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I have a sentence that currently reads "All they want is to be extraordinary."

There's nothing wrong with that. I can certainly live with it. But what I want is a sentence in the form "All they want is 'extraordinariness.'"

Is there a good word for that in English? My vocabulary doesn't usually fail me so spectacularly.

In case it helps anyone, I'm writing an essay about the inevitable choice between dual mediocrities which characterises the identity of East German youth in Sonnenallee.

....I'm also writing it in German. So if anyone happens to know a word in German that doesn't necessarily have a good English translation, I'd be happy to learn of it (preferably in a comment.) :)

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What about Einzigartigkeit? In Dutch, uniciteit (a typical vogue word of our times). – Cerberus Mar 1 '11 at 1:42
In the grand German tradition of piling on modifiers until the semantic barrier gives way beneath the sheer tonnage, I nominate selbstausgezeichnetheit. :) – chaos Mar 1 '11 at 2:04
up vote 4 down vote accepted

I think the word you are looking for is greatness.

Shakespeare in Twelfth Night coined what is probably the most famous usage of this word

Be not afraid of greatness: some are born great, some achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon them.

Edit: You could also try exceptionality, but that is somewhat odd sounding, not very common, and in my opinion nowhere near as great as greatness.

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I would suggest excellence, or, if it's the slightest bit appropriate to your context, a gorgeous loan word from the Greek that is something like the concept of excellence greatly intensified, arete.

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...I thought of excellence, but I'm trying to find a word that combines excellence and individuality. My best approximation was "extraordiness," which doesn't work... Thanks for the thought, though! – kitukwfyer Mar 1 '11 at 1:56

How about transcendence (The state of exceeding usual limits)? Merriam-Webster gives as an example "...makes a case for the transcendence of Louis Armstrong's contributions to the field of jazz..."

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...Huh. I've never thought of "transcendence" quite like that, but it might just work. It's always had spiritual connotations in my mind, but if I'm just making that up (or something), I might try it. Thanks! – kitukwfyer Mar 1 '11 at 2:45
@kitukwfyer: You're welcome. It does also have those connotations (transcendental meditation, the transcendental movement in the arts, and so on), but its primary meaning is just that sense of exceeding limits. If it works for you, great! – PSU Mar 1 '11 at 2:53

What about uniqueness or unicity? Or singularity? To be honest I have always found such words to be dubious sociologese jargon...

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Self-actualization (Selbstverwirklichung auf Deutsch) seems to map fairly well to the meaning you're looking for.

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How about "outstanding"? Commonly used in the military.

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