Saturday, December 21, 2013

Useless Repetitions You Should Avoid in English (II)

By Farooq A. Kperogi, Ph.D.

This is a continuation from last week. (Click on this link for the first part). It was originally published in the Sunday Trust of December 8, 2013.

20. Cacophony (of sound). The phrase is a useless repetition because cacophony is by definition a disagreeable mixture of sounds. Since sound is the stuff of cacophony, it’s pleonastic to talk of a “cacophony of sound.”

21.  (Careful) scrutiny. It isn’t a scrutiny if it isn’t careful. A scrutiny is a close, prolonged, intense examination of something.

23. Classify (into groups). The essence of classification is arranging into groups. Your prose will be more elegant if you eliminate “into groups” from the phrase.

24. Collaborate (together). To collaborate is to work together, so saying “collaborate together” is a pointless repetition.  Similar superfluous constructions are “assemble (together),” “combine (together),” “confer (together),” “connect (together),”cooperate (together),”spliced (together),”integrate (together),” “meet together,”gather (together),” “fuse (together),” “mix together,” “meet together,” “join together,” “share (together),” etc.

25. Commute (back and forth). Commuting involves traveling back and forth, so “commute back and forth” is excess linguistic luggage.

26. Compete (with each other). To compete is to engage in a contest with each other. You can’t compete with yourself. Similar expressions to avoid if you want to save space are “integrate (with each other),” “interdependent (on each other),” “meet (with each other),” “mutual respect (for each other),” “equal (to one another),” etc.

27. (Completely) annihilate. Annihilation necessarily involves a complete destruction. If the destruction isn’t total it’s not annihilation. Similar supernumerary expressions are “(completely) destroyed,” “(completely) eliminate,” “(completely) engulfed,” “(completely) filled,” “(completely) surround,” “eradicate (completely),” “eliminate (altogether),” “(entirely) eliminate,” etc. All the verbs in these expressions entail “complete” actions, so “completely” is a useless repetition.

28. (Component) parts. Both words mean the same thing. You can do without one.
29. Consensus (of opinion). A consensus is the concordance of opinions, so “consensus of opinions” is redundant.

30. (Constantly) maintained. “Maintain” already implies constancy. You cannot intermittently or periodically maintain.

31. Could (possibly). “Could” is a modal auxiliary that expresses possibility. That means the words “could” and “possibly” basically perform the same function, making “could possibly” a surplusage, that is, more words than needed to express an idea. Related surplusages are “may possibly” and “might possibly.” 

32. Crisis (situation). A crisis IS a situation. The addition of “situation” to “crisis” is redundant. This is also true of “emergency (situation).”

33. (Current) trend. All trends are current. That is what makes them trends. If they weren’t current, they wouldn’t be trends; they would be passé. A similar, if less frequent, redundancy is “(current) incumbent.”

33. Depreciate (in value). When something depreciates it loses value. “Value” forms the core of the notion of depreciation—and appreciation. So it’s useless repetition to say something has depreciated—or appreciated—“in value.” It is sufficient to say it has depreciated.

34. Descend (down). Just like “ascend up,” “descend down” is needlessly repetitive since “down” is the only direction to which you can descend. Similar tautologies, which are nonetheless idiomatic in the language, are “drop (down),” “dwindle (down),”  “kneel (down),” “(down) south,” “(up) north,” etc.

35. (Desirable) benefits. Benefits are by nature desirable gains. Unless we can talk of “undesirable benefits” (which would be a contradiction in terms), “desirable benefits” is pointless phraseology.

34. (Different) kinds. They wouldn’t be “kinds” if they were not “different.”

35. Disappear (from sight). Where else do you disappear from? Nothingness?

36. During (the course of). This is more words than are necessary to say “on” or “throughout.” It’s similar to “earlier (in time).”

37. (Empty) hole. Is a hole supposed to be full? It’s a hole precisely because it’s empty.  “(Empty) space” belongs in the same class of tautology as “empty hole,” although I think “empty space” is more defensible than “empty hole.”

38. Enclosed (herein). This popular phrase in email and snail-mail correspondence can do without “herein” and retain the same meaning.

39. (End) result. Results never come in the beginning. They always come at the end. Other finalist tautologies (my coinage for redundant expressions to express an ending) are “(final) conclusion,” “(final) end,” “(final) outcome,” “(final) ultimatum,” etc.

40. Estimated at (about). Both “estimate” and “about” express the same meaning: imprecision, incertitude.

42. Evolve (over time). To evolve means to change over time. Evolution is never constant. That’s why the phrase is a pointless repetition.

43. (Exact) same. Both words express the notion of identical properties, yet many people, including me, love to describe things as “exact same."

44. Extradite (back). Extradite means to hand over back to the authorities of another country. Since extradition involves a “back” movement, the phrase can do without “back.” Similar phrases are “revert (back),” “return (back),” “refer (back),” “reflect (back),” “reply (back),” “retreat (back),” etc.

45. (Favorable) approval. Approvals are always favorable. It’s hard to conceive of an unfavorable approval.

46. (Fellow) classmates. A fellow is someone who is a member of one’s class or profession, so the expressions “fellow classmates” and “fellow colleagues” are pointless repetitions.

47. Few (in number). This is a useless repetition because fewness is and can only be about numbers. This tautology is similar to “many (in number),” “blue (in color),” “short (in stature,” “tall (in height),” “I am Muhammad (by name),” etc.

48. Filled (to capacity) or full (to capacity). This is a well-established phrase in conversational English, but it’s pleonastic nonetheless. “To capacity” adds nothing to the phrase.

49. (First) conceived. Nothing precedes conception. It’s always a first activity.

