The squad squad keeps on keepin' on

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William Safire's On Language column used to feature regular reports from the Squad Squad, readers who wrote to him with examples of redundant language. His column from 11/5/1989, for example, cites the  Isis construction, the phrase ad hoc task force ("as if all task forces were not by their nature ad hoc"), references to the Negev desert ("Negev means 'desert' (as well as 'south') in Hebrew"), a menu listing for cold Gazpacho ("all Gazpacho is cold"), and Safire's own use of the idiom shrug our shoulders ("only shoulders are for shrugging; you cannot shrug your eyebrows, even though you can lift them").

Bill is gone, but a little Squad Squad lives on in all of us, it seems.  We notice usage that strikes us as redundant, and we feel the urge to share our insights.  Few of us get as intense about it as the Pilotless Drone Man did — but maybe, somewhere in the amygdala of every Squad Squad member, there's a little Drone Man fighting to emerge.

This morning's email brought a (polite and restrained) Squad Squad bulletin from Stephen Smith, who was bothered by several features of Anthony Loewenstein's recent Nation article "Australia Snubs Tamil Refugees". Stephen's note to me cited this example of unnecessary redundancy:

Australia, a largely uninhabited island, has long nursed fears of invasion by its northern neighbors. […] Fear of the unknown has existed since the English landed in 1788. Though perhaps no more serious than in other Western states, an insular, island mentality sometimes rears its ugly head.

I've always wondered why the Squad Squad isn't bothered by rhetorical redundancy ("we shall fight on the seas and oceans, […] we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds") or by the systematic redundancy of biblical poetry ("All this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying, Tell ye the daughter of Sion, Behold, thy King cometh unto thee, meek, and sitting upon an ass, and a colt the foal of an ass.").

Come to think of it, I wonder whether redundancy is a universal stimulus to linguistic peeving.  Are there French, German, Spanish, Russian, Arabic, … Squad Squads?  After all, the Squad Squad doesn't seem to be concerned about linguistically mandated redundancy, like subject-verb agreement — but English has less of this than many other languages. And the extensive use of pleonastic compounds in Chinese (and therefore in Japanese) would seem to make life difficult for the East Asian branches of the Squad Squad.


  1. jfruh said,

    December 16, 2009 @ 8:57 am

    While I'd agree that "insular island" is kind of jarring, I don't think it's as egregious as the other. "Insular" has come to often be used metaphorically to describe someone or something that's isolated from the rest of the world — I've seen it applied to Belarus and Myanmar, for instance, neither of which is an island.

  2. Michael M said,

    December 16, 2009 @ 9:23 am

    "shrug our shoulders " — as if we could shrug somebody else's shoulders…

  3. Michael M said,

    December 16, 2009 @ 9:26 am

    But more seriously — tautology (certainly a case of redundancy) is in the eye of the beholder. One could argue that tautology never, never occurs; one could also claim that there is nothing new under the sun.

  4. Jerry Stephens said,

    December 16, 2009 @ 9:36 am

    Objecting to rhetorical redundancies does seem a little contrived. But, is there really a redundancy if part of the word phrase comes from a second language. Saying "Negev Desert" doesn't seem much of a concern since "Negev" comes from Hebrew. Even if does mean "desert" in Hebrew. Likewise, saying "Rio Grande River" doesn't seem wrong even if "rio" does mean river in Spanish. It certainly seems, at least to a native English speaker, that "Rio Grande" becomes the name of a river in the southwest United States and that saying "Rio Grande River" merely provides the complete English language name of the river. Thus, no redundancy at all. Michael M probably has it right when he notes that it is all in the eye of the beholder.

  5. GAC said,

    December 16, 2009 @ 9:37 am

    I've never heard any redundancy issues for Spanish, and it does have some grammatical features that require some "redundancy" (negative concord, gender agreement, certain reflexive constructions), but honestly I have never really seen anything like a "language column" in Spanish. I'm sure there are disagreements here and there about a word's gender and such things (I think I remember seeing "poema" in both genders, from different sources, though I think etymologically it "should" be masculine).

    As for Chinese, I'm not sure if I'm really advanced enough to encounter many peeves, but those I've heard seem to be sociolinguistic (standard is better, don't listen to "regional accents"). One thing I've heard both foreigners and Chinese complain about is erhua, the addition of an -r ending to certain words, common in Beijing and various northern areas. Between the pleonastic compounds and heavy use of reduplication, Mandarin speakers are probably pretty used to "redundancy".

