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Episode of incidence

[5 Nov 2014] A newspaper reports: ‘Giving evidence in court, sleep expert Dr Chris Idzikowski said sexsomnia was a real condition. He said even though McAllister admitted having drunk significant amounts of Martini and vodka at the party [before raping a girl] he may still have suffered a incidence of the condition.’

If the expert really did say ‘a incidence’ (or even ‘an incidence’), this would be poor because ‘incidence’ means the rate or frequency of something, eg ‘The incidence of gingivitis in adult men is x%.’ The word is also used for the way in which the burden of a tax falls upon the population, eg ‘the entire incidence falls upon the workers’. (New Oxford Dictionary of English, 1998). It is often misused as a posh synonym for ‘incident’ or ‘instance’.

The expert may have meant ‘an episode of the condition’. After McCallister’s former girlfriend told jurors the only thing she could remember him doing while asleep was snoring, the rapist got seven years. The expert was allowed to go free.

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