This linguistic gem was part of an NPR newscast about the potential for a collision between earth and a a "near earth object" such as an asteroid."We...have actually found the majority of the known objects,"
|Eros Asteroid, Photo by JPL/JHUAPL|
It would be shocking to know objects that had not been found. Or if we failed to know objects that had been found.
Yet figures of speech like this abound in building product technical literature. I once wrote that a water repellent "penetrates up to a quarter inch or more." While it sounds good as a marketing claim, it actually means nothing, since a material that lays on the surface would also satisfy this claim.
Recently, I saw a product claim that "our material meets ASTM E84." This says nothing, because a test conducted according to the standard (for surface burning characteristics of a material) yields a numeric value, not a pass/fail criterion that can be met.
Send me your favorite example of a product claim that doesn't say anything.
A comment on the NPR site refers to the title of the news segment:
"Asteroids Pose Less Risk To Earth Than Thought"
The commentator says, "I completely agree!!! Thought poses a huge amount of risk to the earth. Way more than asteroids."
I was taught that construction specifications must be written not only to say what was meant, but in a way that can not be misinterpreted.