Archive for the 'music' Category

The White Stripes and an Error in Diction: “very unique”

June 13, 2006

A producer who claims to have played a crucial role in the development of the White Stripes' very unique sound is suing the band for a share of its royalties.

This sentence contains an error in diction. "Unique" is an absolute adjective, which means that it cannot be modified in a comparative manner. "Unique" means "unlike anything else; having no equal." Someone or something is either unique or not unique. Someone or something cannot be very unique or more unique than others, just as someone or something cannot be very dead or more dead than others.

A new meaning of "unique" has developed: the definition of this word has come to include "unusual," which is not absolute and can be modified in a comparative manner. However, standardized examinations test knowledge of standard written English, and this meaning of "unique" is not presently standard. You should be aware of this usage so that you can identify the error on an examination, and you should avoid using a comparatively modified form of "unique" in your writing.

Correct the sentence by removing the comparative modifier "very."

A producer who claims to have played a crucial role in the development of the White Stripes' unique sound is suing the band for a share of its royalties.

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The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Tom Petty, and a Faulty Comparison

June 8, 2006

The Red Hot Chili Peppers have released a song that sounds remarkably like Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. A radio station played the Chili Peppers' “Dani California” at the same time as Tom Petty's “Mary Jane’s Last Dance” to demonstrate the songs' strikingly similar chord progressions and rhythms.

While the comparison between the two songs may not be faulty, the first sentence contains a grammatical faulty comparison. It is not logical to compare a song to a band. Songs should be compared to songs.

The Red Hot Chili Peppers have released a song that sounds remarkably like one by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. A radio station played the Chili Peppers' “Dani California” at the same time as Tom Petty's “Mary Jane’s Last Dance” to demonstrate the songs' strikingly similar chord progressions and rhythms.

The sentence compares "a song" to "one by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers." This comparison is logical. The sentence is correct.

50 Cent, Ludacris, Ice Cube, and an Error in Diction

May 31, 2006

50 Cent, Ludacris, and Ice Cube have all expressed frustration with Oprah Winfrey for not featuring rap artists on her show. The latter said, "Maybe she's got a problem with hip-hop."

The second sentence contains an error in diction. Since three people are listed, "latter" should not be used. "Latter" refers to the second of two things or people. If there are more than two things or people in a series, use "last."

The sentence should read as follows:

50 Cent, Ludacris, and Ice Cube have all expressed frustration with Oprah Winfrey for not featuring rap artists on her show. The last said, "Maybe she's got a problem with hip-hop."