It has come to my attention that our everyday language is overflowing with superlatives. Everything is awesome or the best, perfect, highest, lowest or ultimate. Unless you live in the advertising world, the real world is never like that.

Superlatives, as you already know, are words that express “the highest quality or degree.” It is curious that the dictionary uses the superlative “highest” to define superlative, but in the end the dictionary is really the ultimate circular reference where words are defined with other words.

My friend Dave “the poet” Morrison is unmatchable when it comes to chiding people who maximize the use of superlatives.

Dave is the nicest person you would ever want to meet. He is even-keeled and has an agreeable demeanor and a great intellect that he uses to detect the ironies and amusing quirks of the universe, which he manages to get on paper and call poetry. It’s just a quality you have to have as a poet. The only time Dave can get mildly agitated is when something is exaggerated to the limit when in fact it’s just an everyday occurrence.

During a casual conversation, you might state, “I was the best in my class when I was in first grade.” Dave will give you his unmatchable look of displeasure, which is sort of a half smirk, combined with a verbal “hmm.” If he chooses to question your superlative he may ask, “How are you so sure it was first grade?” Never to dwell on the unpleasant, he will then revert to his normal, happy, accepting self.

Was it awesome? Probably not. Was it the best? Only an exaggeration. There is nothing like it? How can you know? You came up with the optimal solution? Only if the set of all possible solutions was discovered and explored.

Most adjectives have three states: the basic word, the comparative adjective and then the superlative adjective like big, bigger and biggest; cold, colder, coldest; or bad, badder, baddest, which is all wrong as bad is an irregular form where we should properly say bad, worse and worst. Baddest is only acceptable in poetry as when referring to Leroy Brown; you know, “the baddest man in the whole damned town.”

Words like unique, infinite, empty and dead only have one form as they are definitely considered superlatives but they are either off or on; there are no varying degrees of infinite or differing qualities of dead. Yes, yes, I know about zombies but please can we stay on track here just this once?

Getting back to Dave, you will find that he is the most interesting kind of poet because he has a dark past of playing the club circuit in a live band. No doubt he played guitar at odd hours of the night and probably wore sunglasses and skinny ties doing it. He knows the words and chord progressions to all the songs ever written and you can always find him reading his poetry while playing his guitar in the rarest venues in our corner of the world that allow this type of behavior. Dave skillfully matches the tone of the music to the tone of the poem and sometimes recites to the rhythm of the guitar, making him, you guessed it, a beat poet.

Dave himself is not immune to hyperbole but his poems are not drenched with superlatives. I suppose he is using his poetic license when he says, “I’ve never seen a night sky like this one …” in his book with the superlative title “The Whole Megillah.” It would be fitting indeed if Dave could use the superlative “bestseller” regarding this supreme book touted as “all killer, no filler,” like that is ever going to happen with a book classified as poetry.

Dave argues that the best uses of superlatives are in describing truly unparalleled circumstances: “awesome” for the next time you see God and “dead” for your condition when you see him.

So there you have it, the absolute word on superlatives and their best use.

And a final note about Dave: he is the person who has challenged me to use the words Deuteronomy, Manischewitz and xylophone in a single column which, for the life of me, I have never been able to do. I’ve managed to sneak one or two but not all three words into a single column. It’s an awesome problem that I will never solve but I’ll give it my best shot.