Issue 189, page 3

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Guestmudgeon Derek Jensen is a potentially dangerous pedant

It bugs me every time I hear news reporters and documentary narrators talk about "potential danger" and similar constructions, some even more convoluted, like "Eating the spoiled food probably could have put him in potential danger." Danger is merely potential injury, so potential potential injury is still just potential injury. I always want to shout (and sometimes do), "No, eating spoiled food *definitely* would have put him in danger." The same beef applies to other words with potential built into them, like "risk." ("They decided Smith was a possible risk." No, they decided he *was* a risk.)

Sometimes I think that news reporters have got into an unconscious habit of hedging their phrasings against lawsuits by "alleging" everything, so they reflexively use such qualifiers to avoid stating anything definite. And sometimes I think they just don't understand the words they're saying.

Have you heard or read similar or equally distressing usages?

Do tell us. 

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