Absolute Words

31 Mar

This is the most unique blog you will ever see. WRONG! While the sentiment is true—this is a very different blog, that statement is linguistically incorrect. The word “unique” is an absolute word. Meaning, either something is unique or it’s not—there is no such thing as degrees of uniqueness. Therefore, phrases like “really unique” and “kinda unique” are impossible because there are no exceptions to being unique. If you want to be grammatically correct, you should not use an intensifier (really, extremely) + an absolute word. The sentiment you are going for is conveyed without using any modification.

There is a whole list of words that follow the same rules:

  • absolute
  • overwhelmed
  • straight
  • opposite
  • right
  • dead
  • entirely
  • eternal
  • fatal
  • final
  • identical
  • infinite
  • mortal
  • opposite
  • perfect
  • immortal
  • finite
  • irrevocable

The only time using an intensifier to modify an absolute word is permissible if you are trying to using the combination as a rhetorical device to create an effect. For example, you might say “I am half dead” as a hyperbole to show how tired you might be. Aside from that, you should really avoid using an intensifier with a modifier. You’ll thank me later when you want to step up your writing to a more formal level.



26 Responses to “Absolute Words”

  1. jparjets21 1 June 2012 at 11:06 am #

    Great style of writing. The grammar I use is no good. Subscribing!

    • berndavis 1 June 2012 at 11:11 am #

      Gracias! 🙂

  2. Gene K. Garrison 2 June 2012 at 10:20 pm #

    I like punctuation. What about poetry? Do you like it there?

  3. christineevelynvance 3 June 2012 at 8:54 pm #

    Great post! You sound like a kindred spirit; I love editing and am looking forward to reading more of your grammar notes. Thanks for visiting & following my blog.

  4. Neil Viswanathan 3 June 2012 at 10:56 pm #

    Very helpful! Also, thanks for visiting and following my Bridge over the Abyss blog.

  5. The Elitist Semicolon 6 June 2012 at 6:36 pm #

    I…I think I love you.

    • berndavis 6 June 2012 at 7:17 pm #

      This may be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

  6. Ciarrai 6 June 2012 at 8:14 pm #

    What about being mostly dead? Sorry. I can never resist a Princess Bride reference.

  7. Ritva's ART / Ritva Sillanmäki 7 June 2012 at 1:32 am #

    Thanks for the follow.:-) You will flinch when you read my blog – just, well,,, look at the pictures as that is were my talent lies – not in worrds. My grammar, in finnish and in english is horrendous.

  8. languagesupportuk 8 June 2012 at 11:46 am #

    Reblogged this on languagesupportuk and commented:
    Interesting for all of you grammar experts out there of which I am not one, but am constantly learning.

  9. Bill 8 June 2012 at 1:49 pm #

    I wish you were (?) was (?) my teacher in grammer school. I think it’s were. Am I right?

    • berndavis 8 June 2012 at 5:37 pm #

      Yes! Its were 🙂

      • Bill 8 June 2012 at 6:57 pm #

        Many thanks, Bill

  10. Bill 8 June 2012 at 1:51 pm #

    Keep up the Grammer lessons

  11. rangewriter 9 June 2012 at 12:36 pm #

    First of all, thanks for the follow. (Now, I’m nervous because my grammar has gotten sloppier with each post!)
    But secondly, I love these kinds of discussions. Grammar rules were made for breaking, but only if you know you are breaking them and why you are breaking them.

  12. Myxl Dove 19 June 2012 at 4:40 pm #

    Hey, thanks for the follow! I’m a writer and guilty of ongoing convention breaking. lol Is it safe to assume another permissible use of an intensifier with an absolute would be the idiom “feeling completely overwhelmed”? 🙂

    Anyway, I’m also a proofreader and I couldn’t help but notice that you have the word “opposite” on your list twice. But perhaps that was intentional? 😉

  13. Delicious History Blog 20 June 2012 at 9:12 pm #

    I can already tell that I am going to adore your blog. Thanks for the follow and for creating such a fascinating blog.

    • Bill 20 June 2012 at 9:43 pm #

      I not only enjoy your Blog but find it educational. Keeep it comin’ Bill

      • Delicious History Blog 20 June 2012 at 9:51 pm #

        Thank you so much. There should be another post up today to finish off the Cocktail Party series.

  14. Gregoryno6 21 June 2012 at 4:43 pm #

    What about, ‘most uniquest blog’? Anyhow, thanks for dropping by. I like to see language used properly also.

    • BernBabyBern 21 June 2012 at 4:57 pm #

      I dont think uniquest is a word. Is it?

      • Gregoryno6 21 June 2012 at 5:11 pm #

        I’m sure I heard it heard it on the bus just yesterday…

  15. Chris Biscuits 28 June 2012 at 10:23 am #

    What are your views on the use of absolutes or superlatives (or just deliberately bad grammar in general) used for the purposes of absurdity, or comic effect?

    For example, a dimwitted fellow saying something like, ‘Look what you gone and done! You ruined my bestest-est cardigan!’

    • BernBabyBern 28 June 2012 at 10:31 am #

      My general thought is that you can do whatever you want with language. However, if you know the right way do something incorrect then youre going for a particular effect and thats fine. but you’re just wrong if you don’t know the right way. I try to teach people so they do know the right way and can break the rules if they so choose.

      • Chris Biscuits 28 June 2012 at 12:06 pm #

        I think you’re right; one needs to have knowledge and respect for conventions in order to play with them constructively. 🙂

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