"Nearly Infallible"

Discussion in 'Linguistics' started by Kittamaru, Jul 26, 2017.

  1. Kittamaru No more Staff Member

    So, this cropped up in another discussion here; figured I'd put it to our linguistics experts: is "nearly infallible" an incorrect or otherwise inappropriately qualified phrase?
  2. Google AdSense Guest Advertisement

    to hide all adverts.
  3. DaveC426913 Valued Senior Member

    Why would it be incorrect?

    Is it any less correct than "I got nearly perfect on today's test"?
  4. Google AdSense Guest Advertisement

    to hide all adverts.
  5. Dywyddyr Penguinaciously duckalicious. Valued Senior Member

  6. Google AdSense Guest Advertisement

    to hide all adverts.
  7. Kittamaru No more Staff Member

    Figured it was worth asking, just to ensure clarity, because of this thread:

  8. DaveC426913 Valued Senior Member

    Oh, I know what triggered it.

    Please Register or Log in to view the hidden image!

  9. The God Valued Senior Member

    Nearly spherical too!

    In general usage nearly infallible or nearly perfect or nearly spherical are quite acceptable but it's incorrect. Infallible is infallible, no qualifiers pl. It's either infallible or not. Nearly infallible does convey the meaning, but since you have taken it up technically, then I would say it is improper.
  10. Kittamaru No more Staff Member

    If you wish to make the same erroneous claim as MR, then by all means - point out what or where in the English language something says you cannot place a qualifier on an adjective.

    You are trying to make the argument that the phrase "nearly perfect" is somehow incorrect... please, prove this out. Simply repeating over and over that it is "wrong" means nothing.
  11. The God Valued Senior Member

    Would you ever learn to participate in the discussion gracefully? Why you have to have the last word always?

    Pl read my post again, you will see that I was talking about technicality of the use, not the general usage.

    To be specific there is no quantum attached with infallible, as I said infallible is infallible, there is nothing like 99% infallible or nearly infallible or weakly infallible. And similarly there is no quantum attached with circle or sphere or perfect in technical terms. It's like, oh it's a perfect circle, here 'perfect' is redundant. It is as good as saying, oh it's a circle.
  12. Kittamaru No more Staff Member

    I don't care who has the last word, so long as that last word is correct. So far, you have provided zero evidence to your claim that "nearly infallible" is somehow "wrong".

    I read your post - again, if you wish to say it is "technically incorrect", then show it.

    So, you are claiming that something is either "infallible" or "fallible", and nothing in between? You feel there is no room for a qualifier? Tell me - do you consider everything in life in black and white - after all, by your apparent logic, there can be no shades of grey...
  13. Baldeee Valued Senior Member

    "Infallible" is surely an absolute, a binary condition, and means never making a mistake, never being wrong.
    As soon as you make a single mistake you are no longer infallible.

    Qualifying an absolute position isn't great English, I think, but it is quite often used in a world which seems to increasingly ignore such rules.
    How often do you hear "very unique!"?

    Please Register or Log in to view the hidden image!

    But would anyone misunderstand you if you use "nearly infallible"?
    No, and that's probably the most important thing.
  14. The God Valued Senior Member

    This is what I said in #6, but Kittamaru wants it his way or highway or James way.
  15. DaveC426913 Valued Senior Member

    While that may be true, there are degrees of fallibility.

    A computer that only fails once in a million years is fallible, but closer to infallible than a computer that fails once a day.

    And that is the crux of the qualifier "nearly".
  16. The God Valued Senior Member

    You referred and quoted dictionary for "perception".

    Time to refer back to your dictionary, pl pay heed and see the meanings of infallible and fallible. You should realise that "fallible" is not deterministic or binary (as baldee referred) but infallible is.
  17. DaveC426913 Valued Senior Member

    It is much harder to defend a claim of the form "this cannot be", than a claim that says "this can be". Your stance has a larger burden of proof than Kitt's et al.
  18. The God Valued Senior Member

    That's right, fallible has degree associated with it.
  19. Kittamaru No more Staff Member

    I would agree with you there - it isn't necessarily something that should happen, but it is commonplace just the same. "Nearly Perfect", "Nearly Infallible", "Almost Perfect", et al - technically speaking, using a qualifier on an adjective would defeat the adjective at hand, if we wanted to deal in absolutes.

