Monthly Archives: May 2009

Unique

UNIQUE: “being the only one of a kind; not like anything else” — New Oxford American Dictionary

While most lexicides occur out of sheer ignorance, I have a sneaking suspicion unique’s demise is due to another deadly sin — pride. Yes, folks, unique does not mean “special” or “pretty decent.” Something that is unique is the only one of its kind. There are no other blue diamonds of its size; therefore the Hope Diamond is unique. Unless you have an identical twin, you are genetically unique. The opportunity to win a million-dollar contract is not unique, unless you know for a fact you have no competition in the RFP.

Yes, we at Lexicide concede this word has been mercilessly slaughtered, leaving behind its grieving mates singular and sui generis, so now the secondary entry for unique (please note the uni- root) often reads “special, remarkable.” This writer is certain that business writers the world over know damn well what unique means, but in their pride really do believe any “opportunity” that involves them must be as one-of-a-kind as the Hope Diamond. Not just beneficial. Not just “exciting” (another overused biz-buzz word). No no — at the very apex of desirability. 

And who am I to say otherwise? Just pick a different word.

 Otto E. Mezzo

P.S. If anyone still cares, unique things are just plain unique. By definition, they cannot be very unique, sort of unique or extremely unique. A one-of-a-kind thing is just that — one of a kind. So no modifiers.

P.P.S. While we’re at it, one-of-a-kind means, literally, one of a kind, not “special.”