Monday, September 19, 2011

Realtiv* (for Relativ*)

A friend calls it his "Theory of Relative Absolutes" and claims to have detected three cases of it recently during a single day of television watching: "pretty much exactly"; "slightly original"; and "one of the most unique." Some people would argue that "absolute truth" constitutes a similar solecism (employing a modifier when none is needed), and while I might agree with that, I did once use the phrase "absolute truthiness" in a piece about evolution vs. creationism. (I even did this before Stephen Colbert claimed to have invented the word "truthiness," but that's a story for another time.) Another seeming example of the Relative Absolute is "practically perfect," as in the song lyric from Mary Poppins, who I once dressed up as for Halloween, nailing the look "pretty much exactly." (In any event, I was really sort of supercalifragilisticexpialidocious). On the other hand, it's possible that this is more misguided pedantry than anything else and that, in truth (if not absolute truth), there is nothing wrong with saying "very unique." Given that there are relative degrees of infinity, this point could be debated more or less forever. It shouldn't take you anywhere near that long, however, to find and correct our typo of the day, which turned up five times in OhioLINK and 290 times in WorldCat.

(Logo for the BBC sitcom Absolutely Fabulous, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

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