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I've just read this interesting article.

We were being constantly told back in school years that we couldn't use "more" to modify "perfect".

I kept feeling guilty using "more perfect" until I read the following idea from the article:

Nothing is perfect. When we say "perfect man", it is an exaggeration. Using "perfect" for things that are not perfect opens the door for "more perfect" and even "most perfect".

This is really a sensible and convincing justification to me. Then I think of other words that our teachers wouldn't allow us to modify using "more". For example, people begin to use "more excellent" fairly frequently nowadays.

However, the use of "more excellent" might not be justified convincingly by the same logic that applies to "more perfect" above. The reason is people can absolutely be excellent while nobody can be perfect. If the justification logic for "more perfect" should fail to hold for "more excellent", what could a sensible way to justify the use of "more excellent"?

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closed as not a real question by RegDwigнt Nov 28 '11 at 19:06

It's difficult to tell what is being asked here. This question is ambiguous, vague, incomplete, overly broad, or rhetorical and cannot be reasonably answered in its current form. For help clarifying this question so that it can be reopened, visit the help center.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

Just to nail my colours to the mast, I have no problem with most unique, so I certainly wouldn't take issue with most perfect. And most excellent, although a bit dated in constructions like His most excellent majesty, seems uncontentious to me. But from OP's point of view, surely such usage is either okay because people habitually apply "excellent" to things which aren't truly excellent (same logic as "perfect"), or it's okay because there are degrees of excellence. – FumbleFingers Nov 28 '11 at 17:42
...and here's my justification for saying there are degrees of excellence – FumbleFingers Nov 28 '11 at 17:43
"A More Perfect Union" is the name of a speech delivered by Senator Barack Obama on March 18, 2008 .... and no one would question HIM now that he is President! – GEdgar Nov 28 '11 at 18:30
@GEdgar To be fair, that's a quote from the preamble of the United States Constitution: "We, the People, in order to form a more perfect union…" – Jadasc Nov 28 '11 at 18:33
Your title doesn't match the question. You already have a justification for "more perfect" that satisfies you; what you want is a justification for "more excellent." – Jadasc Nov 28 '11 at 18:35
up vote 1 down vote accepted

It depends on your meaning: If you mean it in the absolute sense, then no. But if you mean "Thoroughly skilled or talented in a certain field or area; proficient", yes, you may say that there are degrees of perfection.

Reminds me of a great W.C. Fields line:

Og Oggilby: Oh... I knew this would happen! I was a perfect idiot to ever listen to you!

Egbert Sousé: You listen to me, Og! There's nothing in this world that is perfect.

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In actual usage, the word "perfect" has been subject to modifiers ever since it was introduced to the language. The rule that you cannot modify "perfect" is, therefore, contrary to actual established usage. It is an example of hypercorrection.


Another construct which sometimes receives unfair criticism is "more optimal".

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