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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Whatever happened to the comparative-case scenario?

Related Link » Threat of New, Larger Icelandic Eruption Looms
“Scientists fear tremors at the Eyjafjallajokull volcano could trigger an even more dangerous eruption at the nearby Katla volcano — creating a worst-case scenario for the airline industry and travelers around the globe.” [emphasis added]
— Associated Press, April 19, 2010
Ever wonder what happened to our forgotten comparative-case scenario? In grammar school, we learned that adjectives and adverbs came in 3 flavors, or "forms", thereby denoting a range of intensities:
  1. adjectives: large; dangerous; bad
  2. comparative forms: larger; more dangerous; worse
  3. superlative forms: largest; most dangerous; worst
Have you ever read about a worse-case scenario? No, of course not. That wouldn't hack it in our hyperbolized form of common discourse.

So, we usually begin with some reasonably deemed bad scenario, like that caused by the somewhat arbitrarily deemed large and, perhaps less arbitrarily deemed, dangerous eruption of the Eyjafjallajokull volcano. Now, should that volcano experience a larger and, therefore, more dangerous eruption, well you might as well forget about a worse-case scenario.

No, that simply wouldn't be dramatic enough for our jaded audience. Might as well pull out all the stops and declare that to be the dreaded worst-case scenario, or, which is the same thing, the mother of all scenarios!

We won't trouble ourselves with how we can top that superlative-scenario if, God forbid, Eyjafjallajokull and Katla decide to grace us with an even larger eruption. That, of course, will be the least of our problems, or at least the lesser of the two troublesome scenarios that will confront all of us.

Post #1,220 Whatever happened to the comparative-case scenario?

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