  6. Richard Hershberger said,

    December 16, 2009 @ 10:26 am

    They object to "Negev Desert"? Seriously? Weird.

    The whole idea of cross-language redundancy is weird. Are English speakers required to know the etymology of every borrowed word in the language, and to cram that etymology into their English usage, no matter how jarring the result? Of course not. None of those words from Arabic beginning with "al-" are treated as if they have the definite article built in. How could they? This would make ungrammatical any use of, say, "algebra" in a context which doesn't allow the definite article, and would make absurd any use where the definite article is required.

    Nobody does that. So how to explain an objection to "Negev Desert" (or "the hoi polloi")? Semi-educated twits showing off and trying to bully other people answers this question admirably.

  7. Dan Lufkin said,

    December 16, 2009 @ 10:38 am

    Sometimes extra redundancy furnishes a clue to the underlying substructure of a situation. Every day I see a sign on a baseball field "Home of the Central Region Division." This seems to provide administrative space for two concentric committees, a Regional Committee and a Divisional Committee, with joint meetings when needed. This absorbs surplus administrative talent among Little League parents and is thus a Good Thing. Or possibly they regionalize by geography and divisionalize by age. Lots to think about here.

  8. Moacir said,

    December 16, 2009 @ 10:44 am

    I actually like "insular island" since it reinforces via redundancy with a bit of wit, though that example might not be a good one.

    But I'm used to the redundancies we see in French and Spanish for the sake of emphasis, like beginning a sentence with "À moi/A mi," like in "A mi, me parece…" or "À moi, il me paraît…"

    On the other hand, "Tian shan mountains" (601k hits on google) jars me a bit, and though I thought Google would turn up nearly no hits for "Mont Blanc mountain," that doesn't seem to be the case. Luckily, "Porte d'Orleans gate" only brings up 7 hits. *That* construction makes my senses hemorrhage.

  9. Faldone said,

    December 16, 2009 @ 10:48 am

    And as far as Rio Grande goes, there are cities in Ohio, New Jersey, Puerto Rico, and Texas with that name. Saying the Rio Grande River clears up that potential ambiguity quite nicely.

    When confronted by anyone over my use of "the hoi polloi" I ask the confronter if they consistently use the proper declension when using the phrase themselves.

  10. Peter Taylor said,

    December 16, 2009 @ 10:50 am

    Redundant use of subject pronouns in Spanish is something I've seen non-native speakers corrected on, but the focus of this post seems to be more on peeves against constructions used by native speakers.

  11. Noam said,

    December 16, 2009 @ 11:00 am

    Maybe this is besides the point, but the etymology of "Negev" is plain wrong. The Hebrew word for "desert" is mitbar. In modern Hebrew, Negev is simply the name of the desert in southern Israel (the additional "south" meaning is biblical Hebrew).

    [(myl) Well, I guess it's nice to see that the Squad Squad's scholarship is only sometimes wrong, instead of being essentially always wrong like most other subspecies of peevers. I mean, insular does actually derive historically from a word meaning "island".]

  12. Moacir said,

    December 16, 2009 @ 11:00 am

    Also notable about the Rio Grande is that that is its US name. From my understanding, in Mexico, it's either the Rio Bravo (of Dean Martin fame) or the Rio Grande del Norte. In Spanish/Portuguese it's almost a hilariously useless name (evidenced by two states in Brazil named after Rio Grande, one of the north, and one of the south, yet the states don't share a border). Yet in English, it's unique.

  13. Pat said,

    December 16, 2009 @ 11:04 am

    I can remember reading a long screed somewhere against using "et/ou," which, interestingly, implied that "and/or" was not likewise set upon by the peevèd.

    [(myl) Geoff Pullum has argued that and/or is "logically redundant", though (as usual) he is curious rather than censorious, and allows that and/or is useful as "a way of underlining the point that the or is to be understood in its inclusive sense rather than its exclusive sense". (More here, here, here. here, here.)]

    Searching on gets 19,000 hits, 20-some of which are on

  14. mollymooly said,

    December 16, 2009 @ 11:13 am

    "Pilotless Drone Man". I see what you did there.

    Who was it pointed out the tautology of "windy suspiration of forced breath"?

