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Why I hate the word “unique”

February 5, 2011

Alright. I lied. I don’t hate it. I hate people who use it incorrectly and who completely destroys their point because what they just said doesn’t make sense.

UNIQUE Is a wonderful word. We can use it to describe something that is “the only one of a particular type”, or “one without equal”. It is – generally agreed – a good and useful sort of word that conveys an important concept quite clearly. Even the dumbest of schoolchildren could grasp the idea of “uniqueness”, which would mean a person/place/thing that is unparalleled, totally different, and absolutely without peer. Platypuses and the rest of the monotremes are unique in that they lay eggs instead of giving birth. The Eiffel Tower is unique because there exists only one (not counting the facsimiles found in attraction parks). Antarctica is unique because it is the only continent without reptiles or snakes. Despite all my missed stop signs and absence of blinkers, does anyone see what I’m trying to drive at here?

(On an off note, quite a lot of people believe that this adjective apply to themselves. That is true in only the most pedantic way possible. Given what I’m about to type out below, me calling someone else “pedantic” is pushing it a bit. I understand that many kids today are convinced they are precious snowflakes, and maybe they are. Snowflakes are cold, clumpy, and tend to dissolve upon any close inspection. While certainly serving an important function in life and assuring the continuing natural balance of things, a good deal of shoveling is probably the best way to deal with both.)
(Disclaimer: I’m one of you! Please don’t kill me.)

The use (and misuse) of the word unique is irritating: we insist on adding unnecessary superlatives in front of them as if that actually made any sense whatsoever. It’s exactly one of those phrases that sound very good spoken out loud, but then turn out to be nonsensical cat vomit once our brain catches up with our mouths. Most of the time our brains are sluggish and out of shape couch potatoes when compared to our steroid-pumped gym-bunny vocal cords. Vocal cords are the over-eager snots who volunteer to go first during gym class. Brains are the stereotypically withdrawn awkward nerd like things who get pelted with volleyballs. The volleyballs, in this way too drawn out metaphor, are the emotions. The nets can be like human’s natural inhibition towards outright stupidity or something.

Anyways, a singer does not have a “very unique” voice. A tv show is not “the most unique” one on air today . There are no varying degrees of “uniqueness” ; the word should have a black-or-white, yes-or-no, 0-or-1 binary quality. Is this unique? (Y/N). It is or it isn’t. People shouldn’t be able to answer “a little yes”, “somewhat yes”, or “very much so yes”. That confuses people like me who cares a lot about these things. All seven of us. Besides, the only way I know how to respond to something that confuses me is TO RAGE. AND THEN TO KILL.Which, as we can all agree , is not a pleasant way to start off a Monday. For the love of sad nitpicky losers like me, can we stop the unique abuse?

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