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Perfect storm

A perfect storm is a rare combination of events or circumstances creating an unusually bad situation. The idiom is derived from the 1997 Sebastian Junger nonfiction book, The Perfect Storm, about a fishing-boat crew encountering a confluence of several storms at sea. The expression fills a gap in the language, as there are few alternatives that convey the same meaning so concisely.

Perfect storm has been overused, though, and it’s stretched beyond its original meaning when applied to a positive confluence of events. For example, the phrase a perfect storm of opportunity ignores the fraught nature of Junger’s perfect storm. This sort of use is common, though.

Although perfect storm is a new expression, it’s already well established in the language and hence does not need to be put in quotation marks or explained every time it’s used.

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Examples

Add the driest March in state history, and together you have the perfect storm to fuel a wildfire outbreak.[Houston Chronicle]

Others worry that a perfect storm of unemployment, the withdrawal of the Education Maintenance Allowance and a squeeze on programmes to help disadvantaged youths could bring more than just a rise in crime figures and result in a “lost generation”. [Guardian]

Anyway, excluding a perfect storm of hit batters, walks, fielding errors, and passed balls, teams need at least one hit to win. [AV Club]

A perfect storm of famine, drought and regional violence is resulting in a disaster in slow motion. [Montreal Gazette]

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