Don’t ‘measure the measurer’. Advertisers are major culprits but you might have seen this type of error in other places. What does it mean? It’s such a common mistake, you mightn’t even realise why it’s wrong.
If you were to ask one hundred people for the definition of ‘trite’, I predict a large percentage would say it means ‘silly’, ‘superficial’, ‘inconsequential’, ‘trivial’ or something similar. That’s not what it means, though.
We can use one or more of those words to describe something which also happens to be trite, but the words aren’t directly related. None of the words is a synonym of ‘trite’.
When it comes to absolute adjectives, either it is or it isn’t.
You’ve probably heard statements like ‘That’s a fairly unique design’ or ‘He has a very unique style’. The problem is that ‘unique’ is what we call an absolute adjective. Something is either unique (the only one of its kind) or it isn’t; there are no degrees of uniqueness.
Just one of the brilliant things about a shared language is that it brings clarity of meaning. Whenever we communicate, we should at least try to avoid ambiguity and confusion. A discussion about whether to use ‘may’ or ‘might’ illustrates this point really well.
I’ll start with a couple of statements. They are not hard and fast rules but, if you follow them most of the time, you won’t go far wrong.