My six year old daughter has thoughtfully countered my argument that you can only have one favorite, but it was not completely successful. Still, I will modify my argument to reflect her insight. While it was not groundbreaking, it was mature and reasoned enough for me to mention.
The conversation started when I asked her which of the Disney princesses was her favorite, and she tried getting away with saying Jasmine, Ariel, and Aurora (i.e. Sleeping Beauty). Next, I asked which of these three was better than the others, and she admitted that Aurora was the one that she liked most. This led me to suggest that Aurora is her favorite, but she was uncomfortable with this. She didn't like leaving out Jasmine and Ariel, so I qualified my statement by saying that while Jasmine, Ariel, and Aurora were her favorites, Aurora is her favorite. This led to more thoughtful discussion.
By definition, you can only have one favorite. However, Natalie points out that you may have favorites. As she described (but I paraphrase), this category includes an undefined but vaguely restricted number, usually a few. While a favorite stands above all others, favorites are not typically ranked against each other but are set above all the unmentioned rest.
Admitting to favorites rather than a favorite would be tantamount to saying (as I suggested two posts ago) "I don't know which is my favorite, but these are contenders."
So, next time you want to say that you have more than one favorite, don't. You can't have more than one if the possessive noun is singular. However, if you make the noun plural (e.g. favorites), you may do so with no denotative non sequitor.
Well argued, Natalie.
She pulled another thoughtful one on us yesterday. We use Netflix, and we love it. On Thursday, we received Disney's 8 Below, a dramatic tale of loyalty and survival in the Antarctic wilderness. Since it was set in Antarctica, Jennie and I assumed that the title, 8 Below, referred to degrees Fahrenheit.
At the end of the movie, Jennie and I were arguing over how many dogs had died. We knew how many lived, and I saw too many living ones, since I recollected that the starting number was seven. This left me thinking that the filmmakers had erred. Jennie however, remembered that there had been eight dogs at the beginning. However, she was not arguing from a position of certitude.
That's when Natalie chimed in, "There were eight. That's why it's called 8 Below." It took a nano-second to process before I realized that she was right. My wife and I had been trapped semantically. I had even noticed the inconsistency of the title with degrees Fahrenheit, since an early scene noted that the temperature was 31 degrees below. Still, I was confined by my rigid usage. Natalie, however, was relatively unfamiliar with the concept of degrees below zero, and was thus able to approach the title in another way. Knowing that Antarctica was at the bottom of the Earth, the title made perfect sense to her.
Well noted, Natalie.