Literal-Minded

Linguistic commentary from a guy who takes things too literally

As Is Often the Case

Posted by Neal on August 11, 2010

The front of a birthday card I was looking at said

As is often the case, many of the world’s great discoveries are accidental.

When I read As is often the case, I’m expecting to read about a specific event or circumstance that fits into a larger pattern. Some examples from CoCA:

  • The truth, as is often the case, is a little less dramatic.
  • As is often the case in such situations, the bank offered her “cash for keys”
  • But, as is often the case, the defeat wasn’t entirely Baratieri’s fault.

In the first example, the general pattern is that things are usually not as dramatic as you’d imagine. The specific case is the truth. In the second example, the general pattern is the kind of situation where the bank offers “cash for keys”; the specific case is that of whoever her refers to. In the third example, the general pattern is that defeats are often not entirely the fault of the defeated. The specific case is that of this Baratieri.

So on the front of the birthday card, the specific case is great discoveries made by accident. The general case is … what? Great things not limited to discoveries? Great discoveries not limited to our own world? If any of you can make sense of this, let’s hear what it means to you.

Oh, and as for the great discovery illustrated on the front of the card? It’s not worth repeating. Just a cartoon by some guy trying to imitate The Far Side.

5 Responses to “As Is Often the Case”

  1. Glen said

    I vote for “the writer of this card thought the wording ‘as is often the case’ sounded smart, but really had no idea how it’s typically used.”

  2. birthday cards that are personlized are the best in my opinion, they really come from the bottom of the heart of the sender~-`

  3. […] (or congresswomen) any state should have is three, right? Two senators and one representative. As is often the case, it turns out that this usage been going on for a long time, in this case maybe even for as long as […]

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  5. Pete said

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