Miccaela Baird Badger sent this missive:
What about “near miss?” Many journalists tend to
use this phrase to describe how two planes or trains nearly hit each
other, or some other sort of narrowly avoided accident. However, wouldn’t
a “near miss” actually occur when two objects nearly miss
each other, but still collide?
(Editor’s note: “near” in this instance implies distance,
not approximation — that is, a miss that was near vs. one that was
far, rather than things that nearly missed, but didn’t. Even so, I’d
ban “near miss” on the grounds that it isn’t a particularly
useful description. How near is near? When an asteroid comes
within a million miles of the earth, scientists call it a near miss.
Two aircraft 500 yards apart is another near miss. “Near”
is one of those weasel words like “almost,” “approximately,”
“several” and its ilk that we use when we’re too lazy to figure
out the precise measurements.