    Cute, but wrong - what I want is accuracy. I (and others) have grown rather tired of folks such as yourself attempting to use obtuse pedantry to distract from having to actually defend a claim that you made. In this instance, the phrase "nearly infallible" is a perfectly acceptable one to use, despite what you may wish.

    I quoted the dictionary for accuracy - your determination to try and make this a matter of perception is laughable.

    Additionally, infallible and fallible both trace their root meaning back to fal, meaning to fail or deceive
    Root Word of the Day: INFALLIBLE
    March 15, 2015 Chief Vocabulist
    infallible (adj) – incapable of error; without fault
    BREAKDOWN: IN- (not) + FAL- (fail) + -IBLE (able to)
    fallible means capable of failure or of making a mistake; likely to fail


    This word is built on the root FAL-, which means to fail or to deceive.
    Common FAL- words include fault, fail, failure, false, and falsehood.
    More esoteric FAL- words include fallibility.

    So, if you wish to admit that:
    Then that is an admission that infallible has degrees associated with it.

    Indeed, several dictionaries would agree:

    "Fallible" means capable of making mistakes — or, easier to remember — capable of failing. Infallible means exactly the opposite — incapable of failing.

    This word is often used to describe human capacity for error — no one is infallible. And yet, we are able to be infallible in certain ways: children are infallibly curious, teenagers infallibly hungry. Interestingly, infalliblederives from the Latin in- "not" + fallere "deceive."



    'Refusing refugees the right of appeal would save the taxpayer piles of money and as our Government and justice system are completely infallible, these appeals are an outrageous and unnecessary drain on the public purse.
    'They've been told in a million ways that incomprehensible and virtually infallible technology is always invisibly at work on their behalf.'
    'Farwell is convinced that his technique is nearly infallible.'

    How about:

    The most prolonged mathematical reasoning, and the most intricate formulae, were given with almost infallible accuracy from the resources of his extraordinary memory.

    These had been sacred to almost a hundred generations of men, and it was difficult for the eye of faith to see them as other than absolutely infallible documents.

    It would seem to me that quantifying fallibility or infallibility is an acceptable and common occurrence.

    At this point, I believe the onus is on the other side to show or prove that it is unacceptable, or otherwise sows such confusion as to be inadmissible in debate.
  20. The God Valued Senior Member


    You are cute.

    Tell me seriously, do you still think that technically degree can be associated with both fallible and infallible?

    Pl note it is not my argument (#6) that nearly infallible is bad or not used in general, but you started a thread on this issue to prove MR wrong and yourself right. Then it becomes the matter of exactness, in that sense nearly perfect or nearly infallible or nearly circle is not right.

    I do not think that even MR meant that "nearly infallible" is so bad that it cannot be used at all. He took you on this, because you guys were on each other's neck, otherwise none notices such things as long as meaning or intent gets conveyed.

    Hint : if you agree with baldee or DaveC on this, then that's sufficient.
    Last edited: Jul 26, 2017
  21. exchemist Valued Senior Member

    Yes but while "very unique" (or "very infallible") would be wrong, for the reasons you give, there is nothing wrong, surely, with describing something as "almost unique" or "practically unique"?

    So I see nothing wrong with "almost infallible".
    DaveC426913 likes this.
  22. Baldeee Valued Senior Member

    I don't think anyone disagrees that the phrasing is used, commonly even, but the question is (as I understand it) what is technically correct.
    I guess part of that is what constitutes "correctness" within an evolving language.
    Who is to judge?
    If the message is conveyed accurately, language has surely done its job as required.
    And that is all anyone can ask of it.

    But that said, yes, you are probably right.

    Equally, picking up on what Kit posted, that if "infallible" is used as a measure of how often one is wrong then "nearly infallible" would seem to be correct.
    The same as the glass being "nearly full" etc.
    So this would surely apply to "unique" as well.

    But then I don't claim to be infallible, so I may be wrong in this.

    Please Register or Log in to view the hidden image!

    Although I am unique.

    Please Register or Log in to view the hidden image!

  23. Michael 345 Bali tonight Valued Senior Member

    My first and last post in this thread

    If something is almost infallible it just means it is fallible

    Almost impossible means it is possible

    Almost a circle means it is not a circle

    So it is to a degree of APPROACHING

    NOT a degree OF

    Please Register or Log in to view the hidden image!

    The God likes this.

Share This Page