Tuesday, January 17, 2017

The Department of Redundancy Department

As an extra bonus, she presented me with the free gift of a tuna fish.

— George Carlin

Comedian George Carlin once wrote an essay that challenged readers to "Count the Superfluous Redundant Pleonastic Tautologies."

As his title suggests, Carlin was spoofing the use of redundant phrases, or pleonasm (from the Greek for "too much").

Pleonasm is fine, if you're Shakespeare (who called Caesar's stabbing by Brutus, "The most unkindest cut of all").

It's not, if you're not.

A micro moment sounds silly, not brilliant. So does a digital app.

We don't see it as such, because pleonasm is so common in English.

Every day we encounter it in phrases like armed gunman, convicted felon, famous celebrity, head honcho, unsolved mystery, foreign import, backup copy, safe haven, ATM machine, PIN number, complete satisfaction, totally sure, exact same, overly paranoid and 100% right.

Silly as they are, we don't give those phrases a second thought.
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