More severe than life-threatening?

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Thu Mar 15 17:05:24 UTC 2007

At 10:03 PM -0500 3/14/07, Cohen, Gerald Leonard wrote:
>This is of course a blend, from "severe injuries" +
>"life-threatening injuries."
>Gerald Cohen

I'm not sure why we'd want to regard this as a blend, rather than an
asyndetic ("or"-less) disjunction.  Compare "there were two-three
problems to work out".  The sense would then be "X or even Y", where
Y is stronger than X--not a regular formation (*the happy ecstatic
children) but not totally implausible.

In any case, the 178,000 hits for "severe life threatening" (with or
without hyphen, and typically modifying (asthma or malaria) suggests
it's become a collocation for many, despite the apparent redundancy


>>>From Joel S. Berson,  Wed 3/14/2007 9:47 PM:
>Heard on Boston radio today in reference to an accident:  there were
>no "severe life-threatening injuries."
>There are some Google hits without an intervening comma -- such as
>"severe life threatening asthma", ...
>The American Dialect Society -

The American Dialect Society -

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