No. 3: “Unique” is not a matter of More or Less, Etc.

“every store is so different and so unique”

This is a quote from a professional trade magazine and reflects the typical misunderstanding of some absolute terms, including “unique.”  The definition from Merriam-Webster.com says “unique” is: “being the only one” or “being without a like or equal.”  The site also acknowledges that “With popular use came a broadening of application beyond the original two meanings…”  Examples included “very unique ball-point pen” or “fairly unique.”  This shows the unfortunate trend toward carelessness in language which has also produced “pre-owned” cars to mean “used” and “everyone has their opinion.”  I assure you these will be dealt with in the future!

It’s understood that language may change over time so that what was unacceptable usage once is now “OK.”  At some point, however, the often unpopular logic should intervene.  “Unique” is an absolute.  There is no scale where we can measure how close something is to being unique.  Either it is or it isn’t.

To use comparisons or modifications of the term flies in the face of reason.  Saying that something has more unique properties than something else would be correct because, in this case, the uniqueness of each property stands alone without modification.  However, saying that a property is quite or more unique would be similar to declaring something or someone is “so best” or “very worst.”  Granted, this situation is not identical because “best” and “worst” are superlatives in a comparison sequence.  Nevertheless, I hope the point is made.

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