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Thursday, 4 February 2021

Exactly: a rant.

 Many, perhaps most, words are a bit fluffy at the edges. Jane Austen writes of the never of conversation, which means not very often. Nobody in everyday speech assumes that never means, well, never

There are many examples of this kind of thing. There's nobody in the last sentence of the previous paragraph, for instance; a phrase like we always watch The News is similar.

This is usually fine. It adds colour and nuance to our means of communication.

But some words are hard-edged and exact - and exact is one of them.

From The Telegraph online 16/01/21:

According to the ONS [Office for National Statistics (it's a British thing)], at April's peak [of the first wave of coronavirus] 4,834 people died at home - exactly double the usual figure of 2,400.

Exactly double?

Exactly??

This is bad enough as an example of sloppy thinking; but when you're writing about people, and people who have died, then such casualness shades into horror.

Word To Use Today: exact. The Latin word exactus means driven out; exigō means to claim as due, or to measure by a standard, or to test.



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