The War on Words – Feb. 2016

Bob Yearick

, War On Words

A monthly column in which we attempt, however futilely, to defend the English language against misuse and abuse

Department of Redundancies on Steroids

In the January column we enumerated the 10 most misused words, and promised this month to list the 10 most common redundancies. We had to cram a few extra into 6 and 10, but here are our personal favorites:
1. The double is: “He’s in prison, and the reason is is that he stole a car.” Pervasive, used almost exclusively in conversation rather than in print.
2. Left (right) hand turn. Why not left foot turn? Or left arm turn? Why is a body part needed at all?
3. General consensus of opinion. “Consensus” means the majority of opinions.
4. Whole entire, as in, “He ate the whole entire thing.” They’re synonymous, folks, so choose one or the other.
5. Different, when used in such sentences as this: “Five different players from UD made the All-Conference team.” Really? They weren’t the same five players? This may be the most overlooked/underrated redundancy of all.
6. ATM machine, PIN number, VIN number, MAC card. I will leave it to you to determine why the italicized words are redundant.
7. Revert back. Revert means to come or go back.
8. Very, truly, or especially unique. Unique means one of a kind. There are no degrees of it.
9. Déjà vu all over again. People think this old Yogi Berraism is correct, but it basically repeats “already seen” in two languages. The correct expression is simply “déjà vu.”
10. Advance planning, past history, added bonus, final outcome, end result, pre-planning, mutual cooperation, exact replica, 10 a.m. in the morning. We could go on, but space is limited.

Media Watch

• An Associated Press story about Bill Cubit, new Illinois football coach, quoted the athletic director thusly: “I think Bill is imminently qualified.” That’s eminently.
• From The News Journal: “. . .bringing all available resources to bare to improve . . .” That’s bear.
• MSNBC’s Chris Matthews: “There’s something about we Americans . . .” About is a preposition; it requires an objective pronoun: us.

Niceties

Some words are similar in appearance, but have entirely different meanings. Three recent examples from the media:
The News Journal reported that Hockessin photographer Peter B. Kaplan was “bemused by the recent rise of the selfie stick,” and quoted him thusly: “It cracked me up when I saw the ‘selfie stick.’ What, are they kidding? I had a selfie stick back in the ‘70s.” The writer obviously thinks bemused is a synonym for amused. It’s not. It means surprised, puzzled.
• USA TODAY TV reviewer Robert Bianco is one more journalist who thinks “disinterested” means “uninterested.” He wrote that a character in Superstore is “continually solving problems caused by her inept or disinterested co-workers.” I doubt that they are unbiased, impartial or neutral—the meaning of disinterested.
• A caller to WDEL referred to “dragonian decisions” by a city official. A logical mistake, I suppose, in that it sounds as if it’s derived from dragon—but there is no such word. She meant draconian, meaning severe or strict, and derived from the Athenian lawmaker Draco, known for making harsh laws.

Jock Talk

Former Phil Roy Halladay’s Tweet after Hall of Fame elections (corrections in parens): “When you use PEDs you admit your (you’re) not good enough to compete fairly! Our nations (nation’s) past time (pastime) should have higher standards!” Good pitcher, lousy grammarian.

Literally of the Month

Submitted by reader Larry Kerchner: Sen. Dan Coats of (R-Ind.), talking about the Paris terrorist still at large, told a reporter, “Literally everyone in Europe is looking for this guy.” Says Larry: “No wonder Kate Beckinsale hasn’t answered my calls.”

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Word of the Month:

litotes
Pronounced li·to·tes, it’s a noun (both singular and plural), meaning understatement in which an affirmative is expressed by the negative of the contrary (as in “not a bad singer” or “not unhappy”).

Seen a good (bad) one lately?
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