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Sui generis (pronounced [ˈs(j)uːaɪ ˈdʒɛnərɪs] or [ˈsuːɪ ˈdʒɛnərɪs]) is a term from Latin. It can be translated to Of (his/her/its) own kind. It basically means that something has very special characteristics. They are so special, that the thing cannot really be compared to anything else. It is used in various contexts. The term was invented by philosophers. What they originally wanted to say was that an idea is so specific as to be unique, that it cannot really be part of a broader concept.
When lawyers talk about something being sui generis, they mean that something is unique. It cannot be compared. With intellectual property, a design can be sui generis.
The European Union is something that has come to be in the last few years. In some ways it is like state in others like a confederation of states or an international organisation. It is mostly classified as sui generis.
In the sociology of Emile Durkheim, sui generis is used to illustrate his theories on social existence. He says that society, as it was there before any living individual was born, is independent of all individuals. His sui generis (its closest English meaning in this sense being 'independent') society will furthermore continue its existence after the individual ceases to interact with it.
Examples in media
Meryl Streep was praised in a Wall Street Journal review of The Devil Wears Prada: "(her) pitch-perfect portrayal of Miranda is sui generis, with a dramatic existence of its own, as unique and memorable as, say, a Bette Davis character."
Martin Kettle in The Guardian said about hung parliaments: "Each is sui generis, dependent on the particular parliamentary arithmetic, inter-party momentum and surrounding political circumstances."
Slate has used the term several times; one article discussed the unique variations of French Rose Champagne: "Grower Champagnes are wines made by small farmers in the Champagne region who, bucking convention, choose to craft their own wines rather than sell their grapes to the major Champagne houses. Typical of farmer fizzes, the grower rosés are utterly sui generis—in a few cases almost freakishly so."
- Hochswender, Woody (2006-07-13). "Where Angels Fear to Tread". The Wall Street Journal: p. D10.
- Kettle, Martin (2006-09-16). "Short's vision of a new dawn will fade into the twilight". TheGuardian.com. The Guardian. http://politics.guardian.co.uk/constitution/comment/0,,1873950,00.html. Retrieved 2007-06-17.
- Steinberger, Mike (2006-12-22). "In the Pink: How rosé champagnes got hot". Slate.com. http://www.slate.com/id/2156032/pagenum/all/#page_start. Retrieved 2007-06-17.
- Leopold, Todd (2006-12-25). "James Brown". The Marquee. CNN. http://www.cnn.com/SHOWBIZ/blogs/marquee/2006/12/james-brown.html. Retrieved 2007-06-17.
- Morris, Dick (2007-05-30). "National vs. Local Trends". TheHill.com. Capitol Hill Publishing. http://thehill.com/dick-morris/national-vs.-local-trends-2007-05-30.html. Retrieved 2007-06-17.