Easter 2024

12 February 2007
figures of speech - "likely probably"

Likely and Probably locked in an epic struggle!

Now, we at understand what it's like in the newsroom right as you're about to break a big story. (Heck, this happens to us all the time, mostly involving Anglican chant.) You think to yourself: it might not be the greatest thing you've written, but time waits for no writer, and you've gotta get it out there for the world to read.

At Indiana University, the breaking news is that Michael McRobbie and Ora Pescovitz are finalists in the search for the next president of the university.

But something else caught my interest in this whole story.

The prediction comes as two names surfaced in an e-mail by IU chemistry professor Theodore Widlanski to some faculty members last week that interim Provost Michael McRobbie and Ora Pescovitz, associate dean of research at the IU School of Medicine, were likely probably two of the search's final candidates.

[Student author's name withheld]. UPDATE: 6:42 p.m.: Chancellor says presidential search may end within a month; names of 2 possible finalists listed in e-mail from IU professor. Indiana Daily Student. 12 February 2007. Accessed online: 12 Feb 2007 19:15.

hyperlink and emphasis added

Internet news tangent While we're at it, let's take some time to nitpick the way this news is formatted for the web. First, the "update" portion is needlessly prominent, internet users will always assume the information is current. Second, never underline anything unless it's a link. Third, why can you not link to these names? Especially if they've been in the news more than once? I mean, if you're not teaching journalism students to present their work effectively on the internet, then what are you doing?

The author of the article is a first-year student at Indiana University majoring in International Studies and Journalism. He previously attended the oddly named Hamilton Southeastern High School in Fishers, Indiana (Fishers is 140 miles southwest of Hamilton, Indiana but in southeastern Hamilton County).

Likely probably is not a construction that I had ever seen before, and before I thought too much about it, I wanted to make sure that it's not some new-fangled bit of writing that I was unaware of, so I Googled it. The first example I found of the two words being used in the same sentence (at least I think they are, because the following excerpt saves all its punctuation for last) is authored by someone who goes by the alias "minxy" on the Zeropaid forums:

rite 1 thing is 4 sure i know this was started ages ago but u need 2 take it down coz dont u think it a little disrespectful every 1 knows he is dead and stupid people like u r givin others hope that he is still alive when he is not y would ne lovin father like him decide 2 run away from his little girl n stay away 4 this long it is sooo stupid this guy u saw was probably a look alike and more than likely probably jus told u 2 piss off coz u was buggin im 4 runnin after im all the time if u r goin 2 start a disscusion on Kurt Cobain u should start 1 on his murder instead coz he didnt kill himself or fake his death y would he when his life was goin well the only trouble he had was courtney love soo think on that 1 people coz he is not alive and if ne of u belive his storys then u r jus as stupid as him !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

emphasis added

But this still doesn't help me know how to interpret this author's phrase: likely probably. Both of these words imply odds over 50%

If I flip this weighted coin, it will probably land on heads.

If I flip the U.S. Senate, I am likely Jim Jeffords a former Republican senator from Vermont.

Somehow we already have "They are probably the candidates" as a general idea. It's just a question of this likely business.

So in using the words together, does the author intend for likely to intensify probably?

Or does he intend for probably to be moderated by being contingent on likely? Odds are they are probably the candidates. But their probably (>50%) being the candidates is contingent on this likely (>50%), and should this likely go away (<50%) their probably would also shift (<50%). The important thing to note is that, even if this occurs, there is still a chance that they could be the candidates. And if they're not, maybe they should be.

So really, in this second scenario, the modifier is unnecessary. If they are likely probably the candidates, then they are probably the candidates. If the likely changes, so does the probably. In both cases, should we learn that they are not candidates, the sentence are false.

You cannot guard against prediction failure by padding probability statements.

But we can safely say that the next president of Indiana University will likely probably not be Kurt Cobain.

Update 13 Feb 2007 20:26 A big shoutout to the Indiana Daily Student and editor in chief Kacie Foster for linking the names of both supposed candidates to their respective biographies in the latest version of the article.

Labels: , ,

Hi David-

Thanks for posting about the error within the story. (Google alerts me when blogs link in some form, so that's how I found your blog). We've since updated it.

Anyway, we're a learning newsroom, as you've mentioned, and certainly welcome suggestions for how to improve our Web site.

P.S.: Fishers is in the southeastern portion of Hamilton County.

-Kacie Foster
Editor in Chief
Indiana Daily Student
editor @
Quite the analysis. I would have assumed it was merely a typo - a word choice option that the writer couldn't decide on at the time but forgot to go back and pick. You give their proofing abilities a lot of credit.
Haha thanks for the shout-out. We're trying a new thing this semester--having desk editors publish their own sections to the web. Before, it was a separate staffer who did that.

It took us a few weeks to get the kinks worked out, so we figured it was time to add a new trick to the site (hyperlinks)!

Thanks for helping welcome us to the year 2001.

-Kacie Foster

Post a Comment

The page you're reading is part of

©MMXVII a site for fun and prophet

Organ and church music, esoteric liturgics, and a site that changes color with the liturgical year.


Looking for Carol Spreadsheets?

Hungry? Try the Liturgical Guide to Altoids Consumption

Thirsty? Try the Tibia Liquida

The Eric Harding Thiman Fan Page: The greatest composer you've never even heard of.

Infrequently Asked Questions

picture of a chicken

Questions? Problems? email the sexton.


