Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Foresee This

If I ever write the Dictionary of Stupid Expressions, it will define "the foreseeable future" as a time when I will sure as hell have a Powerball ticket in my hand.




13 comments:

Jeff Miller said...

Could be an idea for your next book.

Stephen Jones said...

What happened on vacation to cause you to start ranting and raging against reality (linguistic or otherwise).

Language does not follow rules of Boolean logic. The "forseeable future" is a useful phrase that means as long as there is no drastic change to present trends. What do you have against it?

Bill said...

Finally, someone who can help me! I think Saturday is the next drawing -- what will the winning numbers be, as long as there is no drastic change to present trends?

MuPu said...

Aw, Steve, you should have seen that coming.

MallardFields said...
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MallardFields said...

You don't have to write a dictionary to discover why "the foreseeable future" should be a perfectly acceptable phrase; there are already plenty of dictionaries, and the one I have says, under the definition of "foresee," "FORESEE implies nothing about how the knowledge is derived and may apply to ordinary reasoning and experience."

It's absurd to interpret "the foreseeable future" to mean "that duration of time during which I can determine in advance the lottery winners."

Bill said...

I can't foresee the future. You can't either. Go back and read me your diary from Sept. 10, 2001, Miss Cleo.

Nick said...

Gotta agree with the critics. "Foresee" by itself implies an ability to look into the future. But there's nothing wrong with that. We make educated guesses about what the future holds every day. The "foreseeable future" is just that span of the future about which we can make those guesses.

I'll grant you this, Bill: Lottery numbers are not foreseeable.

Bill said...

To the extent that anything is foreseeable, it is often silly and arbitrary to correlate the degree of foreseeability to a time period. And the expression, in a way, doesn't really work unless it ... doesn't work. I wouldn't argue with using it to refer to, say, the likelihood of an iron beam collapsing without outside interference, but what fun would it be to apply it so noncontroversially?

When it comes to the impossible-to-foresee events that the expression is usually, and more interestingly, applied to, foresight exists -- but only in hindsight.

TimBlog said...

Lottery numbers are foreseeable. Correct lottery numbers are not. You can reasonably say that, barring any catastrophe, lottery numbers will be chosen tonight, or else people wouldn't bother buying tickets at all.

Lottery numbers will be selected into the foreseeable future.

Foresight exists, but only in hindsight.

You're starting to talk in koans now. :-)

Bill said...

"No drastic change to present trends" ... "Guesses" ... "Barring any catastrophe."

Precisely my point.

If there were no alternative expression, I would agree that "foreseeable future" is so absurd on its face that it can be defended as poetically licensed, but we have "the indefinite future" and "indefinitely," for starters.

MarkDM said...

If there were no alternative expression ...

Your point is a good one, but whether your suggested alternatives will ever replace "foreseeable future," um, remains to be seen.

Charles said...

"Forseeable future" is a phrase that would cause me to sputter incoherently at my computer. Then chane "forseeable" to "near," probably, since chances are that would e what the writer meant.