Friday, 25 March 2011

How unique can you get?

Most adjectives (“describing words” used with nouns) have so-called degrees of comparison, and school grammar textbooks usually contain (or at least used to contain) exercises to test one’s ability to give the correct “comparative” and “superlative” forms of adjectives, such as “larger – largest” for “large” as opposed to, say, “more expensive – most expensive” for “expensive”.

However, some adjectives cannot (normally) have degrees of comparison, simply because their inherent meanings do not allow it. If a mosquito is dead it is dead – you cannot have one mosquito “deader” or “more dead” than another one just because it was swatted harder!

The word “unique” is one of those adjectives that do not allow for any possibility of comparison. Yet it is not uncommon to hear statements like:

· This wetland is very unique in that it …

· The most unique feature of this machine is …

· This ornament is so unique!

· The band has one of the most unique sounds I’ve ever heard.

Not possible – not in view of dictionary synonyms like “sole”, “only one of its kind”, “irreplaceable” and “matchless”! Just as something cannot be “more matchless” (or “less matchless”, for that matter), “very irreplaceable” or “the most sole” it cannot be “more unique”, “less unique”, “very unique”, “the most unique” or even “so unique”. -ws-

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