Thursday, April 21, 2011

Got away from a near miss!

The WaPo print headline said:
First lady's jet escapes close call
Most other media were calmer, saying the plane "had a close call". Though this somewhat hysterical headline at Pat Dollard screams
Michelle Obama Escapes Near-Death Incident – “Just Misses Military Jet”, Nearly Killed By Air-Traffic Controller
O Rly?

The thing is, in English you "escape" from something, like, say, a burning building. So we see this one from All Voices
Michelle’s plane escapes crash
This is still a bit weird, because "escaping a crash" isn't quite the same as "avoiding a crash", which is, after all, what happened. At least not to my ears. The formulation "jet escapes near miss" sounds like the jet ... what? I'm not sure. Didn't have a near miss? And what does that even mean? Nearly missed but didn't? Crashed into each other? Or, perhaps, never got near at all? (And that would be headline news why, exactly?)

Of course, well, yes, actually, there was no "near miss". The two planes were never closer to each other than 3 miles. The tower's prompt action prevented the near miss. (In fact, per the FAA, this sort of thing - a pilot being told to abort a landing and circle the field so another plane can clear the runway - is fairly common. Heck, I'm no frequent flyer (a few times a year) and it's happened to me.)

But using the word "escapes" is deeply strange - and I think the only reason it is there is to ratchet the incident up in our imaginations from a normal, mundane occurrence to an"OMG Michelle almost died!!! Damn the FAA!" piece of fear mongering.

(Would I be too cynical if I wondered about that poor union getting busted, again?)

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At 11:10 AM, April 21, 2011 Anonymous Mark had this to say...

Apparently the poor ATC union is sufficiently busted that the ATC's can no longer do their job (at least that's one meme, based on lonely, sleeping controllers). Busting it further should eliminate ATC's from control towers altogether. I suppose that would suit some, since it would give another reason to attack the government - this time because they're not doing their job.

At 6:30 PM, April 21, 2011 Blogger Barry Leiba had this to say...

I've always thought "near miss" was a funny term. I get it, of course: it's a miss, but it nearly wasn't. But I'd prefer "near collision".

Not happening........

At 6:52 PM, April 21, 2011 Blogger The Ridger, FCD had this to say...

I don't know; I always parsed it as "a miss that was near the target", not "nearly not a miss".

At 12:38 PM, April 22, 2011 Blogger Barry Leiba had this to say...

«I don't know; I always parsed it as "a miss that was near the target"»

Would you parse "a near hit" the same way? If not, why is it different?

At 1:17 PM, April 22, 2011 Blogger The Ridger, FCD had this to say...

Frankly I'm not sure what a "near hit" would be. A hit either is or is not. A miss can be near or wide or somewhere in between.

I guess I just think that "near" must modify the word that's there, not one that isn't.

But does it really matter? It's an idiom, and part of the definition of those is that you can't understand by understanding the individual words.

At 8:34 PM, April 22, 2011 Blogger The Ridger, FCD had this to say...

On further thought, I think I have heard "near hit" - I guess the usage depends on whether you want the hit or not. "That was a near hit" would be, for me, most likely said to encourage someone to try again to hit something... though I don't think I'd say it.

At 8:37 PM, April 22, 2011 Blogger The Ridger, FCD had this to say...

PS - to Mark: yeah... blaming a guy for not staying awake when he's working long hours with short breaks in a wearing job and has no one there to keep him awake. But give them a reasonable schedule and/or put two guys on the shift? What?? Are you commies or something? There's not enough traffic there!

At 8:06 AM, April 23, 2011 Blogger The Ridger, FCD had this to say...

And of course, things like "near collision" are very common. Sheesh. Yesterday my brain was only working about half-power all day.

But I stand by my first statement: a near miss is a kind of miss, while a near hit is a kind of hit. You just have to parse the adjective's relationship with the noun in light of the meaning of the noun, not just its nounness.


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