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Bad Words: Virtually

January 17 2013 Leave a comment

This is the first in a series of mini posts on linguistic annoyances. First up, this use of “virtually” in a New York Times piece written by John Howard, the former Aussie prime minister:

I was elected prime minister in early 1996, leading a center-right coalition. Virtually every nonurban electoral district in the country — where gun ownership was higher than elsewhere — sent a member of my coalition to Parliament.

via Australia Banned Assault Weapons. America Can, Too. – NYTimes.com.

“Almost” is a better choice, unless Howard is suggesting that rural districts sent his coalition members to parliament virtually. I don’t doubt that such an arrangement would make sense in Australia (who wants to go to Canberra?), but I don’t think this is Howard’s message.

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