Invariably if not inevitably?

Discussion in 'English Only' started by panjandrum, Jun 28, 2005.

  1. panjandrum

    panjandrum Occasional Moderator

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    I read this sentence in a reputable publication a week ago:
    "Cancer's malignancy, a curse that invariably if not inevitably ends in death, infects the way patients are regarded, and how they regard themselves."

    I am OK on invariable meaning non-varying, and inevitable meaning it's definitely going to happen.
    I am fond of subtle nuances of meaning, but after a week I am still not sure that I see the point of "invariably if not inevitably" in this context. It seems to me that "inevitably" would have carried the meaning perfectly well on its own.

    What was the writer trying to say?
  2. lsp

    lsp Senior Member

    US, English
    If he intended to do more than sound erudite, and you seem to want to give the benefit of the doubt here (;) I am not as generous. Yesterday I heard on TV, "he wanted to emulate me, to imitate me and be just like me"), maybe invariably suggests in every case or on every occasion- i.e., always, while inevitably offers the added nuance that it is also unavoidable and/or not preventable.
  3. Aupick

    Aupick Senior Member

    Strasbourg, France
    UK, English
    I have to say, I think the writer was just being pompous. They're both ways of saying 'always', and any difference between the two words is kind of irrelevant in this context. Journalists, and especially politicians, seem to like accumulating synonyms, as lsp's post says. (Pet peeve: 'We will not allow it in any way, shape or form!')
  4. Amityville

    Amityville Senior Member

    English UK
    I have very often heard 'invariably' wrongly used to mean 'very often but not always'. (I've invariably heard it used that way).
    So I think he means that - very often but not inevitably. Which is patently the case, cancer does not always end in death.
  5. te gato

    te gato Senior Member

    Calgary, Alberta
    Alberta--TGE (te gato English)
    I agree with you that 'inevitably' used alone would have worked..

    Yet..I also wonder if the writer was trying to STRESS the point even more by linking the two together...yes..a tad pompous...

    'Cancer's malignancy, a curse that is constant and certainly ends in death...'
    'Invariably' = constant
    'inevitably' = certainly
    Just a thought...

  6. Kelly B

    Kelly B Senior Member

    USA English
    Sounds redundant to me, and I think the author should have chosen a softer word for the first, because death from cancer is neither inevitable nor invariable. (the "if not" is sufficient to soften the second word, I suppose).
  7. panjandrum

    panjandrum Occasional Moderator

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    This would make sense, in a distorted kind of way. I have not come across "invariably" meaning often but not always. If that is what he meant then the sentence would have made sense - to him.
  8. ScotsLoon Member

    Scotland English
    "I have very often heard 'invariably' wrongly used to mean 'very often but not always'."

    I was going to post something similiar to this as I too have seen the word 'invariably' used in the same way.

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