The Angry Grammarian

Uniquely American

By Jeffrey Barg
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 0 | Posted Oct. 29, 2008

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Readers were divided on my recent bombproof argument that "more unique" is perfectly acceptable usage. "Unique is black and white or one of one. Something either is or is not unlike anything else. It's superlative," insisted one reader too scared to even give me their name.

But another (more sane) reader wrote, "Okay about 'unique.' What about modifiers to 'perfect'?"

Ooh. I love a challenge.

On the one hand, dictionary definitions of "perfect" are already superlative--and there's no wiggle room, as there is with "unique."

On the other hand, are you going to argue with "a more perfect union," just days before we elect the guy who's gonna get us there?

At least until Tuesday, can we use "more perfect"? Yes we can.

Sarah Palin mispronounces "nuclear," the same as President Bush. Why is this word so hard to pronounce?

With any luck, by this time next week, we won't ever have to hear Sarah Palin's name again. Or her goddamn "nucular" pronunciation, for that matter.

In her defense, "nucular" has been accepted as an alternate pronunciation in dictionaries for a while now. But you'll remember that in her convention speech, Palin said "nuclear." Only later did one of her handlers suggest the change to "nucular," probably to remind the base of when they used to like George W. Bush.

Knowing this, are the Republicans' re-embracing dictionaries, after their eight-year exile in the wilderness? "If John McCain has a Webster's dictionary, the words not in it are surrender, quit or give up," former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge was quoted saying last week in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

A Republican official--almost the vice presidential candidate--quoting a dictionary? Maybe we're turning the page on the Bush era after all.

Then again, Gov. Tom Smartypants is the guy who didn't get picked. Maybe if he rips a few hundred more pages out of the dictionary, the party will like him better for 2012.

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