Department of Redundancy Department alert!

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Haters of redundancy, get ready to bristle at this email announcement I received today:

Please note that the 7th floor common room in the Dugald Stewart Building will be closed today from 10:30am until 1pm due to an event taking place.

An event taking place? But isn’t taking place the only thing that events can do? Isn’t taking place their whole thing, the only property they have in common? We have a redundancy here!

Some people actually get worked up about this sort of thing. One commenter over at Lingua Franca, for example, hates to see “The reason is because…” — the double reference to reasons strikes him as objectionable (he wants everyone to write “The reason is that…”). A responding commenter points out that redundancy doesn’t entail ungrammaticality, but I doubt that this correct observation will have any effect on the deeply held personal peeve in question.

My own recommendation to people is that they should avoid using the redundant patterns they object to. That way at least they are reducing the overall frequency of redundancies. Whereas nagging at people to change their usage will probably have the same effect as trying to teach a pig to sing. (Why should you not try to teach a pig to sing? The reason is because it not only wastes your time, it also annoys the pig.)

So I won’t be writing any memo to the 7th floor people to get “due to an event taking place” changed to “due to an event”. Nor to get “due to” changed to “owing to” or “because of” (though the use of due to in this kind of nonpredicative context was once widely judged ungrammatical by prescriptivists — I remember being warned against it in high school).

The idea is that I will concentrate on my own usage rather than other people’s. As far as their writing is concerned, I plan to simply let events take place.



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