Collecting redundancies: a strange hobby that started years ago

January 24, 2018 | By Jim Stovall | Filed in: journalism, writing.

I wrote the post below some years ago when I was teaching a beginning writing course at the University of Alabama. I’m still at this odd hobby, though not as actively as when I was teaching.

I collect redundancies.

They’re cheap; they’re fun; and they don’t take up much shelf space.

And they’re not hard to find. Most of your friends have a few that they would undoubtedly (and sometimes unwittingly) be willing to share with you.

I started my collection about 30 years ago when I was on active duty in the U.S. Navy. I had a chief petty officer (I was an enlisted man, by the way, not an officer) who loved to talk and who loved to listen to himself. He also liked to write memos.

One day we got a memo from him that contained a sentence beginning with:

“We must not forget to remember . . . ”

That stopped me cold. I read and re-read it.

I had been vaguely aware of the concept of redundacy before, but I hadn’t paid too much attention to it. A redundancy is a phrase that uses too many words to say or describe something. The words themselves restate the idea that is being expressed. (In computer programming lingo, it’s something akin to being “recursive.”)

My chief’s memo contained a gem, a linguistic sapphire. It occurred to me that it would be fun to collect these things. So I began to tune my ear and sharpen my eye for these pieces of jewelry. Rarely have I found anything to match the chief’s contribution to my collection, but I have picked up a few sparklers along the way.

Here are some:

component parts

You can hear this one from auto mechanics to rocket scientists. But what are “components” if not “parts”? One of these will do.

Easter Sunday

This is one of the major contributions of the Christian religion to my collection. When is Easter not on Sunday? It may have occurred sometime, but not in anybody’s memory. We can easily drop the “Sunday.”

exact same

“She had on the exact same dress as I did.” This a modern favorite of the babbling classes (1) on television talk shows. They’re trying to make a point but trying too hard. The word “exact” adds nothing to the word “same.” They are exactly the same. (Sorry, I couldn’t resist.) If they weren’t the same, the proper word would be “similar.”

advanced planning

If we plan — which we probably don’t do enough — we inevitably do it for the future. Logically, can we plan for the past? I’ve thought about it enough to get a headache.
A younger brother to advanced planning is to plan ahead.
And a third cousin to these siblings is to revert back.
Another branch of the family gives us never before.
Then there’s the great-grandfather of them all, past history.
With this family, you can get yourself into a major time warp.

cease and desist

The world of shyster lawyers (are you paying attention) — that is, the legal profession — has made many contributions to my collection, but it’s difficult to top this one. “Cease” and “desist” mean the same thing (in fact, exactly the same thing — see above), but where would lawyers be if they couldn’t say “cease and desist”? They would be left with the word “stop” and thus far fewer billable hours.

On this same point, my friend Dan Meissner writes:
Nothing is more redundant than the legal profession. In fact, lawyers seem to be caught up in the eternal triangle — everything comes in threes, for example:
A bill of sale – you can’t just sell something, you must “sell, transfer and convey
A will – when you die, you don’t give your worldly possessions away, you “give, devise and bequeath
Remember our motto: “Help stamp out and eliminate redundancy.”

Ed Mullins, chair of the Journalism department, sent me his list of personal favorites:

old adage
new maxims
tired cliches
gather together
free gifts
free bonus gift
sworn affidavit (not sworn, not an affidavit)
hot water heater
final ultimatum
fatally slain
The youth “died when he drowned in hurricane creek.”
The victim’s car was completely totaled.
Humpteenth chapter under heading Journalists Hate Math: “The gymnast heads a quartet of four finalists.”
Crowd of people
Bald-headed man
In the year 2000
Dead body found in field
Drew to a close

Some of these I owe to James J. Kilpatrick

How about adding to my collection. Got any good redundancies? Let me know. If they qualify, I will post them here and give you credit. Use the e-mail address below.

Spring 2001

stupid idiot (contributed by Meghan Etheridge)

Fall 2001

close proximity
concensus of opinion
where is it at
reason is because
 (above contributed by Marshall McCoy)

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6 comments on “Collecting redundancies: a strange hobby that started years ago

  1. I love these! I “collect” some odd literary things too. Mostly oxymorons like “jumbo shrimp,” etc. I also love when people’s names form a sentence, like Britney Spears, Ben Folds, Stevie Nicks, Jeremy Irons…

    • The one about the names forming sentences — now that’s funny. I had never thought of that. Thanks, Laurie.

  2. A redundancy that seems to have come into common usage recently (I heard it several times last night in UT’s win over Vanderbilt) is saying that someone can “score the basketball.” For instance, a sportscaster might say, “So-and-So was having trouble with his 3-point shot, but he is really scoring the basketball now.” Pray tell, what else would he be scoring?

    • No idea, Vince. I put sports guys — especially modern broadcasters (not the old radio play-by-play announcers) — in a special class (maybe a special circle of hell) when it comes to committing crimes against the English language.

  3. How about the theme from “Mahogany?” While not exactly a redundancy “Do you know where you’re going to?” has always grated on my nerves. Then there’s “hamburger meat” and (though not so much in use now) “pizza pie” and the ever-popular “tuna fish.” Consider, too, that “The rain sure is coming down.”

    Also, while you can “wind up” or “wind down,” “slow up” or “slow down,” you can only “speed up.”

    BTW, I just read a story where, in every instance, the author swapped the use of “to” and “too.”

    Finally, for those of your correspondents who’ve never heard it (I remember seeing it on TV) Bud Abbot and Lou Costello’s famous “Who’s on first?”:

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