    I think "Rio Grande River" sounds wrong: maybe it's a more obvious tautology than "Negev Desert", in that more anglophones have a smattering of Spanish than have a smattering of Hebrew; or maybe it's just that one is idiomatic and the other is not. People often leave out the word "City" in "New York City"; less so for "Oklahoma City" or "Mexico City": idioms are arbitrary.

  15. Pat said,

    December 16, 2009 @ 11:13 am

    Also: Can you do anything with your shoulders except shrug? I thus conclude all three words are redundant and should be eliminated.

    I suppose "thus conclude" is also redundant? DAMMIT.

  16. Andrew F said,

    December 16, 2009 @ 11:21 am

    Pat: I just rolled and stretched mine (after shrugging off a burden). You can also dislocate shoulders, or roast, carve and serve shoulder, though I wouldn't recommend doing it with your own.

  17. Michael M said,

    December 16, 2009 @ 11:21 am

    Speaking of rivers: how about the River Avon? That happens to be River River, as well.

  18. Larry Goldsmith said,

    December 16, 2009 @ 11:26 am

    Spanish certainly has redundancy issues. "¡Salte para afuera!", "¡métete adentro!", "andar a pie" are all examples of pleonasmo that get the Squad Squad treatment, at least here in Mexico.

    (My favorite bilingual redundancy example, from Los Angeles, is "The La Brea Tar Pits.")

    While peeving about Spanish doesn't seem to have become as institutionalized as its counterpart in the English-speaking world, there are plenty of blogs devoted to misspelled signs in public places. And there is the Museo de los Horrores of the Centro Virtual Cervantes.

  19. mollymooly said,

    December 16, 2009 @ 11:30 am

    Ballad of the Sad Café: "Then the man in the red shirt shrugged his left shoulder and turned away."

    A Scandal in Bohemia: "The count shrugged his broad shoulders."

    Try doing those intransitively.

  20. Alex said,

    December 16, 2009 @ 11:56 am

    It's easy to find examples of linguistic peevishness among Russian speakers, but that's most likely because strict norm-adherence, along with ethnicity, plays a large part in establishing social status.A common shibboleth is the grammatical gender of words like кофе "coffee": it's historically masculine, but the modern form has a neuter ending. Also, it doesn't decline for case anymore. Stereotypical "uncultured" speakers, such as comedy relief characters in movies, confuse nominal genders and use non-standard case endings ("чей туфля").

  21. wally said,

    December 16, 2009 @ 11:57 am

    Here are the lyrics to the song "Big Rio Grande River"

    Big Rio Grande River

    The Austin Lounge Lizards

    In the pass they call El Paso back in 1921
    We saddled up and took a ride and ate a picnic lunch outside
    Beneath the firey inferno of a hot August sun
    Alone with me unchaperoned, a local Texas miss
    Yes lovely Linda was the girl, her brilliance brightened up my world
    While I was serving sadly at the fort that’s known as Bliss

    We viewed a scenic vista in the valley far below
    We ate cheese quesadillas flanked by fragrant beef fajitas
    The insurgents were revolting in the streets of Mexico
    Suddenly to my surprise a sound came from my rear
    It was seventeen armed gunmen and plus one lone mounted horseman
    Who softly whispered, “Por favor, I’ll take the food and beer”

    By sunrise it had dawned on me, she’d run off with the great Cabrito Kid
    His white mare, Caballo Blanca, would brave for him the blazing flames of hell
    And after each encounter, he would call his horse and mount her
    And they’d rear off with a stirring grito yell
    His gold tooth flashing in the sun, his song forever endless in my head

    Big Rio Grande River, it flows down to the sea
    Bringing back my memories of the past
    High up on Table Mesa, I feel her nearness close to me
    As the evening sun sets in the west

    The years have passed and gone, I’m now a wealthy billionaire
    The butler calls my club by phone, I dine there by myself alone
    And shiver in the coldness of my air-conditioned lair
    Looking back in retrospect, my life’s a trite cliché
    Chapters of past history keep echoing repeatedly
    They all come back except the girl who left and went away

    A phone bell rings, it’s Linda’s voice, she coos a warm hello (hello, hello, hello)
    Now I am thinking pensively, how we could live expensively
    So we arrange to meet up on the first floor down below
    As we leave the ATM machine she steps aside
    I hear, “Por favor, I’ll take the cash,” I turn and see a gold tooth flash
    Now side by side by side we sing together as we ride

