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Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Pet Peeve: More Unique

Friends, writers, random people who happened on this post, I know that we Americans love our superlatives. It's why we're gaga about exclamation points. Nothing is just enjoyable; it has to be

or we can't say we've gotten any pleasure out of it. I'd love to launch what might be called a moderation campaign, but my reasonably pitched voice would be lost in a sea of grinning emoticons and boldfaced adjectives.

And yet.

We do have to keep in mind what certain words mean, which brings me to this month's peeve (finally, they sigh): unique. Here's Webby's definition:
being without a like or equal :  single in kind or excellence :  UNEQUALED : SOLE
So if you think something is particularly unusual, distinctive, what have you, you might call it unique, but is that in fact what you mean? Unique means one of a kind, so something or someone can hardly be more unique than someone or something else. Unique is thus a word than can have no comparitive. You could say:
That's the strangest-looking dog I've ever seen.
But you couldn't say:
That's the most unique dog I've ever seen.
That implies that you've seen unique dogs before, but not one quite that unique. 

Think about another word--best--that can have no comparative. Or fastest. Only one horse in a race is the fastest. No one says:
The palomino was pretty fastest, but the chestnut was definitely more fastest than he.
So do let's stop calling an unusual thing or person very unique or the most unique, shall we? Try using exceptional, remarkable, unusual, or some other adjective. That will help add a few more years to my weak heart. 

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