Saturday, July 07, 2007

A Very Unique Post

As a certified Grumpy Old Man and Victor Meldrew clone, I hated learning today that one of my pet peeves needs to be qualified, toned down or even discarded completely. It's been like losing a family pet, a close friend or even a footy team I've supported for well over 30 years. I'm just not sure I can do it.

It all started this morning when I glanced at my digital watch to make sure I was up and about in time to watch the start of the cricket on tv. Oh don't even THINK about teasing me on that one. I told you I'm in mourning so don't kick me when I'm down. I LIKE watching cricket on tv, ok !! Just let it go and move on.

Anyway the watch display caught my bleary eyes attention as the row of numbers along the top which show the date, read 070707. Putting aside my disappointment that I hadn't been awake to see the time register 0707 several hours ago, I thought about how unusual this sort of date really was. Well I had to constantly stir my porridge for 5 minutes so my mind needed something to focus on.

For a start it's one of those rare dates when we're in sync with our American cousins who yet again decided to be different and put the month first when specifying dates. It's also when I don't have to remember that my watch was bought over there and so do a sort of mental switch around every time I use it to check the date. Thankfully it's not something I need to do very often.

So it's a unique date then. Or is it ? Well with the cinnamon and raisins combining nicely in my porridge, I discussed this question with myself. How many days in history will ever be written down as 070707 ? Well.....only this one of course. Hmmmmm. Ok then, how many days will be written down as tomorrow's date, 080707 (or 070807 for Americans) ? Again only one. So on that basis, EVERY date is unique. Rats.

So why has 070707 taken my eye ? It's not even a palindrome unless you put it in groups of 2 numbers or remove the zeros and that's just cheating. Well it's one of those dates when it's almost a pleasure to write a cheque (or check) or fill in a form as your pen fairly speeds across the paper - 070707. Woooohooooo.

And so that was that. The date today is just a minor amusing series of numbers which combine to be unique in the sense that every date is unique. Ah but once again I'd woken the Kraken that is the word UNIQUE.

Almost numero uno on my list of pet peeves has been the use of the word unique in modern society. For me it was always pretty clear - unique came from the Latin unicus meaning ONE. As so, it cannot be preceded by anything like 'somewhat' or 'very' or 'almost' as these would be superfluous at best and downright bad grammar at worst. So I'd go easily into Meldrew Meltdown Mode anytime I'd hear "quite unique", "very unique" and the most irritating of all......."one of the most unique" Grrrrrrrrrr.

But then I decided to do something I'd never done before. Something unique in fact. I looked the word up in a dictionary. Just to be sure of my facts, you know :

Function: adjective

1 : being the only one : SOLE
2 a : being without a like or equal : UNEQUALED
: distinctively characteristic : PECULIAR

usage Many commentators have objected to the comparison or modification (as by somewhat or very) of unique, often asserting that a thing is either unique or it is not. Objections are based chiefly on the assumption that unique has but a single absolute sense, an assumption contradicted by information readily available in a dictionary. Unique dates back to the 17th century but was little used until the end of the 18th when, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, it was reacquired from French. Around the middle of the 19th century it ceased to be considered foreign and came into considerable popular use. With popular use came a broadening of application beyond the original two meanings (here numbered 1 and 2a). In modern use both comparison and modification are widespread and standard but are confined to the extended senses 2b and 3. When sense 1 or sense 2a is intended, unique is used without qualifying modifiers.

Qualifying modifiers are allowed !! What, what, what !!! My world was turned upside down. My porridge stuck in my throat. (That was more likely due to not using enough milk though).

Oh great. So now when some young whipper snapper VDJ on MTV says that the latest one hit wonder has a 'very unique voice", I have to work out the sense implied before I can rant and rave and fire off an email to The London Times about the lack of basic education shown on tv these days.

We are NOT amused. 070707 will certainly go down in my life as the day I lost something very close to me. I lost something to grumble about. I lost something to get on my soapbox about.

I lost........something quite unique.

1 comment:

Daphne said...

Cricket on the television? You must be rather unique in wanting to watch such a thing - - remember the Goodies years ago, when they used to watch cricket and it was always a still photograph? Hmmm.

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