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Unnecessary Redundancies

picture of redundant sign

On my blog I poke fun at all sorts of things, good-naturedly, of course. It's especially fun when it's something that I know I am also guilty of. The other day I said something in class and immediately realized that what I had said was redundant. I pointed out to my students what I had said. I figured it was at least marginally on topic — I teach French and linguistic redundancies are undoubtedly possible in every language.

Here's a dictionary definition of the word:

re·dun·dan·cy (noun), 1. The state of being redundant. 2. A superfluity; an excess. 3. Unnecessary repetition.

Here's a fun visualization of redundancy that I found online:

picture of redundancy

Newscasters and politicians, possibly because of the sheer amount of speaking they do, seem to offer up quite a few redundancies. The other day in connection with Swine Flu (H1N1) I heard one person call it a "world-wide pandemic disease." But they don't have a monopoly on redundancy. Yesterday I heard someone talking about "two twins." And for some reason, all of my high school social studies teachers used to say "irregardless."

Some redundancies might not even strike people as being redundant, until further reflection, like "government deficits." Some redundancies result from adding a superfluous modifier to a word that is already an absolute, like "quite unique" or "very true." Though we say these things innocently, they are still redundancies that we repetitiously repeat again and again over and over. You get the point, which is why say it twice?

I had an extremely long list of redundancies in my files and found some even longer lists online. Rather than repeating those lists, here are some of my personal favorites:

academic scholar
ACT test
and etc.
automatic ATM machine
brief moment
completely unanimous
conniption fit
déjà vu all over again (Thanks, Yogi Berra!)
down under
eliminate altogether
empty hole
exact replica
first of all
free gift
honest truth
hopes and aspirations
I thought to myself....
immortalized forever
individual person
join together
live audience
may possibly
near vicinity
new innovations
nostalgia for the past
not one single person
null and void
original source
other alternatives
over again
over and above
P.I.N. number
passing fad
personal friend
please RSVP
polar opposites
refer back
safe haven
see with one's own eyes
serious danger
sink down
small speck
spinning around
sudden impulse
sufficient enough
surrounded on all sides
temporary reprieve
terrible tragedy
totally demolished
unexpected surprise
unsolved mystery
vacillating back and forth
water hydrant
widow woman
with au jus gravy
written down
young child

You can read a great explanation of redundancies and see a l-o-n-g list of them at http://www.wordfocus.com/pleonasm.html. Another great site — http://grammar.about.com/od/words/a/redundancies.htm — puts the redundant element in parentheses, thus showing the part of the expression that would be sufficient.


Speaking of redundancies, birthdays can sometimes be "same-old-same-old." However this year my birthday was anything but that. When I arrived at my office yesterday morning, I found decorations all over the door, with students' names on the various objects.

picture of decorations

I thought, "Cute! Some of my students wanted to surprise me." And then I opened the door.... Oh my! There weren't many square inches of floor space not covered with balloons.

picture of decorations

My office mate had left our door unlocked at the end of the day Tuesday to give the "interior decorators" access. After we had fun breaking the balloons later in the morning yesterday, my office mate wanted to take a picture of a jubilant me. Here's the "birthday garçon."

picture of the birthday garcon

Last evening, the organizer of the decorations posted some pictures on her Facebook profile. Here's a composite of several:

picture of the decorators

Merci, mes chers étudiants! You helped make this September 30th anything but redundant! 😀

Several readers have asked me how my birthday apple dumplings were. They were unbelievable! Thanks, Dear!

Last evening Becka and I went to Firehouse Subs for dinner. Last year I signed up for their birthday club, and last week I received a card to be used for a free medium sub sandwich. Our fave is the Italian sub. Mmm!

My friend Phil and I have a longstanding tradition of taking each other out for lunch to celebrate our birthdays. Today he took me downtown to the Mellow Mushroom where we split a cheese calzone with pepperoni. I'd never been there before and plan to take my wife there in the future.

My birthday may eventually conclude this weekend when Becka and I use the coupon I got from the Birthday Club at Cold Stone Creamery for a free "Like It Create Your Own Creation."


Do you have any favorite redundancies that you love to use or that make you cringe when you hear them?


"Suppose you were an idiot... And suppose you were a member of Congress... But I repeat myself." - Mark Twain

=^..^= =^..^=

As I've said before, I never repeat myself.

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15 Comments on “Unnecessary Redundancies”

  1. #1 David
    on Oct 1st, 2009 at 3:49 pm

    I know I’m going to offend a couple prescriptivists and step on some toes, but I’m not sure that redundancies are always a bad thing. Some of them just have a poetic sound (“widow woman” or “wider woman” and “vacillating back and forth”). Others in the list (e.g. “null and void,” “conniption fit,” and “safe haven”) are just idiomatic expressions. You can hate them, but it’s futile to try to get rid of them.

    My linguistic side is winning out over my prescriptivist side in this debate.

    Besides as a sys admin, I think redundancy is a great thing. 🙂

  2. #2 Nancy
    on Oct 1st, 2009 at 3:56 pm

    I think in light of your advancing years that I should add this redundancy: old antique. (Those new antiques are hardly worth a thing.)

