By Farooq A. Kperogi, Ph.D.
I apologize for my inability to write my column these past weeks. I visited Nigeria and didn’t have the time to write. This week, I continue with the series I started on December 1. I am writing this from Nigeria, but by the time you will read this, I’ll be back to my base in the United States.
58. The RAS syndrome. The phrase stands for Redundant Acronym Syndrome syndrome. The phrase intentionally repeats “syndrome” to underline the phenomenon it describes. It is the tendency to pronounce the last letter of an acronym along with the acronym itself, thus unintentionally saying it twice. I wrote about this in a June 9, 2013 titled “Between Useless and Useful Tautologies in English.”
I mentioned a few examples in the write-up. Other examples are GOP (party) (i.e., Grand Old Party party), PDP (party) (i.e., People’s Democratic Party party), GRE (exams), (i.e., Graduate Records Exams exams), HIV (virus), ATM (machine) (i.e., Automated Teller Machine machine), PIN (number), ISBN (number), LCD (display), UPC (code), etc. While the RAS syndrome is indefensible in writing, it is perfectly permissible in speech because it helps the cause of clarity. For instance, in speech, “PIN” (Personal Identification Number) can come across as “pin,” which can mean a whole host of things, but “PIN number” leaves the interlocutor in no doubt what is being referred to.
59. Had done (previously). “Had done” indicates an action has been completed in the past.
“Previously” adds nothing to that sense, so “had done so previously” is a pointless repetition.
60. (Harmful) injuries. Since “harmless injuries” are not even in the realm of possibility (it isn’t an injury if it’s harmless), “harmful injuries” is pointless verbiage. Injuries can’t be anything but harmful.
61. (Hollow) tube. Like “empty hole” in number 37, “hollow tube” is a useless repetition. A tube is invariably hollow.
62. Hurry (up). Although this is a standard phrase, it can do without “up” and convey the same meaning.
63. (Illustrated) drawing. A drawing is an illustration by hand. Therefore, “illustrated drawing” is superfluous verbiage.
64. Introduced (a new). To “introduce” necessarily implies bringing something new, so to “introduce a new” anything is redundant. A similar tautology is “introduced (for the first time).” Introduction is always new—and for the first time.
65. (Knowledgeable) experts. They are experts only because they are knowledgeable. Can you imagine an “ignorant expert”?
66. Lag (behind). To lag is to fall behind in movement, progress, etc. So “lag behind” is useless repetition since nobody ever lags forward.
67. (Live) studio audience. “Live” means “actually being performed at the time of hearing or viewing.” That is exactly what a “studio audience” also means. So “live studio audience” is a useless repetition.
68. (Living) witness. Witnesses are always living because, well, dead men tell no tales. But if you find a dead witness, please let me know!
69. Look (ahead) to the future. Where else do you look to but ahead, especially when you talk of the future? It would be interesting if one could “look behind” to the future.
70. Look back (in retrospect). Both “look back” and “in retrospect” mean the same thing: thinking of things past, remembering.
71. (Major) breakthrough. Breakthroughs are by nature major. If they are minor, they are not breakthroughs. A similar useless repetition is “(major) feat.” Feats can’t be anything but major; if they are not major, they are not feats.
72. Manually (by hand). When something is done manually, it is done by hand. That makes “manually by hand” a redundant phrase. It’s as redundant as saying “electronically by computer.”
73. (Native) habitat. A habitat is an organism’s native environment, its home ground. So “nativeness” is an indispensable quality of the notion of a habitat. That makes the phrase “native habitat” superfluous.
74. (Natural) instinct. Instincts are the inborn, thus natural, patterns of behavior or feelings we evince in response to stimuli. Since it’s impossible to conceive of an artificial instinct, “natural instinct” is a useless repetition.
75. (New) beginning. Although there are occasions when “new beginning” can be justified, as I pointed out in my June 9, 2013 article, the phrase is often a needless linguistic excess. Most beginnings are new, so it’s unnecessary to describe them as “new” again. Related tautologies are “(new) construction,” “(new) innovation,” “(new) invention,” and “(new) recruit.”
76. Nostalgia (for the past). What else can one have nostalgia for other than the past? Nostalgia is sentimental longing for the past, so “nostalgia for the past” is redundant.
78. (Old) adage. Adages and proverbs are old sayings, so it’s useless verbiage to modify them with the adjective “old.” The same is true of “(old) custom,” “(old) tradition,” and “(old) convention.”
79. (Oral) conversation. Conversations are always oral, although it is legitimate to talk of written or online conversations.
80. (Originally) created. Creation is by nature original, that is, not copied from something else. If it is not original, it is not created, so “originally created” is pleonastic.
81. (Overused) cliché. A cliché is an expression that has lost its freshness and vitality because of overuse. It is useless repetition to talk of an “overused cliché.” Clichés are always overused.
82. (Pair of) twins. Twins are by definition a pair.
83. (Passing) fad. Fads are trends that last a short time. That is also the definition of “passing” when it is used as an adjective. That makes “passing fad” redundant.
84. (Past) experience. Experiences are always already about the past. So “past experience” is redundant—just like “(past) history,” “(past) memories,” and “(past) records” are.
85. Period (of time). Just “period” will do since a period also refers to time.
86. (Personal) friend. It is sufficient to simply say a person is your friend. Friendship is inherently personal, so “personal friend” is needlessly repetitive.
87. (Personal) opinion. Can you think of an impersonal opinion? An opinion is essentially a personal belief or judgment. It is inevitably personal. Therefore, “personal opinion” is a pointless waste of words.
88. Plan (in advance). Planning is necessarily about events or things that haven’t happened yet, so “plan in advance” is a waste of words.
89. (Please) RSVP. RSVP is a French acronym. It stands for “répondez s'il vous plait,” which means “please respond.” That means “please RSVP” is a tautologic expression.
90. Plunge (down). This is another directional tautology. The only direction you can plunge to is down, not up.
91. (Polar) opposites. Polar means “completely opposed,” so “polar opposites” means “completely opposed opposites.” That’s evidently a pointless repetition.
92. Postpone (until later). Postpone means to put off until later. “Until later” is unnecessary where “postpone” is mentioned.
To be concluded next week