Monday, May 18, 2009
Improperly Qualified Absolutes
Here is a very unique problem. If you recognize the problem already, I was, as usual, trying to catch your attention. "Unique" means different from any other. If a cobra is different from every other snake, how can it be more so? It is either unique or it isn't. Case closed. Similarly, I recently heard a commercial that boasted that a certain product was the most accurate. Now "accurate" means "correct." That's as good as it gets! Once something is correct, it cannot be improved upon in the exact sense that it is correct. A student enters the right answer but his handwriting is not up to par. Ok, we'll work on his handwriting, but we can't improve upon the actual answer. Continuing, "Our multi-vitamin is more complete," you've probably heard in some form. Again, if it's complete, it can't be more so! Here are some other absolute words to watch out for: round, perfect, invisible, etc. Speaking of "perfect," I shook up my seventh grade English and history teachers when I pointed out this problem in the preamble to the Constitution. You remember, ". . . in order to form a more perfect union . . . ." I hope our founding fathers didn't spend too much time trying to improve upon perfection! The real problem was that the union wasn't perfect. It may have been nearly perfect. It follows that the phrase should have been something to the effect of, ". . . in order to form a more nearly perfect union . . . ."