    Big Rio Grande River, it flows down to the sea
    Bringing back my memories of the past
    High up on Table Mesa, I feel her nearness close to me
    As the evening sun sets
    As the evening sun sets
    As the evening sun sets in the west

  22. Robert Coren said,

    December 16, 2009 @ 11:57 am

    @mollymooly: "Oklahoma City" is in fact the name of the city in Oklahoma, whereas the other two are named "New York" and "Mexico", respectively, with "City" often added to make it clear that one is not talking about the state or nation, respectively.

    @Larry: I was really hoping that nobody would mention "The La Brea Tar Pits", just for once. The people who mock people who use that phrasing annoy me more than most peevers.

  23. Mr Fnortner said,

    December 16, 2009 @ 12:05 pm

    When words are imported from another language, all bets are off. Any attempt to make speakers of the native language conform to the rules of the lending language are pointless and pedantic. An older Anglo gentleman of my acquaintance loves frijole beans, for example.

  24. Ed said,

    December 16, 2009 @ 12:13 pm

    That quote about Australia is really wrong for reasons other than the redundancy. Australia is not a "largely uninhabited island", it is a continent with a population of over twenty million. And the notion of the people living there "long nursing fears of an invasion of the north" or "fearing the unknown" is based on pretty much nothing. Fear of an invasion of the north has not been a feature of Australian history either before or after the English showed up. Its another example of journalistic bs.

    Is the opposite of a reduncancy, say a "piloted drone", an oxymoron?

  25. John Lawler said,

    December 16, 2009 @ 12:15 pm

    @mollymooly, Robert Coren:
    Everybody knows "Salt Lake City", but locally in Utah, all other cities are also referred to the same way. 40 years ago I lived in what was frequently referred to as "Logan City", for instance. In Michigan, where I lived next, I never heard anybody say "Ypsilanti City", for instance.

    I don't know whether that kind of nomenclatural practice counts as redundancy or markedness or some other term, but I suppose while we're on the subject of redundancy, especially polyglot redundancy, somebody has to mention Torpenhow Hill:

  26. Bobbie said,

    December 16, 2009 @ 12:41 pm

    Sahara Desert. Pizza pie.

  27. Benjamin Massot said,

    December 16, 2009 @ 1:11 pm

    Concerning French, from Grevisse/Goosse (1993) Le bon usage, § 15:
    "Le pléonasme condamné est le pléonasme vicieux […]: un petit nain […]"
    (translation: "The condemned pleonasm is the vicious/incorrect one …: a short dwarf")
    Pleonasms and redundancy are regularly the target of linguistic peevishness in France, with people condemning, for example, "those who say faire montrer (make show something to somebody) instead of montrer or faire voir"

  28. Craig Russell said,

    December 16, 2009 @ 1:13 pm

    I don't understand what the objection to "the La Brea Tar Pits" is. Even if you accept this silly inter-language redundancy argument, it's not redundant; the two articles are agreeing with different nouns: "the" goes with "tar pits" and "la" goes with "Brea". Do these same people have a problem with "the Los Angeles Police Department"?

  29. Cheryl Thornett said,

    December 16, 2009 @ 1:23 pm

    Competitive redundancies in place names, is it? What about Bredon Hill? Hill (bre-) hill (don/down) hill. (And a wonderful place for a picnic as well.)

  30. slobone said,

    December 16, 2009 @ 1:24 pm

    On the San Francisco peninsula you often hear people refer to "the El Camino", which I always thought was funny. But of course I'm a reformed peever now…

  31. Larry Goldsmith said,

    December 16, 2009 @ 1:32 pm

    @Robert Coren: "México Tenustitan" (a variation of Tenochtitlán) was officially renamed "La Ciudad de México" in 1585. The Distrito Federal was created in 1824. There is a long history of reconfigurations and name changes in which the city proper has sometimes officially been known as "Ciudad de México" and at other times "Municipalidad de México" or "México, D.F." (confusion is possible both with the surrounding state of México and the country as a whole).

    I'm a near-native of Los Angeles, and I've never heard anyone mock the phrase "The La Brea Tar Pits." It's just one of those accidents of language that is funny to those who know both English and Spanish.

