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.

No comments:

Post a Comment