  3. #3 Laura
    on Oct 1st, 2009 at 4:52 pm

    Happy Birthday (hopefully that could be considered a good redundancy)!! Your birthday is just one day after my fiance’s. 🙂

  4. #4 Carol 'Ro'
    on Oct 1st, 2009 at 6:08 pm

    My favorite redundancy is CHAI TEA!!!!!

  5. #5 Doodie
    on Oct 1st, 2009 at 7:46 pm

    Here in Clearwater, FL, we have several (believe it or not) newscasters who say, with great regularity, “It happened at four a.m. in the morning” (or whatever time it was). This drives me nuts.

  6. #6 Heather
    on Oct 1st, 2009 at 8:00 pm

    Recently noted on my credit union’s website: “Turn your loose change into cash!”

    Also noted on the same website, the following isn’t redundant, but it made me look twice: “Scan your smile and win a shredder!” I’m not sure I want to know the rationale on that one.

  7. #7 Tawnja Schaffner
    on Oct 2nd, 2009 at 9:20 am

    I think the worst and most used is “each and every.”

  8. #8 Michael
    on Oct 2nd, 2009 at 9:39 am

    I think redundancies bother my wife more than they bother me. I know I’ve heard her comment about wedding invitations that have “please RSVP”. I have been guilty of saying things like “very unique”.

    Other things bother me more. One that really gets me is when a person prefaces what they’re saying with “honestly” or “to tell you the truth”. That makes me wonder about the veracity of what they had told me up to that point.

    Glad your week of birthday is going well. Those restaurants you’re enjoying are some of our favorites as well.

  9. #9 Gayle
    on Oct 2nd, 2009 at 2:12 pm

    I can’t believe your office mate didn’t take you to Sonic!! 🙂

  10. #10 Ann
    on Oct 2nd, 2009 at 4:09 pm

    “Free gift” is often not a redundancy when you read the fine print. It means that the gift itself is free, but you must pay an exorbitant amount for shipping and handling.

    Something that isn’t a redundancy but that always tickles me when I hear it usually in a bj service is: “Please stand to your feet.” I often wonder what the speaker thinks the congregation might do if he didn’t specify “feet.”

  11. #11 Rob
    on Oct 2nd, 2009 at 9:49 pm

    @David and several others – I reread what I wrote and cannot find where I said I hated redundancies or where I said they were “bad.” I’m merely pointing out the fact that some expressions are redundant and poking fun at them. Didn’t I preface the list I gave as “my personal favorites”? 😀 Some have, indeed, become idiomatic in our language, but that doesn’t change the fact that the expressions contain unnecessary repetitions. I will go on the record as finding some redundancies somewhat irritating and frankly dumb. But as you can see from some of the other comments, some people are really bothered by them.

    @Nancy – “Old antique” is a redundancy used often by my dearly departed stepfather … not in reference to me, I might add, and back when I was a “young antique.”

    @Laura – I didn’t know your fiancé was a day older than I! Hope his birthday was as happy as mine was. Thanks for the wishes.

    @Carol – I never thought about the fact that the expression “chai tea” is a redundancy, but it is!

    @Doodie – I’ll bet that’s particularly annoying when you wake up and hear something like that on the 6 a.m. Morning News. 🙂

    @Heather – Good one about loose change not being money. The thing about the shredder is a puzzlement.

    @Tawnja – In some languages that redundancy would not even be possible since you would have to use the same word twice.

    @Michael – The ones like “very unique” are the type of redundancies that I know I let slip with the most often frequency.

    @Gayle – Believe it or not, he and I have never gone to Sonic together!

    @Ann – Not to be a contentious hair-splitter, but can anything truly be a gift if it costs you something, even for P & H? I’ve known of cases where the P & H charges were so high that they had to totally cover the cost of the “gift” also.

    “Stand to your feet” is indeed a tad bizarre. But I have been known to sit on my feet. 🙂

  12. #12 b.j.
    on Oct 5th, 2009 at 11:48 am

    I find that it is easy to be redundant when using acronyms, since so many are old or used so much that people don’t even remember what they stand for. (such as please RSVP) I know a lot of people who don’t even know what RSVP stands for — just “make a reservation”?

    It’s not redundant, but since I’m on the subject of unknown acronyms, my favorite is golf! You have the PGA, which is known as the Professional Golf Association, but the word GOLF is an acronym in itself. Which makes the WPGA the Women’s Professional Golf Association, or more correctly, the Women’s Professional Gentlemen Only Ladies Forbidden Association. Ha ha! Talk about messing with political correctness there! If more people really knew what it stood for, would they change the name of golf? Eh, probably not. They’re too busy picking on Christmas right now, I guess. 🙂

  13. #13 Rob
    on Oct 6th, 2009 at 6:39 am

    @b.j. – What you’ve said is valid, I’m sure. There are quite a few acronyms for which I could not supply all the components.

  14. #14 Roy Hooper
    on Oct 6th, 2009 at 9:17 pm

    When I travel by air I am thankful to know that there are redundant systems in place. Redundancies can be a “good thing”. Roy

  15. #15 Rob
    on Oct 7th, 2009 at 6:35 am

    @Roy – You’ve pointed out one of the places where redundancies are indeed desirable. Extra measures taken for safety are, in my book, necessary redundancies! 😀