OnText Grammar Police talk about how unique a thing can be


Google the phrase “more unique” and you will likely encounter some 74,000,000 incorrect, from my point-of-view, uses of the word unique. Unique is an absolute term. It describes something that has no equal, no peer. Like, “The Earth is unique among the planets we know.”

I always felt completely secure in that point of view. I knew, absolutely, that a description of being unique can’t be compared among nouns. Sort of like pregnant can’t be relative. You are or you ain’t.

Oh yes, I stood my ground, until I checked an online dictionary and found this!

  1. existing as the only one or as the sole example; single; solitary in type or characteristics: a unique copy of an ancient manuscript. (Ok, works for me.)
  2. having no like or equal; unparalleled; incomparable: Bach was unique in his handling of counterpoint. (Yep. Good.)
  3. limited to a single outcome or result; without alternative possibilities: Certain types of problems have unique solutions. (I’m nodding righteously. Damned straight.)
  4. not typical; unusual: She has a very unique smile. (Say whuuuut?!?!?!)

Even J.D. Salinger and Merriam Webster stand against me – “We were fairly unique, the sixty of us, in that there wasn’t one good mixer in the bunch “— J. D. Salinger.

I concede, though I will forever maintain one can’t be slightly pregnant. Never again will I whine about those dolts who don’t realize you can’t be a little unique. You can. And I am.

Read more:
Grammar police: Comparative adjectives
Grammar Day from grammar police
Grammar police – future conditional

Twitter Digg Delicious Stumbleupon Technorati Facebook Email

6 Responses to “OnText Grammar Police talk about how unique a thing can be”

  1. Maryan,
    Thank you. I correct someone on this at least once a week. It may not change their usage–this solecism is ingrained in most of the population–but it will cause a significant portion of them some discomfort. At least they will be aware that they are stumbling.
    Now if I could just get people to pronounce “hummus” correctly. It is “hoomoos,” an Arabic word for the beans used in making it. It was incorrectly transliterated by some numbskull, and it has entered general usage via hippies, who are the most resistant to change of any part of the English-speaking world.
    E. K. Riemer

  2. Eunice,
    I love hummus, and think the word is fun to say, correctly. 🙂

  3. Thanks; that was a fairly unique post! 😉
    W. Jordan

  4. Your point is well taken, if not your search process. You seemed to have searched without quotation marks. So on a search of those two words which today supposedly produced “about 640,000,000 results,” by page 11 of those results I was sent to links that used both words but not consecutively.

    Put them in quotations and you encounter “about 1,560,000 results” but also one of the odd things about Google search. While this number is usually referenced when someone wishes to illustrate the enormous number of hits on Google, the number is meaningless. As far as I can determine it includes enormous numbers of duplicates. I’m not sure why. The only way to find the real number is to go to the last page of search finding and see the count there.

    In this case there are a mere 761 unique citations, although “unique” in this case means only 761 UNIQUE WEB PAGES that contain the term. Because the web offers many pages that are content duplicates or which cite large blocks of text from other pages, a more careful analysis would demonstrate that even 761 was overstated.

    The grammatical problem is real, but not as severe as you would imagine.

  5. Thanks tremendously for the input. I can’t imagine most users going to that length. By page 11, actually by page two most of the time, of any Google search, the user has made a choice and moved on. I used the example for drama. If that was misunderstood, I beg pardon. 🙂

    Thad, you got a lot of time on your hands? 🙂