22 June 2010

On "potential" (self-indulgent rant)

I do realise that this is of little interest to anyone else, but it's my blog, so read or move on!

I am prompted by hearing on BBC Radio 4 news of all places that something or someone is a "potential threat" to whatever.

This is not merely oxymoronic, it also dilutes the original idea to "threat of a threat".

The following list is not exhaustive,  but the notion of  potentiality is not merely implicit but clearly embedded in the following:
  • chance
  • danger 
  • opportunity
  • probability 
  • risk 
  • threat
 So to qualify them with "potential" is to weaken them.

"Potential" is a useful qualifier for something concrete--indeed certain-- such as "result", "outcome" "consequence"--but whose qualities are as yet unknown.

[Incidentally... "more/few/fewer" is the term for items which can be counted. "more/less" is the term for quantities which need to be measured. (Yes, I know, "term" is not the best term...]

Who says? You may well ask, but that's a whole new ball-game.

1 comment:

  1. Brilliant!

    They'll start saying potential ability next ;-)



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