Archive for the 'White Stripes' 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.