  32. Russell said,

    December 16, 2009 @ 1:45 pm

    You can add blink/wink one's eyes, crane one's neck, nod one's head, and purse/pucker one's lips to the list of horrible redundancies that must be eliminated.

    re: the la brea tar pits, I grew up in LA, and I can remember my dad noting to me the oddity of the phrase when I was young, in a sort of "ha ha only serious" sort of way.

  33. Faldone said,

    December 16, 2009 @ 1:57 pm

    Not to mention los Los Angeles Angeles de Anaheim.

  34. Peter Taylor said,

    December 16, 2009 @ 2:12 pm

    @Craig Russell, "la brea" is Spanish for tar.

  35. Mr Fnortner said,

    December 16, 2009 @ 2:55 pm

    What many call Mount Fujiyama would be Mount Fuji Mountain. It is better as Mount Fuji. The Japanese call it Fujisan.

  36. Nathan said,

    December 16, 2009 @ 3:37 pm

    @John Lawler: Lifelong Utah resident here. My experience with Utah city names is different from yours. There are a few fixed names, like "Brigham City" and "Cedar City" that never drop the "City". "Salt Lake City" vs. "Salt Lake" or "West Valley City" vs. "West Valley" are in fairly free variation.
    But I've never heard "City" used in most of them—including "Logan City"—outside of a specific reference to the city corporation or the city government.

  37. David said,

    December 16, 2009 @ 3:41 pm

    For Swedish, the examples I can think of immediately are constructions such as "eftersom att han kommer" (since that he's coming, instead of since he's coming). Some googling reveals peeving against "avancera framåt" (advance forward) and especially compounds such as "AT-tjänstgöring" (GP practice) where the noun is also found in the abbreviation, and even "CD-skiva" [compact disc].

  38. Luiz said,

    December 16, 2009 @ 3:57 pm

    I can vouch for Portuguese that redundancy is very wrong. People use it all the time though. Among the common ones:

    Subir pra cima (ascend upwards)
    Descer pra baixo (descend downwards)
    Sair pra fora (exit outside)
    Entrar pra dentro (enter inside)

    These are often corrected by frustrated parents and teachers as redundancy is considered very wrong.

  39. dwmacg said,

    December 16, 2009 @ 4:09 pm

    Shouldn't that be Los Ángeles de Los Ángeles de Anaheim (or, more accurately, Los Ángeles de El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Angeles del Río de Porciúncula de Anaheim)?

  40. William F Dowling said,

    December 16, 2009 @ 4:39 pm

    I too am sometimes peeved by peeving, but if you are clever you can add a language peeve to a food peeve and come up with funny, like Calvin Trillin's advice to avoid restaurants with names like The Casa de la Maison Haus of Continental Cuisine.

  41. Robert Coren said,

    December 16, 2009 @ 4:41 pm

    OK, I was wrong about "Mexico City". Sorry about that. (I was right about "Oklahoma City", however.)

  42. John Lawler said,

    December 16, 2009 @ 5:35 pm

    This was 40 years ago when I lived in Logan. it may well have changed. But it's pretty much a matter of local preference, which comes and goes in any case.

  43. Aviatrix said,

    December 16, 2009 @ 5:39 pm

    When writing for a diverse audience, I think redundancy given in a form similar to "well-known general term and erudite but more specific near synonym" is a good style. It allows the author to use the exact word without losing the readers who don't know it. It allows the readers who do know the more specific term to understand the exact point, and the ones who don't can learn the meaning by association. Maybe next time they see "insular" they might be able to realize it's describing someone who is isolated, not diabetic.

  44. tablogloid said,

    December 16, 2009 @ 5:51 pm

    You can also park on a shoulder.

  45. peter said,

    December 16, 2009 @ 5:57 pm

    I am reminded of Australian playwright Alex Buzo's series of sports reports on the Australian (later the International) Indoor Tautology Pennant, a competitive sports event for sporting commentators held at various times in Wagga Wagga, Pago Pago, Bora Bora, and Baden Baden. One year the winner was Australian football commentator Rex Mossop with: "That's the second consecutive time in a row he's done that, one straight after the other."

  46. Faldone said,

    December 16, 2009 @ 5:58 pm

    @dwmacg Dunno what it should be but my understanding is that's what it is. You could pick up a copy of Deporte and it'll probably be in there.

