What’s Not Happening?

I just heard our Senator Patty Murray being interviewed about negotiations concerning the looming “fiscal cliff.”  She said “that’s something we want to avoid from happening.”

She meant, of course, “prevent from happening.” But she could also have said simply "avoid.”

There’s a tendency for politicians to use more words than they need to, perhaps because they often want to avoid excessive clarity. They have a tendency to use a lot of passive verbs and other language techniques that obscure who is responsible for action. Grammatically, “avoid” is an active verb, but it conveys a more passive meaning than “prevent.”

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