Meaning of “X is the biggest since Y”

2018-03-26 16:48:32

This has confused me for a very long time. I might be overthinking this and this may a super simple concept, but if anyone can confirm or clarify, I'd really appreciate it! :-)

When the media use the 'since' to compare a something to a previous benchmark, I'm not sure I totally understand what is being said.

A couple of examples:

1. "Israeli air strikes against Syria 'biggest since 1982'"

2. "US trade deficit largest since President George W. Bush"

In #1, does this mean that the Israeli air strikes in 1982 were bigger than the current ones?

OR was there a peak in 1981 or before?

In #2, does this suggest that the US trade deficit was larger under President George W Bush?

OR was the trade deficit larger prior to George W Bush's administration?

The more I think about this the more confused I get. I guess what I'm trying to understand is in the construct: "X is the biggest since Y", is Y the high water mark?

"since Y" means "the period after Y". So "this is the

  • "since Y" means "the period after Y". So "this is the biggest X since Y" means "of all X after Y, this is the biggest". If a "since Y" is included, there's usually a reason: either Y was bigger, or data from before Y is not available. For instance, if records of snowfall go back only to 1850 in a particular region, a snowfall might be reported as "The most snow since 1850", because it's unknown whether snowfall before 1850 was larger. So in cases where records have been kept, one can generally infer that Y is bigger (otherwise, why exclude it), but it's not explicitly asserted. "[The] US trade deficit [is the] largest since President George W. Bush" means that the current trade deficit is larger than all other trade deficit after Bush. Trade deficits during Bush's term would not be included. It's implied that at some point during Bush's term, trade deficits were higher than they are now, but the statement would be literally true even if trade deficits under Bush were never higher.

    2018-03-26 17:19:20
  • The use of since has more subtleties than I was aware of.

    "Since" can mean:

    1.from a definite past time until now

    3.after a time in the past

    So when saying "since 1982" could mean from 1982 onward, or from after 1982 onward. One being inclusive and the other being exclusive of the earlier time.

    "Israeli air strikes against Syria 'biggest since 1982'"

    Technically it's not necessary that there were bombings in 1982, that's just the time they chose as the beginning from which to measure. However it's implied that there were larger bombings in 1982 and that they were larger than the current ones. The following timeline would match the meaning of the sentence.


    BOMBS DROPPED____ 100 tons___ 80 tons _______ 30 tons_____________ 50 tons

    As would:


    2018-03-26 17:32:38