The author of this website is an organist whom the New York Times calls “repeatedly, insisting that he pay for his subscription”. He likes to read parking meters, music, Indianapolis Monthly, and weather forecasts in Celsius, particularly whilst wearing cassock and surplice. He serves lasagna, overhand, as an example to many, and on ecclesiastical juries. He mixes salads, drinks, and metaphors. He takes photos, lots of dinner mints, and a little bit of time to get to know.




Anglicans Online
Alex Ross: The Rest is Noise
Book of Common Prayer
Brain Pickings
The Daily Office
The Lectionary Page
Sed Angli
Ship of Fools
The Sub-Dean's Stall
Vested Interest - Trinity Church in the City of Boston


Andrew Kotylo - Concert Organist
Anne Timberlake
Bonnie Whiting, percussion
conjectural navel gazing: jesus in lint form
Friday Night Organ Pump
Halbert Gober Organs, Inc.
in time of daffodils
Joby Bell, organist
Musical Perceptions
Musings of a Synesthete
My Life as Style, Condition, Commodity.
Nathan Medley, Countertenor
Notes on Music & Liturgy
The Parker Quartet
Roof Crashers & Hem Grabbers
Steven Rickards
That Which We Have Heard & Known
This Side of Lost
Wayward Sisters
Zachary Wadsworth | composer

Archenemies Aviary



Advent (Medfield MA)
All Saints, Ashmont (Boston MA)
All Saints (Indianapolis IN)
Atonement (Bronx NY)
Broadway UMC (Indianapolis IN)
Cathedral of All Saints (Albany NY)
Christ Church (Bronxville NY)
Christ Church (Madison IN)
Christ Church (New Haven CT)
Christ Church Cathedral (Indianapolis IN)
Christ's Church (Rye NY)
Church of St. Stephen (Hamden CT)
Congregational (Belmont CA)
Coventry Cathedral (UK)
First UMC (Lancaster SC)
Gloria Dei ELCA (Iowa City IA)
Immanuel Lutheran (St Paul MN)
Immanuel Lutheran (Webster NY)
John Knox PCUSA (Houston TX)
St Andrew (Marblehead MA)
St Andrew's, Oregon Hill (Richmond VA)
St Bartholomew the Great, (London, England)
St James's (Lake Delaware NY)
St James's (Richmond VA)
St James Cathedral (Chicago IL)
St Mary's Cathedral (Memphis TN)
St Matthew and St Timothy (NYC)
St Paul's (Cleveland Heights OH)
St Paul's (Indianapolis IN)
St Paul's Cathedral (Buffalo NY)
St Paul's, K Street (Washington DC)
St Peter's (Lakewood OH)
St Peter's ELCA (NYC)
St Stephen's (Richmond VA
St Thomas (New Haven CT)
St Thomas ELCA (Bloomington IN)
Second PCUSA (Indianapolis IN)
Towson Presbyterian Church (MD)
Tremont Temple Baptist (Boston MA)
Trinity (Indianapolis IN)
Trinity on the Green (New Haven CT)


BBC Radio 3 Choral Evensong
New College (Oxford, England)
St John's College (Cambridge, England)
St Thomas (New York NY)


Like the site? Buy the shirt.

Areyou . . .

selling diphthongs?
Yes, but they're not the kind you buy on Wheel of Fortune.

the owner of a bower at Bucklesfordberry?
Full daintily it is dight.

interested in touch lamps?
And fountain pens.

this site used to be better:

March 2004
April 2004
May 2004
June 2004
July 2004
August 2004
September 2004
October 2004
November 2004
December 2004
January 2005
February 2005
March 2005
April 2005
May 2005
June 2005
July 2005
August 2005
September 2005
October 2005
November 2005
December 2005
January 2006
February 2006
March 2006
April 2006
May 2006
June 2006
July 2006
August 2006
September 2006
October 2006
November 2006
December 2006
January 2007
February 2007
March 2007
April 2007
May 2007
June 2007
July 2007
August 2007
September 2007
October 2007
November 2007
December 2007
January 2008
February 2008
March 2008
April 2008
May 2008
June 2008
July 2008
August 2008
September 2008
October 2008
November 2008
December 2008
January 2009
February 2009
March 2009
April 2009
May 2009
June 2009
July 2009
August 2009
September 2009
October 2009
November 2009
December 2009
January 2010
March 2010
April 2010
May 2010
June 2010
July 2010
August 2010
September 2010
October 2010
November 2010
December 2010
January 2011
February 2011
March 2011
April 2011
May 2011
June 2011
July 2011
August 2011
September 2011
October 2011
November 2011
December 2011
January 2012
February 2012
April 2012
May 2012
June 2012
July 2012
August 2012
September 2012
October 2012
December 2012
January 2013
March 2013
April 2013
May 2013
June 2013
July 2013
August 2013
September 2013
October 2013
November 2013
December 2013
January 2014
February 2014
March 2014
April 2014
May 2014
June 2014
August 2014
September 2014
October 2014
November 2014
December 2014
January 2015
February 2015
April 2015
May 2015
June 2015
July 2015
August 2015
September 2015
October 2015
November 2015
December 2015
January 2016
February 2016
March 2016
April 2016
June 2016
July 2016
August 2016
September 2016
October 2016
November 2016
December 2016
January 2017
February 2017
March 2017
April 2017
May 2017
June 2017
July 2017
August 2017
September 2017
October 2017
November 2017
December 2017
January 2018
February 2018
March 2018
April 2018
May 2018
June 2018
August 2018
September 2018
October 2018
December 2018
February 2019
March 2019
October 2019
December 2019
September 2020
December 2020
January 2021
September 2021
October 2021
December 2021
November 2022
December 2022
March 2023
July 2023
March 2024
April 2024