50. Fly (through the air). Where else do you fly through? The ground?

51. (Foreign) imports. Since an import is by definition foreign, the phrase “foreign import” is a waste of words.

52. (Former) graduate. A graduate is a former student. It is logically impossible to be a “former graduate” since you can’t graduate from graduating. A similar pleonasm is “(former) veteran.”

53. (Free) gift. The American advertising industry perpetually promises people “free gifts,” but it isn’t a gift if it isn’t free. I am yet to see a gift that is paid for.

54. (Frozen) ice. Oh, so you want the ice to burn like a “burning ember”? Seriously, since it has to be frozen to be ice, “frozen ice” is superfluous.

55.  (Full) satisfaction. Unless there is “empty satisfaction,” it is unnecessary to talk of full satisfaction since satisfaction is, of necessity, always full.

56.  (Future) plans. Plans by nature belong in the future, not anywhere else—certainly not in the past. A similar surplusage is “(future) recurrence.”

57.  (General) public. The public is always general, never private, so “general public” is a useless repetition.

To be continued

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A UK-based Nigerian Lecturer’s Comparison of British and Nigerian Universities

Nigerian universities have traditions that I can’t find parallels for in any major world university—such as “excess workload allowances,” allowances for grading papers, and such other strange practices. So I set out to compare the traditions of Nigerian universities with those of the UK and America, two countries whose traditions we ape. I am starting this adventure with an interview with Dr. Aliyu Musa, a former Daily Trust foreign affairs editor who now teaches global journalism at UK’s Coventry University. Enjoy!

1. Do British journals pay reviewers to review articles? And do authors pay to publish articles in journals?

I am not aware of any payments made to journal article reviewers here in the UK. I have reviewed for some journals but never received any payment. So, I don’t think reviewers are paid and this, perhaps, explains why they take their time to review articles (sometimes up to one year). I have heard friends and colleagues say they get payment requests for journal articles; I was once asked to pay. But from my investigations all the journal publishers asking for payment from authors are not based in the UK. And academics who patronise them often learn in the end that publishing with such journals is a complete waste of time, money and valuable research data, because they are not accepted for Research Excellence Framework (REF) return.

Dr. Aliyu O Musa
2. Do lecturers get paid extra allowances for marking papers, supervising exams, supervising undergraduate and postgraduate theses, etc.?

Lecturers are not paid any extra allowances for doing any or all of the above. In fact it is stated in the job advert (duties) that at some point the successful candidate would be asked to do those. It is, as such, part of the package, although sometimes one could negotiate with their immediate manager or team leader when or who should do what, like second marking exams, supervising theses. I did more than five Saturdays of unpaid full day work during Open Days and prospective students recruitment and interviews last academic session. The only advantage is you may ask for one working day off in lieu of each Saturday. In some universities lecturers are not involved in supervising exams – there is exams office under the academic registry, which recruits invigilators. Also, in some departments like mine we do not set exams for students, we assess them both normatively and summatively through presentations, coursework and portfolio of artefacts which are handed at specified times and any late submission attracts a zero mark.

3. Do British universities operate the cohort model of education where people who are admitted to a school in the same year graduate--or are expected to graduate-- at the same time?

Yes, most universities now run September and January cohorts.

4. Do British universities have "carry-over" and "spill-over"?

One is allowed to carry over modules on certain conditions: (a) if there are compelling reasons to allow such students like bereavement, health or if they elect to do a gap year which allows them to do something else (this is only application to undergraduate students; (b) if a students fails to hand in any credit scoring coursework and is marked as absent; (c) if a students fails their second attempt i.e. resit. While in the first case (a) they are allowed to resume their studies without fresh payments (provide they were up to date in their payments) in the other situations they will have to pay fresh fees for the modules they carried over.

5. When students retake a course they failed, do their new grades completely replace their previous failing grades? As you know, in Nigeria, that's not the case.

Yes, but the highest they can score is %40 regardless of the student’s performance.

6. What are the criteria to rise through the academic ranks in terms of teaching and research?

Teaching experience, Research outputs, ability to secure funding and qualifications (qualification is mainly useful at the early stage). And sometime industry experience helps.

7. Do students evaluate their lecturers at the end of every semester? If yes, do the evaluations have any weight in promotion, etc.?

Students do module evaluations plus NSS (National Students Survey, which determine university/department’s position on the league table, based on overall satisfaction and students’ destination). This is one of the criteria for evaluating lecturers’ performance. So, it might impact on promotion. But this will also depend on one’s overall DPR (a review done every six months to set targets or look at one’s achievements). Targets include teaching, contributions to students experience, securing funding, research output, raising the university’s profile through conferences/international seminars etc., recruitment, collaboration with businesses etc.

8. Do British universities have the tenure system where lecturers are given a certain number of years to meet certain expectations (in terms of teaching and research) after which they either get a lifetime employment or get fired?

Not necessarily. Here, based on the need at the time, lecturers are hired on temporary or permanent basis and given six months probationary status. If they are found to be competent on the job they continue, otherwise they are relieved of their responsibilities and asked to go.

9. Finally, what other similarities and differences have you observed between Nigerian and British universities?

1.      There is a lot of emphasis on research and funding
2.      Universities sustain themselves through recruitments (especially international) of students whose fees are very helpful
3.      Lecturers are supported to do their job through continuous professional development like PGCERT which is paid for by the university because the plan is to make sure everyone has some teaching qualification
4.      Obviously there is a robust but healthy competition amongst the universities towards recruitment and securing funding
5.      They are now internationalising by partnering with universities in some countries like China, Nigeria, India, South Africa, Brazil etc.