit, and then they had a baby. I remember wondering vaguely what these unspecified things were—his finger in her ear? his hat in her hatbox? Who could say? Anyway, they did this private thing, naked, and the next thing you knew they were parents.
ADDED: I'm not going to retrospectively add the tag to every post on this blog —
Of the quotes, by far the most common usage is in the phrase "first and foremost," which I'd recommend avoiding, since it's a cliché and a redundancy. For example, "I would like to be a person remembered as a person who, first and foremost, did not sell his soul in order to accommodate the political process." (Click here to see who said that.)
The second most common usage is to avoid 2-word expressions like "most common" and "most important." For example, from an article about manboobs: "The foremost reason is the rise in obesity...."
The best usage of the word — to my ear — is to get a concrete image of something being in front of other things, which is what I did the one time it felt like the right word to me:
The 2008 election cannot be read as a mandate for health care reform, especially not for the aspect of it that is challenged in the current lawsuits: the individual mandate to buy health insurance. That could not possibly have been foremost in the voters' minds. First, during the campaign, Obama spoke emphatically against it. And second, even after a year of talk about the reform, people don't really understand what the individual mandate is going to be.