  47. CWV said,

    December 16, 2009 @ 6:05 pm

    The post links to MYL's 2004 post about phrases like "the thing is is …" He speculates that use of "the extra is" does not result from people "getting confused," but rather from people "producing phrases that are grammatical — in terms of a non-standard grammar." I agree entirely, and would just like to add some anecdotal data to MYL's five-year-old speculation (which he may well have supplemented since).

    One of my colleagues, a magna cum laude graduate of Harvard Law School and a highly educated person, says "the fact is, is that" on a daily basis. Indeed, I've never heard him say "the fact is, that" or "what the fact is, is …" I've never asked him about this construction, but he uses it so frequently that it's clearly not an example of a slip of the tongue or intra-sentence grammatical confusion. If this is a subject that you continue to be interested in, please consider this for whatever it's worth (with my apologies for such a tangential comment).

  48. Stephen Jones said,

    December 16, 2009 @ 6:42 pm

    I don't know about Negev Desert but Sahara Desert certainly contains a redundancy.

  49. dwmacg said,

    December 16, 2009 @ 7:52 pm

    I stand (or rather sit) corrected then. In my defense, I'm on the other coast, and most of the Spanish speakers I deal with don't know anything about baseball.

  50. Pat said,

    December 16, 2009 @ 9:05 pm

    Ooo! I almost forgot: aujourd'hui. Which redundancy is of course necessary.

  51. neddanison said,

    December 16, 2009 @ 9:06 pm

    Why feel "jarred"? Isn't the jarred feeling your little arbiter of correctness alarm going off? Let it go.

  52. GAC said,

    December 16, 2009 @ 9:43 pm

    "Redundant use of subject pronouns in Spanish is something I've seen non-native speakers corrected on, but the focus of this post seems to be more on peeves against constructions used by native speakers."

    Native speakers will use subject pronouns, either for emphasis ("lo digo YO") or clarity (i.e. using "el/ella" to indicate gender). If you were corrected on it it's likely you used them very heavily. In any case, I can't think of a case where one native speaker would correct another native speaker on this. It is kinda fuzzy, though.

  53. George said,

    December 16, 2009 @ 10:57 pm


  54. Dave (Balashon) said,

    December 17, 2009 @ 3:42 am

    Noam –

    Actually, Negev (נגב) probably comes from a the root meaning dry – related to the the verb n-g-v ( = to wipe).

    Negev meaning south came later as a way of describing what's in that direction, just as the word for "west", yamah ימה – clearly comes from yam ים – "sea", and not the other way around.

  55. Peter Taylor said,

    December 17, 2009 @ 4:50 am

    @GAC: I know, but in neither of those cases is it redundant.

    (Also, "I've seen non-native speakers corrected on" wasn't a euphemism for "I've been corrected on". I had already studied Latin for a year before starting Spanish, so I had a head-start in this regard. Most English-speakers starting to learn Spanish use a subject pronoun for every verb which doesn't have a subject noun; I think of this as the "Taco Bell" school of Spanish).

  56. Graeme said,

    December 17, 2009 @ 5:15 am

    I like the way Mark slipped 'unnecessary redundancy' into his post. Repetition may be for effect, otherwise it's redundant. But redundancy obviously, as here, can lead to interesting reflections on language.

  57. JREL said,

    December 17, 2009 @ 5:17 am

    @Pat: And of course "au jour d'aujourd'hui". Widely used, often criticised.

  58. joanne salton said,

    December 17, 2009 @ 5:21 am

    Most peeves seem to object to lazy-seeming ignorance, and those who are familiar with a particular foreign language will tend to avoid restating "mountain" and "river" etc when speaking English. Such peeves teach us something, even if the peevers themselves are often annoying ignorant. It is peevish to peeve about peeves per se.

    The geographical issue I mention above is also obviously universal to speakers of all languages, so if we get out a bit more I think we are bound to find a few peeves all over the place.

  59. JanetK said,

    December 17, 2009 @ 6:44 am

    Why do people complain about redundancy? What is wrong with it? Doesn't it make listening and reading easier? Isn't making listening and reading easier the point of good communication?

  60. rone said,

    December 17, 2009 @ 7:31 am

    I'd say that we don't tend to complain about rhetorical redundancy because it's like a litany, where the repetition is as much of a part of the message as the content.

