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above

Some people think I’m above creating a self-referential statement about the word above as a witless way to introduce this entry. Obviously, they are wrong.

Above is another one of those quiet, unassuming little words that valiantly serves a number of purposes.

For example, if you are above something then, if that something is an object, you are higher than it relative to the ground. Yet, if it’s an action that you are above, then it means that you are too principled to engage in that possibly dubious activity.

Some people debate whether this is a correct form, but in common usage above can also mean “more than,” such as in, “The probability that politicians will say what they think voters want to hear, regardless of whether it’s what the politicians believe, is likely above 90 percent.”

A variation on the preceding definition is “higher in rank,” such as “the president is above the vice president in the hierarchy.” Be careful to include the “in the hierarchy” or words to that effect. If the president is physically above the vice president, with no space between them, there might be a sexual harassment suit in the works afterward. It’s best to avoid any misunderstandings.

Above also means that something was stated in the preceding text such as, “Above, I included an incredibly stupid, not the least bit funny, self-referencing sentence about the word above.”

In addition, “believers” (you know who you are) often refer to heaven as above. And non-believers might use above when referring simply to the sky.

So, after considering all that I’ve said above, I feel that one would be justified in saluting the word above. It’s certainly not above all other words, but it’s above a great many of them.

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