A March letter from “Sometime Reader in Rural Manitoba,” asked, “Is it just me or is there more redundancy around these days?”
Sometime Reader attached a Free Press clipping quoting former Manitoba premier Garry Doer about life as an ambassador: “I find it a little somewhat different, but the scope of issues are broader here [than in the U.S.].”
A little somewhat different certainly qualifies as a redundancy since a little and somewhat mean much the same thing.
Doer’s words represent but the tip of a troubling iceberg, an iceberg harbouring scores of professional writers and thousands of ordinary Canadians.
In my observation, re words are most frequently abused. Re means “back” in Latin. This meaning is contained in most words that begin with re — reverse, retard, review, revive, revoke, revert, return, etc. This fact is largely ignored.
Councillor Grant Nordman (June 2011) commenting on the mayor’s decision to award the key of the city to KISS star, Gene Simmons, said, “Initially, when the press release came out, I replied back to the mayor’s office and said, ‘Is this a joke?’”
Here’s an example from a query to the Free Press travel editor: “(It) took four days for (lost luggage) to be returned back.”
In May 2013, Gloria Galway wrote, “The (NDP) ads aim to refocus the spotlight back on Mr. Mulcair” (Globe and Mail).
And in August, Sun columnist Tom Brodbeck said, “When Doer became premier ... he knew he couldn’t revert back to the high deficit days of Howard Pawley.”
Back in each of these examples, is totally unnecessary.
Revert back, my personal pet peeve, is used by highly-educated people as well as by semi-literates. Replied back demonstrates the same usage error. Similar redundancies not involving the prefix, re, are everywhere. Think of free gift.
Following the 2011 Japanese tsunami, CBC reporter Craig Dole observed, “The coolant Japanese nuclear scientists are using has not been sufficient enough.”
This one’s from a St. Louis TV journalist whose name I missed: “They are currently working on that right now.”
Although generally known as “redundancy,” the correct term for these usage blunders is “pleonasm” (too many words). Pleonasm isn’t an incorrect label, but it doesn’t go far enough. In fact, several language errors fall under this catch-all word — tautology, diffusiveness, verbiage, periphrasis, prolixity, circumlocution, pleonasm.
• Tautology — repetition of the message in different words.
• Diffusiveness — use of excessive words.
• Verbiage — too many words.
• Periphrasis — use of unnecessary words to indirectly say something.
• Prolixity — wordy and tedious.
• Circumlocution — wordy, indirect communication.
• Pleonasm — superfluous repetitious word or phrase; use of words that could be omitted without altering meaning; saying the same thing again.
Twisty Tongue has discussed this subject before, in 1999, and again in 2009. In 1999, I noted that tautology has a place and plays a useful role. Teachers, clergy and mothers repeat themselves to ensure a point sinks in. Public speakers do the same.
But revert back, sufficient enough, and currently right now, serve no purpose at all.