    As far as my favorite Squad Squad meal, that would be shrimp scampi with fava beans.

  61. ajay said,

    December 17, 2009 @ 9:51 am

    I've always wondered why the Squad Squad isn't bothered by rhetorical redundancy ("we shall fight on the seas and oceans, […] we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds")

    Not really redundant. "Oceans" isn't the same as "seas": the context is a campaign that might be waged on the Narrow Seas, the Channel and North Sea, as well as the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans; and, more obviously, "landing grounds" refers to airborne troops landing by parachute, aeroplane or glider.
    The whole sentence represents a geographical movement – the beaches and landing grounds are obviously near the South Coast, where the invasion was expected, then you retreat through the fields on your way to London, and finally you end up fighting in the hills in the north of England or Wales or Scotland.

  62. ajay said,

    December 17, 2009 @ 9:55 am

    And the notion of the people living there "long nursing fears of an invasion of the north" or "fearing the unknown" is based on pretty much nothing. Fear of an invasion of the north has not been a feature of Australian history either before or after the English showed up.

    Yes, it has. 1942-45.

    "Unnecessary redundancy" isn't a redundant phrase: you can have necessary redundancy in an engineering context. The spare wheel of a car is redundant but, you could argue, not unnecessary.

  63. Cecily said,

    December 17, 2009 @ 11:43 am

    Whilst I agree that there can be necessary redundancy, I'm not sure a spare wheel is the best example. It's increasingly common for smaller cars to be supplied without them, so I certainly hope that they are not strictly necessary. (Such cars have a temporary puncture kit: compressed gunk that you can use to reinflate the tyre to get you to a garage. I have no idea how effective that is.)

  64. mollymooly said,

    December 17, 2009 @ 11:53 am

    @ajay: the putative redundancy is the repetition of "we shall fight".

    [(myl) It also seems to me that "beaches" are included in "landing grounds" (though perhaps "landing grounds" had a technical meaning at that time that I'm not aware of).]

  65. Bobbie said,

    December 17, 2009 @ 12:55 pm

    Two local ones in Virginia: When locals go to the Atlantic Ocean in the city of Virginia Beach, they go to the "Virginia Beach beach" (or the "Beach beach" — as opposed to going to the beaches on the Chesapeake Bay.

    Second one is a bit more confusing. In Chesapeake there is an area called Great Bridge (named for a major battle of the Revolutionary War.) Recently a new, wider bridge was built at Great Bridge. Some of the locals are now referring to the new bridge as the "Great Great Bridge Bridge".

  66. Simon Cauchi said,

    December 17, 2009 @ 4:44 pm

    If the German invasion had been done by parachutists (as was the case in Holland), then the "landing grounds" would have been wherever the parachutists came down.

  67. joanne salton said,

    December 17, 2009 @ 7:32 pm

    However, in the end there are annoying people who say the same thing twice and don't realize, and thus we moan, and why not.

    The only trouble is that some people act as if there were some iron law that says that all sorts of semantic repetition are a complete disgrace under all circumstances.

  68. Simon Cauchi said,

    December 18, 2009 @ 12:35 am

    I've just spotted a nice redundancy in George Du Maurier's Trilby, where Svengali is described as an "Oriental Israelite Hebrew Jew" (Part Seventh; p. 356 in my 1896 edition in Bell's Indian and Colonial Library).

  69. Jerry Friedman said,

    December 18, 2009 @ 2:05 am

    I've always wondered why the Squad Squad isn't bothered by rhetorical redundancy ("we shall fight on the seas and oceans, […] we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds")

    In addition to what rone said, that's repetition for emphasis of something worth emphasizing (if you'll forgive the understatement), while "When I first started out" has no more emphasis than "When I started".

    (Here in New Mexico, to emphasize that something happened at the very beginning, people say, "When I first first started out.)

    or by the systematic redundancy of biblical poetry ("All this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying, Tell ye the daughter of Sion, Behold, thy King cometh unto thee, meek, and sitting upon an ass, and a colt the foal of an ass.").

    In my childhood I tried to get the author's attention on more substantive matters and received no response. I suspect criticizing his style won't do much good.

    When I used to participate in alt.usage.spanish (then a good place to find strongly worded peeves), a South American criticized the redundancy of the indirect-object pronoun le(s) combined with noun phrases that meant the same thing, as in Le di el libro a Juan, as who should say, "I gave him the book to Juan." That guy was one against hundreds of millions.

