Friday, 17 April 2015

What's a tautology up until now?

Hi there!

Notice anything odd about the title of this post?

What about this sentence: I'll return the book back to you tomorrow.

Ah, tautologies! I hate them, and yet, like most of us, I'm guilty of using them.

Okay, let's backtrack a bit. A tautology can be described as a self-reinforcing phrase, that is, it repeats unnecessary words. In grammatical terms a tautology uses redundant words.

One of the most common tautologies in the English language - and the one most of us are guilty of using is up until.

For example, I was on holiday up until Friday. All I really need to say is, I was on holiday until Friday. Get rid of the up - it's redundant.

Can you pick the tautology in my other example, I'll return the book back to you tomorrow?

If you said the words return and back are the tautology you'd be right. You can return the book, or you can give it back. You don't return it back - self reinforcing. See what I mean?

I love this one: The evening sunset was lovely. Ask yourself, what other time of day could you possibly have a sunset? Therefore the word evening is redundant.

Test yourself with these ones:

1. He descended down the hill.
2. I like to make predictions about the future.
3. The house was a dilapidated ruin.
4. We rode the lift to the summit at the top of the mountain.
5. ATM machine.
6. PIN number
7. Please RSVP
8. Added bonus
9. Free giveaways! (used in advertising)
10. Shout it out loud (lyrics in a KISS song)

Those acronym ones are biggies here in Australia! People use these expressions all the time and it's very annoying. Related to the tautology, but not quite, is the contradiction which basically means that the first word makes the second word impossible.

For example, square circle. Urrgh ... horrible right? It's so horrible I can't even think up any other examples so I hope you get the idea from this one example. If you can think of any please let me know!

How did you go with the ten tautologies above? Let's see. Here are the answers.
1. The redundant word in this one is down. Of course he was going down, he was descending, right?
2. Predictions are in the future, therefore the redundant words here are about the future.
3. The house was dilapidatd or a ruin. A case of make up your mind and use just one description. In this particular sentence, I'd leave out the word dilapidated. The house was a ruin.
4. The summit is at the top of the mountain. Leave out the words, at the top of the mountain.
5. Automatic Teller Machine machine. Leave out the second machine ... it's obvious really, isn't it?
6. PIN number. Same theory as number 5. Get rid of number.
7. This one was a bit of a trick. RSVP is French for répondez s'il vous plaît. It means please respond. Therefore you don't need to say please first.
8. Something that is a bonus, is something added, so you really only need to say bonus. Leave off the added.
9. If you're giving something away, it's free, right? So drop the word free. It's just a giveaway.
10. Now, I'm a KISS fan from way back, but a shout, by it's nature, is loud. Really Paul and Gene, you don't need to sing out loud - just shout it! But hey, who am I to criticise two of the world's most famous songwriters?

Until next week, it is what it is. Haha! Now that's a tautology that seems to be really trendy right now! Listen out for it ... and smile.

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