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You can find "bluer," "redder," "greener," and "whiter" in the dictionary, but not "blacker." This seems mystifying. In his "El Paso" song, Marty Robbins sang, "Blacker than night were the eyes of Felina." During the recent Presidential campaign, some pundits asked, "Is Mitt Romney blacker than Barack Obama? NASA has created a new nanotube material that is "blacker than black paint," according to various published reports. There are several official shades of black, such as taupe and ebony, leading to the presumption that some shades are "blacker" than others. Since "blacker" is not in the dictionary, would the proper usage be "more black."

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Use "more black", otherwise pedant people can say you are wrong. In fact "black" is made by one syllable. –  user19148 May 5 '13 at 20:16
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@Carlo: The words blacker and blackest are historically much more common than more black and most black. See this Ngram. The increase in "more black" and "most black" around 1970 has nothing to do with comparatives or superlatives. Rather, it is because that is when "black" became the politically correct word to call African-Americans, rather than "colored" or "Negro". –  Peter Shor May 5 '13 at 20:45
    
@PeterShor As in "more black people..." or "most black Southerners..." –  Charles May 6 '13 at 2:42
    
@Carlo_R. See above comment ^^^ –  Charles May 6 '13 at 2:43
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3 Answers 3

The reason that some dictionaries do not contain "blacker" and "blackest" is that "black" is considered to be an absolute adjective. This is the same reason you are not supposed to say "more perfect", "more unique", "whiter", "deader", or "fuller". See, for example, this web page.

There are lots of people who do not abide by this "rule". For example, Shakespeare, Procol Harum and the writers of the United States Constitution.

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As I mentioned in an earlier post, "true" and "truer" and "false and "falser" are all in the dictionary. You can even put the "gradable adjective / absolute" argument to the ultimate test. Both the U.S. and World Scrabble Dictionaries list "absoluter" and "absolutest" as valid words! I don't know where they got them though. I have yet to find them in any other authoritative dictionary. –  Bill Oakey May 5 '13 at 21:55
    
If only black was absolute - those of us who work in optical engineering would save a huge amount of time, money and effort. –  mgb May 6 '13 at 3:22
    
We usually use 'black' to mean 'near-black', of course. Then 'blacker' is short for 'more nearly black'. I'm planning on using 'purpler', 'pucer' and 'cyaner' someday, though 'magentaer', 'heliotroper', 'caeruleaner' and 'lateritiouser' would obviously be ill-formed. –  Edwin Ashworth May 6 '13 at 17:50
    
@EdwinAshworth "ceruleaner" sounds like someone from Cerulea –  Charles May 6 '13 at 18:10
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What dictionary are you using? With a quick online search, I see the word "blacker" in these:

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In their definition for "black," Merriam-Webster references the phrase "tried to play blacker jazz." But the word "blacker" is not listed as part of the definition. Similarly, Oxford references "blackest" in a sentence. But whereas both of them list "bluer" and "bluest" as specific derivatives right below the main definition, neither dictionary lists "blacker" and "blackest." As for the "Wiktionary" and "Dictionary.com," I do not consider those to be as authoritative as Merriam-Webster, Oxford, and Collins. –  Bill Oakey May 5 '13 at 20:39
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@Carlo_R.- "Rules" are made to be broken- especially when talking about English. I've never heard of that rule, and I'm not really convinced that it even is a rule. lighter, tighter, smaller, taller, colder, hotter, harder, neater ... –  Jim May 5 '13 at 20:52
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To Carlo_R, It is the words with more than one syllable that can often not be appended with an "er." See the Oxford Dictionary's discussion of this topic: oxforddictionaries.com/us/words/… –  Bill Oakey May 5 '13 at 21:16
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@BillOakey I'm trying to understand what kind of answer you're looking for. Blacker and blackest are both commonly used words. Do not use more black which just sounds awkward. It sounds to me that your dictionary is deficient or overly pedantic. –  Charles May 5 '13 at 22:05
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@Carlo_R.: you have the rule wrong. It is multisyllabic words that cannot add the suffix '-est'. –  Mitch May 5 '13 at 22:30
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As technical terms, blackest and blacker are still going strong:

Acktar Black ™– world blackest coating – now 1% reflectance from FUV to FIR

World's blackest material unveiled

Blacker Than Black:

Black is black, right? Not so, according to a team of NASA engineers now developing a blacker-than pitch material that will help scientists gather hard-to-obtain scientific measurements or observe currently unseen astronomical objects, like Earth-sized planets in orbit around other stars. The nanotech-based material now being developed by a team of 10 technologists at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., is a thin coating of multi-walled carbon nanotubes — tiny hollow tubes made of pure carbon about 10,000 times thinner than a strand of human hair.

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And don't forget Father Ted's assertion that priests wear blacker socks than anybody else. –  Mynamite May 6 '13 at 0:05
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