Monday, October 13, 2014

Phrase of the Day: “An Abundance of Caution”

The expression,  “Out of an abundance of caution”, has been around for while:  but in the shadows, used only by serious scientific folk, and seldom heard by the populace, over the blare of the mariachi band.   Yet now, of a sudden, it is in every ear, and soon upon every lip.

The phrase contains two layers of CYA:

(1) The authorities resort to unusually sweeping protective measures to protect against a threat that might actually be rather remote, since the political consequences of not having done so, should the threat eventuate, are enormous;
(2) At the same time, the authorities -- well aware that, if the threat proves unfounded, the citizens grumble at the inconvenience they were put to -- protect their other flank by signaling in advance their sober, Solomonic judiciousness  in putting the safety of the public before all else.

Recent examples:  The response to Ebola;  shutting down the entire L.A. school system because someone phoned in a threat (typically, such calls come, not from terrorists, but from students who didn’t study for the exam).

(Note:  Not at all blaming the users of the phrase;  they are darned if they do, darned if they don’t.)

To emphasize that, though he undertook countermeasures X, he strictly speaking didn't really need to (much ado about nothing), the writer may use a turbo version of the phrased:  an overabundance of caution.


(Linguistic reverie ...)

Abundance -- a buxom word !  Of classical origin;  its Gallic-lent relative, abound.   And so lushly, deliciously liquid, for whoso (whomso?) can hear, in its etymology, the original Latin, lapping at the lips of connotation …

  ubi ingens
  Sarpedon, ubi tot Simois correpta sub undis
  scuta virum galeasque et fortia corpora volvit?'


Plus it reminds me of one of my favorite enigmatic French idioms:

  “J’abonde dans votre sens.”
  =  “Suh!  I am entirely of your opinion.”  ….

In German, this choice phrase is being translated as

„aus größtmöglicher Vorsicht“


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