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July 2, 2018

In yesterday’s Observer there was a piece by the German footballer Thomas Hitzlsperger, who played with Gareth Southgate at Aston Villa, about England’s chances in the World Cup. At one point Hitzlsperger says that Southgate was a guy who ‘treated the responsibility of being a professional footballer with upmost respect…’


This is clearly an error for utmost, of course. Utmost is an unusual word – that prefix ut does not occur in any other word I know of. I suppose it is short for utter. Up on the other hand is quite a common prefix (upward, upwardly, uptown, upside, upon, upgrade, upcoming etc) so it’s natural that the less common prefix would be swallowed by the more common one. Moreover if you pronounce utmost with a glottal stop then it sounds identical to upmost anyway.

Still, I am surprised to see this error in the Observer. I don’t think it is Hitzlsperger’s mistake; English is not his first language and I imagine his interview was transcribed by a journalist. And neither that journalist nor the sports editor knows their own language well enough to write utmost.

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  1. Simon Carter permalink

    Not sure about this one Brandon? It’s possible he meant upmost as a variant of uppermost or highest. Utmost itself appears to be a variant of out(er)most.

  2. Well I think we disagree here! The word ‘uppermost’ can mean highest in the sense of being at the top (“The thought uppermost in his mind was…”) but it is not a synonym for highest in every context. “I have the uppermost respect for Southgate” would just sound weird. So even if he had meant uppermost he would have been wrong; but in any case he did not say uppermost, he said upmost.

  3. Simon Carter permalink

    I think upmost is another American usage but you’re right uppermost does look odd.
    Another strange one – Americans sometimes refer to being “in back” whereas in Britain we don’t but we do say “in front”.

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