We have gone demented. Two Britons are or were (not very) ill from flu. "This could really explode," intones a reporter for BBC News. "London warned: it's here," cries the Evening Standard. Fear is said to be spreading "like a Mexican wave". It "could affect" three-quarters of a million Britons. It "could cost" three trillion dollars. The "danger", according to the radio, is that workers who are not ill will be "worried" (perhaps by the reporter) and fail to turn up at power stations and hospitals.
Health scares are like terrorist ones. Someone somewhere has an interest in it. We depend on others with specialist knowledge to advise and warn us and assume they offer advice on a dispassionate basis, using their expertise to assess danger and communicating it in measured English. Words such as possibly, potentially, could or might should be avoided. They are unspecific qualifiers and open to exaggeration. Full story...