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Almost infinite

July 1, 2012

James Lawton, Chief Sportswriter of the Independent, is a serial misuser of the word infinite, habitually employing it to mean quite a lot, but in a piece last week he misused it so violently that it parted company with its moorings altogether: ‘England showed the capacity to absorb almost infinite Italian pressure in the second half’ (or something very like that – I quote from memory). The idea of infinity in the second half is in itself pretty weird, but almost infinite is simply a contradiction in terms. No quantity is ‘almost’ infinite. However large the quantity, in relation to infinity it is infinitesimal. Not only does Lawton’s hyperbole miss the mark, it is less descriptive and informative than a more accurate word-choice would be. Why not constant Italian pressure or relentless Italian pressure?

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