By Farooq A.
Monday, 06 January 2014.
Dr. Richard Nordquist, a professor
emeritus of rhetoric and English at Armstrong Atlantic State University here in
the state of Georgia, USA, compiled a helpful list of what he called “200 common
redundancies” in English for About.com, a website dedicated to
providing informative content by experts on a wide range of topics.
In what follows, I
have compressed Dr. Nordquist’s list of redundancies and added my commentary.
The words in parenthesis are redundant and should be avoided by careful
writers. From my perspective, though, redundancies or
tautologies are not necessarily grammatical errors. They are sometimes
necessary for emphasis and clarity. But most of them are also the product of
intellectual sloppiness. So here you go:
facts. The “actual” in the phrase is useless because actuality is the
only ingredient of facts. It isn’t a “fact” if it isn’t “actual.”
(forward). Advancement is necessarily a forward movement. Since
it is illogical for anything or anybody to “advance backward,” the phrase is a
useless repetition. Other tautologies on Nordquist’s list that have the
needless “advance” prefixed to them are “(advance) planning,” “(advance) preview,”
“(advance) reservations,” and “(advance) warning.” All these words mean “ahead
of time” and can do without “advance,” which also means “ahead of time.”
3. Add (an additional) something or
somebody. The redundancy in this phrase
is self-evident. To add is to “make an addition to” something. A related
redundancy is “(added) bonus.”
4. (All-time) record. Since a record is the best or worst
attainment, etc. of “all time,” the adjective “all-time” is pointless.
5. Alternative (choice). Both “alternative” and “choice” mean the same
thing in contemporary usage. Note, however, that some semantic purists, who are
now for the most part on the linguistic fringe, argue that you cannot use
“alternative” where more than two choices are involved because “alter,” from
which the word is derived, is Latin for “other,” of two.
a.m. (in the morning). A.M. stands for "ante meridiem,"
which is Latin for “before noon," that is, morning. This also applies to
the expression “2 p.m. (in the afternoon).” P.M. stands for
“post meridiem,” which is Latin for “after noon.”
7. (Anonymous) stranger. If he wasn’t anonymous he wouldn’t be a
stranger. A stranger is necessarily anonymous.
8. (Annual) anniversary. Anniversary means an annual occurrence. The Oxford English Dictionary says
anniversary is derived from the Latin anniversarius. It breaks down
the word thus: “annus” means year, “versus” means turned, or a
turning, and “arius” means connected with or pertaining to. That should
give us “pertaining to turning a year.” So that renders the phrase “annual
Some people talk of a “monthly
anniversary.” Well, that’s not standard usage. I’ve heard people talk about
“mensiversary” to refer to a monthly occurrence, but I haven’t found the word
in standard dictionaries. It was neologized from “mensis,” which is
Latin for month. Other neologisms are “luniversary,” “monthiversary,” and
“monthaversary.” None of them is standard, however.
gunman. The redundancy in the phrase just shoots you right in your
10. Ascend (up). Where else do you ascend to? Down? Sideways?
(the question). What do you do to a question other than to ask it?
12. Assemble (together). Assembling is a process of bringing something
together. That makes “together” unneeded in the phrase. Related tautological
phrases common in spoken English are “attach (together),” “blend (together),” etc.
13. Autobiography (of his or her own
life). An autobiography is “a person's
life history written by that person.” “Auto” means self, that is, on one's own. If a person’s
life history is authored by someone else, it is called a biography. That means
the phrase “biography (of his--or her--life)” is also redundant.
14. Bald (-headed). Bald-headed is a standard phrase, but you can
save space by doing away with “headed” since bald means lacking hair on the
fundamentals. Fundamentals means basic principle, so “basic
fundamentals” is redundant. So is “(basic) necessities” because
necessities are basic needs.
16. Best (ever). I talked about this phrase in my May 29, 2011
article titled “Superlative Expressions in American English.” Best and ever are superlative states, that is,
the highest degree attainable, and can’t logically be combined.
17. Bouquet (of flowers). The phrase is needlessly repetitive because a
bouquet is by definition a bunch of flowers. There can’t be a bouquet of
18. (Brief) moment. A moment is a short time. That makes “brief”
superfluous. Other redundant expression involving brief are “(brief) summary”
and “brief (in duration).”
19. (Burning) embers. It won’t be an ember if it isn’t burning.
To be continued next week
Farooq Kperogi is an academic, journalist, newspaper columnist, and blogger
based in Greater Atlanta, USA. He received his first degree in Mass
Communication (with a double minor in English and Political Science) from
Bayero University, Kano, Nigeria, where he won the Nigerian Television
Authority Prize for the Best Graduating Student. He is currently an
Assistant Professor of Journalism and Citizen Media at Kennesaw State
University, Georgia's fastest-growing and third largest university.