I don't know why I've become so nitpicky about grammar and semantics lately - probably because I've been a law professor too long, or at least been editing papers for too long - but today I came across a phrase I've seen before and I can't figure out whether it's semantically correct.
In a news story about Hurricane Isaac, a reporter referred to a warning issued to residents of certain areas in Louisiana that failure to evacuate their homes "could lead to certain death". This is a phrase I've seen before in other contexts. Initially, it sounds odd because "certain death" implies, well, certainty of death, but the certainty is qualified by the conditional "could". On a second look, it's arguable that a person doing or not doing a particular thing "could" lead to a "definitely fatal" consequence, so that does seem logical. At least I think so.