Nuance: "Bordering On"
Note how the phrase "bordering on" lets you dance up against a more extreme adjective without fully committing to it.
"Yardbird was an instant hit in 2011, stayed popular, moved to a larger space last year, and has proved surprisingly influential. 'Yardbird has really changed the way front-of-house works in Hong Kong,' said Mr. Yu, the chef, who is originally from Taiwan. Before, he said, service here was stuck in an old-fashioned mode: either too deferential and formal (at expensive restaurants) or indifferent bordering on neglectful (at cheap ones)."
—Julia Moskin, "Where the World's Chefs Want to Eat" (2019)
"One bite of the bread salad and your tongue picks up the undercurrents: salty curls of prosciutto, air-dried in a nearby barn, and layers of bordering-on
-stinky Southeast Asian-style fish sauce made with clumps of fresh squid."
—Jeff Gordinier, "Fermentation: A Love Story" (2016)
Correction: The "Notes on Nuance" section last month contained an error. We used the plural word "ellipses" to describe when you stylistically omit one or more words from a construction. We should have used the singular "ellipsis." Thank you to the perceptive readers who helped us realize our mistake.