    @JanetK: I don't see that Where do you work at? is any easier to understand than Where do you work?

  70. peter said,

    December 18, 2009 @ 4:27 am

    And of course there is the Southern African English "now now" (meaning: in the immediate future), which is distinguished from "just now" (meaning: in the near future). In most other variants of English I know, "just now" usually refers to the near past.

  71. Adam said,

    December 18, 2009 @ 5:43 am

    The National Theatre of Brent's "Revolution!" showed two guys wandering around modern Paris looking for "the Bastille, or as the French call it, the la Bastille". They found the right metro stop though.

  72. Adam said,

    December 18, 2009 @ 5:44 am

    I have to confess, redundancies with acronyms drive me up the wall: "PIN number" & "ISBN number", for example.

  73. ken lakritz said,

    December 18, 2009 @ 8:06 pm

    Not knowing much Spanish, I'm undisturbed by 'Rio Grande River.' But even I draw the line at 'salsa sauce,' which is fairly common on menus these days.

  74. Stephen Jones said,

    December 19, 2009 @ 4:35 pm

    "PIN number" & "ISBN number", for example.

    But how many people know what the acronyms stand for? Many don't which is why you see the redundancy until the term is very common. You probably don't see 'ATM machine' much now because everybody knows what you are referring to when you say 'ATM', and it is viewed with wonderment that anybody ever spoke of 'CD disks', and PINs are becoming ubiquitous, but how many people can say what ISBN actually stands for?

  75. Aaron Davies said,

    December 20, 2009 @ 1:15 am

    some "redundancy" was not originally so, but has become so through loss of meaning–may legal terms like "assault and battery" or "breaking and entering" seem pleonastic today, but actually originally referred to two separate acts.

  76. Aaron Davies said,

    December 20, 2009 @ 1:15 am

    @Ed: "largely uninhabited" may be a bit strong, but i can see an argument for a country the size of the contiguous US with less than a tenth the population being described that way…

  77. Aaron Davies said,

    December 20, 2009 @ 1:15 am

    @ken lakritz: mildly off-topic, but i was rather charmed to see worcestershire sauce labelled "salsa anglaise" in a hispanic grocery store.

  78. peter said,

    December 21, 2009 @ 7:48 pm

    Pat said (December 16, 2009 @ 11:13 am)

    "Also: Can you do anything with your shoulders except shrug? I thus conclude all three words are redundant and should be eliminated."

    Frank O'Hara, in his poem entitled "Poem" (page 2 of Meditations in an Emergency, New York: Grove Press, 1957) writes:

    "so I quickly threw
    a few tangerines into my overnight bag,
    straightened my eyelids and shoulders, and
    headed straight for the door."

  79. Peter said,

    December 23, 2009 @ 3:12 am

    @John Lawler: my favourite geographical polyglot redundancy is Eas Fors (Waterfall) on the island of Mull. The name apparently includes the Gaelic and Norse for waterfall. On the official Scottish Area Tourist Board website they call it Eas Fors Waterfall, so this would be a triple.

  80. Joaquim said,

    January 15, 2010 @ 7:02 am

    With respect to other languages Squad Squads, in Catalan we just had a pretty controversy that even forced our reputed linguist Joan Solà to step in.
    It all started with a Christmas "carol" by the songwriter and provocateur Albert Pla, emitted repeatedly by the Catalan public (ie, state funded) radio and tv stations. The offending sentence is "hi ha d'haver-hi un caganer," with the boldfaced duplication. The Squad say it is a pleonasm. So-called "anti-purists" in reply say it is a perfectly common colloquialism, adequate to the context of the song.
    In short, Solà's contribution, published yesterday (jan 14, 2010) in a newspaper (and scanned for our enjoyment by a popular blogger) is that (1) this particular colloquialism is common in only one of the major dialects of Catalan and (2) the same structure without the duplication is perfectly common in all dialects. To this he adds his extra-linguistic opinion that, generally speaking, these radio and tv stations repeatedly fail to "help the Catalan language to continue to exist and propagate, preserving its dignity as well," which is one main reason for their existence. So he is asking that the linguistic standards of these stations be improved in general, which in the case at hand means it would have been better to avoid the "pleonasm".

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