I saw this headline and it struck me as redundant if not nonsensical.

Couldn't you just say "This is the worst case scenario." and communicate effectively?

If a scenario is understood and defined as the worst case scenario then by definition it is possible. Therefore, it is and was the worst possible scenario. Nothing has changed. So, isn't it nonsensical to say that only now it is becoming possible?

Am I missing something here? Is this an error in English language usage? An error in logic? Is this tautological?

  • 2
    It's loose use of language. Your logic is correct. If I heard the phrase, I'd interpret it as "the worst case scenario is now a significant possibility".
    – AndyT
    Commented Sep 8, 2017 at 13:41
  • It might have been better phrased "... now probable" but, due to the context, conveys the same sense.
    – Lawrence
    Commented Sep 8, 2017 at 14:17
  • 2
    What do "English" and "logic" have to do with each other?
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Sep 8, 2017 at 16:42
  • The headline refers to the path of Irma in Florida. It means, as I read it, exactly what it says--it's possible that the worst case scenario will occur, which is that Irma goes right through Florida (and on to Georgia and the Carolinas) rather than veering east into the Atlantic.
    – Xanne
    Commented Sep 10, 2017 at 4:13

2 Answers 2


The worst case scenario: The deadly virus is released from the vial at a busy airport, potentially leading to a worldwide pandemic. Possible, of course, but also impossible, if two conditions aren't satisfied: the virus going airborne, and that occurring at a busy airport.

If events transpired, and a broken vial was discovered at Heathrow terminal 1, a perfectly reasonable headline might be "The worst case scenario is now possible."


No, that seems sound. The worst-case scenario is not always possible; but in this exact situation is just became possible. It does not imply that it has already befallen you, but rather it is now on the table.

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