A few days ago, I heard a neighbor complain that the weather predictions carried in the media were, for the most part, useless. “They get it wrong more often than they get it right,” he said. It was not the sort of statement that calls for a comment, and so, even though I disagreed, I said nothing. In reality, during the past couple of decades, weather predicting has become amazingly accurate. During dangerous storms, for example, meteorologists often can pinpoint the minute when the front will come through a particular location.
On the other hand, the accuracy of the broadcast meteorologists’ language has improved little, if at all. Just as my neighbor was overstating the situation, the television weather reporters are fond of making statements like, “Tonight the temperature could go as low as 10 degrees.” After a dramatic pause, they add, “or even lower,” thereby invalidating their initial statement. “As low as” means that the thermometer is going no lower – followed by a prediction that it might. The cousin of “as low as” or “as high as” is the limiting phrase “up to” as in “We may get up to an inch of rain,” (pause) “or even more.”