Sunday, August 5, 2012

Redundancy Gone Wild and Feral

As an author and writer of stories and tales, I have found and discovered that believable dialogue and conversation are essential and important to my stories and tales. Due to and because of my continued mission and endeavor to craft believable dialogue and conversation, I have developed the habit of listening and eavesdropping on others in order to both capture common and normal, as well as uncommon and abnormal, parlance and idiom.

What is with this guy- you might ask? Why does he keep using different words that mean the same thing? Why would he write “dialogue and conversation”, when those words express the same notion? Have no fear, reader. I wrote the first paragraph in the style that I did just to reflect what I have observed to be a plague in societal speech today- the plague of redundancy.
Yes, it’s true. For some reason, American society (I can’t speak of any other society, because I haven’t done the research of living in any other society) has become overrun with the verbally unnecessary, with the construction and utterance of phrases, when a single word would do. Let’s examine a few such utterances, starting with what I think are the most common offenses:
1)      Rewind back ( as opposed to what? rewinding forward)
2)      Return back (doesn’t return mean to go back, people?)
3)      Separate out (as opposed to what? separating in? separating together?)
4)      Continue on (doesn’t the word continue mean to go on?)
5)      Combine together (Hello? Let combine do its’ job!)
6)      Twelve midnight (just midnight, please! don’t make me shave my eyebrows and run down the street naked, with giant vinyl bat wings glued to my back, to get through to you!)
7)      Twelve noon (Please! Please! Just noon! Noon always come at exactly 12)
8)      Send out (as opposed to what? sending in?)
9)      Mail out (see send out, above)
10)  Regular Routine (the word routine can get its’ own point across, thank you very much. Believe me, it doesn’t need any help)
I could probably spend all day listing redundant phrases, but I’m not that much of a word Nazi. I will leave you with a list of other redundant phrases that are commonly used (though not as often as the top ten, in my humble opinion). Here goes:
Unexpected surprise (as opposed to what? the surprise that you knew about?)
Free gift (it’s not a gift if the person who receives it has to pay for it)
End result (really?)
Join together (come on now, folks)
Close proximity (proximity is close)
Basic fundamentals (do I really need to say anything?)
Advance preview (if you can’t figure out why this phrase is redundant, you don’t want to be helped)
Advance reservations (see advance preview)
Answer back (what does back really contribute to this phrase!)
Cease and Desist (both words mean stop- right? how could our courts betray us this way?)
I find the use of cease and desist as sanctioned legal terminology to be particularly unsettling. Ladies and gentleman, the fact that redundant phrases are used by our courts is symptomatic of a problem that pervades far beyond the proletariat. Could it be that our compulsively redundant speech descends from our forefathers?  Speaking of cease and desist, society as a whole should cease (I chose one and let it stand on its own, damn it!) this redundant epidemic. What is the problem, people? We have our own wonderful, versatile, constantly evolving language – but we don’t trust the words in that language to do their respective jobs? I don’t think Noah Webster would be pleased if he were around to witness this, this- Confederacy of Redundancy (can you guess the literary allusion? I love literary allusions!).
 Can anything be done to combat this harmless, but extremely annoying (at least to wordsmiths like me) epidemic? My friends, the cure starts with you. If we all commit to using only the word that is needed to express our thoughts, and not adding a synonym or part of the definition with that needed word, then perhaps we will someday manage to tame this plague of redundancy gone wild and feral (oops!).

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