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I know this is a bit odd to ask, but I'm really stumped on this SAT question (Test 4, Section 8, Q: 17). The author is deriding the critics of television.

Unlike everyone else, the theorist has remained completely intact morally, can distinguish in a sovereign manner between deception and reality, and enjoys complete immunity in the face of the idiocy that he or she sorrowfully diagnoses in the rest of us.

In line 59, "sovereign" is best understood to mean

A) excellent

B) opulent

C) elitist

D) absolute

E) oppressive

I chose A and the correct answer is D. I'm really confused on this. Would someone mind clarifying?

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    Huh. Looking at the context, I'd have gone with C.
    – user867
    Commented Mar 5, 2014 at 3:02
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    It's pompous phrasing in the original context, and imho a stupid thing to be testing in a SAT exam. None of the crudely cobbled together alternatives is a precise synonym today But note that #A is credible (OED B2a: Of things, qualities, etc.: Supreme, paramount; principal, greatest, or most notable.). In context it's very likely #D was the intended sense, but I bet the idiot who set the test didn't even know that this was a subjective choice. Commented Mar 5, 2014 at 3:03
  • Sovereign generally refers to an absolute or ultimate authority, like a ruler. What's causing you confusion here? Commented Mar 5, 2014 at 3:03
  • A is credible for meaning and C for context (biting criticism), but only D fits both. Commented Mar 5, 2014 at 3:08
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    @Bradd: It's effectively a figurative usage, and at the end of the day even if 99% of people agreed on one of these choices, that can't justify automatically classifying the dissenter as wrong. I think this is a silly sort of test. Commented Mar 5, 2014 at 3:14

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Think of the phrase "sovereign nation", that is, a country that is recognized as being a legitimate entity by the international community, without question. In this context, absolute means undisputable or unquestioned.

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