Which Word Wednesday: Superfluous Redundancies Edition

By August 1, 2012 language 2 Comments

Happy Which Word Wednesday, folks! Today’s edition I’ve titled the Superfluous Redundancies Edition to highlight a little-noticed practice in our speaking that makes for some needless repetitive phrases. Take a look at these phrases, for example:

raging inferno
sudden impulse
respond back
fuse together

These are commonly used, both in speech and in print. But common use doesn’t equal proper use for phrases like these. Sources label these phrases as redundant—or pleonasms—meaning the use of both words is not necessary to communicate the point. A look at definitions from The Oxford American Dictionary give some insight:

inferno :: noun
a large fire that is dangerously out of control

impulse :: noun
a sudden strong and unreflective urge or desire to act

respond :: verb
say something in reply

fuse :: verb
join or blend to form a single entity

Need further explanation? Here’s the deal: Infernos are already raging—there’s no need to qualify it as such. Impulses are already sudden; there is no such thing as a gradual impulse. Responding is already the return of a comment in a conversation. Fusing is the act of bringing two (or more) parts together.

Makes sense, yes?

However, what makes sense on paper isn’t so easy to alter in speech. Our brains have adopted these phrases as is, and we spit them out in conversation as we have taken them in. Is there any hope for eliminating the superfluous words from our speech? There is always hope, but I think such phrases grant insight into our culture and the nuances of English. Our language is not perfect, and it doesn’t always make sense, but it does lend to its endearing quirkiness. The same can be true of those who speak it.

What’s my WWW verdict? I claim grace! I’m not sure my brain is willing to learn new tricks. But now I’ll be aware when I say silly things, so there will be plenty of mental correction that just may make a difference in my speech over the course of time.

What’s your verdict? Do you use superfluous redundancies? Do you roll your internal eyes when someone says the same exact thing twice? Do share in the comments.


Check out previous Which Word Wednesday verdicts here.

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