Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Unique is unique; please keep it from oblivion

The word "unique" does NOT take modifers of degree. Something can be "undoubtedly unique," for example, and I'll even stretch acceptability to "really unique," but it cannot be "the most unique" or anything that implies degree, because "unique" means "one of a kind." ("Uni" is Latin for "one.") People say "unique" when they really mean "unusual" or "distinctive" or "special" or "remarkable" or any number of perfectly good adjectives. Let's use them. We should not destroy the uniqueness of "unique." Yes, English is a living language, constantly being revised by its speakers, but there are some words worth preserving, and "unique" is one of them. When it ceases to mean "one of a kind," we'll have to use that four-syllable phrase, not the lovely two syllables of "unique" -- which, unfortunately, probably make it an attractive word to use. The next time someone uses it incorrectly, why not say, "That's not one of a kind, is it?" Yeah, I know, no one likes a usage nag. But someone has to do it.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

One subject is enough, thank you

Weekend sports programs brought this one to the fore, but it's also become much too common on journalism-based shows like "Today." Matt Lauer, are you listening?

I forget the exact name for it, but I'll call it noun-pronoun redundancy: "Eli Manning, he's having a rough day," or "Neil Young, he's got a new album." That's how it's most commonly said. For a long time we heard "Neil Young. He's got a new album," and lived with it, rationalizing that a subject without a verb (sometimes trumpeted in a way that would require an exclamation point if rendered in print) was akin to a "label" headline. But now broadcasters are running it all together, and it's bad grammar. Once, it was a good indicator of poor education. Now, it mainly displays ignorance.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Origin story of this blog

I'm a former broadcaster who has gotten fed up with the bad grammar and other misuse of language on television and radio. Finally, this morning, as I worked on another blog, I realized that blogging my frustrations would not only vent them, but give others the opportunity to do so. The first post involved an expert guest, not a broadcaster, but I consider such guests fair game. They should know how to use the language, and when they misuse it, they foster more misuse, something broadcasters should watch out for; not that they should correct guests on the air, but beware of repeating the errors themselves.

Something wrong with the sense of touch? Nope

Dale Atkins, guest on "Today" 12/29/08, said: " . . . feel badly." Wrong. Right: "bad"