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    Are we ophthalmologists in the eye of the storm?

    Explanations for one of most commonly misused phrases in English language

    A large hurricane, named Matthew, recently impacted the Caribbean and southeastern region of the United States. At midday on Oct. 7, the National Hurricane Center reported that the “eye [of this giant storm] was brushing portions of the northeast coast of Florida.”

    More from Dr. McDonnell: How to choose a subspecialty in ophthalmology

    This meteorological phenomenon is considered to have given rise to one of the most commonly misused phrases in the English language. Some people think the phrase means that the situation is a tumultuous one, as when The Economist magazine reported: “French bank shares, which have been in the eye of the storm, recovered sharply (BNP Paribas was up 13% on the day while Societe Generale rose by 5%).”

    In this instance, the author seems to think that being in the eye is really bad (in the case the stock price). The stock gets hammered when it is in the eye, only to recover once outside.

    More: An ophthalmologist’s experience with tele-medicine

    Others interpret the phrase differently. If a big storm is passing over one's location and the eye suddenly appears overhead, this interpretation means that the problem is half over. So this has a positive implication, in that at least the person in the eye of the storm has survived 50% of the crisis.

    In this usage, the phrase means something like "in the middle of a bad situation," and is what Heidi Klum meant when, speaking about her troubled marriage to the singer, Seal, said: "I'm still in the eye of the storm right now, so I don't know what will happen in the future.  Sometimes you need to be apart to figure it out."

    Misused phrase

    Peter J. McDonnell, MD
    He is director of The Wilmer Eye Institute, The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, and chief medical editor of ...

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