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Worst case scenario

Posted by Smokey Stover on August 17, 2007

In Reply to: Worst case scenario posted by Brian Handy on August 17, 2007

: What is the origin of the phrase 'worst case scenario'?

A scenario is a sketch or outline of the events in a play or ballet or some other work, and by extension a sketch or outline of some projected future event or series of events, in both cases providing particular details of what happens or is expected to happen. It is sometimes used as a synonym for a film script. "Can you offer us a scenario of what is expected to happen if this legislation is passed?" "Yes, your scenario sounds plausible." A "worst-case scenario" is a somewhat detailed account of the projected future results if none of our rosy expectations come to pass. What is the worst that can happen? Spell it out.

Obviously one can create a "best-case scenario," although it is usually proffered, if at all, alongside a "worst-case scenario." "What's going to happen if we do this?" "Well, in the best case, we'll all get rich. In the worst case, we'll all go to jail." The worst-case scenario here would be a somewhat detailed description of what is likely to be the course of events should the worst happen.

If you wanted a history of the use of this phrase, I can't supply it.