The excesses of communication in our time are reflected in our language. When verbal overkill is in, eloquence is out. And when was the last time you heard an eloquent speech? So we plod along carrying a sack full of unnecessary words.
Here are some common examples of ripe redundancies ready for burial.
- ADVANCE NOTICE (Take notice of the notice?)
- ADVANCE WARNING (Is this the warning before the warning?)
- ADVANCE RESERVATIONS (What kind of reservations aren’t in advance?)
- OLD ADAGE (An old, old saying)
- CANCER-CAUSING CARCINOGENS (A cancer-causing cancer-causing agent)
- PAST HISTORY (Isn’t all history in the past?)
- REVERT BACK (Go back back)
- FATALLY MURDERED (This person is really dead)
Why do we have such belabored speech? Two reasons come to mind. We either have an insufficient understanding of many words, or we feel we must annotate our speech to be fully understood. Emphasis is not necessarily efficiency. The problem with redundant types of annotation is that it undermines and muddies the actual meaning of the word. When our language usage gets to the point where we say something like “fatally murdered” (as heard on a radio newscast), we are deep into administering a fatal injection to human communication.
What can we do about this dilemma? One antidote to redundancies is to ask a friend to point out the redundancies to us as we utter them. In this scenario, we need to have a friend with a good vocabulary and a good grasp of language usage. Another effective way would be to work with a specialist in developing effective language and communication.
When we overcome our redundancies, we will at least have the possibility of speaking eloquently. But, if we make such statements as, “My past record on this reverts back to the old adage so evident in past history,” we will reap the bitter fruit of redundant word usage. That fruit will numb our minds and mouths, leaving eloquence and clear expression as a sacred relic.