People are always looking for ways to emphasize how really, really special the subject under discussion is. (The use of “really” is one of the weakest and least effective of these.) A host of words have been worn down in this service to near-meaninglessness. It is good to remember the etymological roots of such words to avoid such absurdities as “fantastically realistic,” “absolutely relative,” and “incredibly convincing.” When you are tempted to use one of these vague intensifiers consider rewriting your prose to explain more precisely and vividly what you mean: “Fred’s cooking was incredibly bad” could be changed to “When I tasted Fred’s cooking I almost thought I was back in the middle-school cafeteria.”

See also “Incredible

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