Saturday 10 November 2012

Tautology IV

Tautology is saying everything twice twice.

spectre, plague, threat

Karl Marx started it off with: “A spectre is haunting Europe: the spectre of communism.” And now people write “the spectre of AIDS” when they just mean “AIDS”.

"Although 7,853,787 bunnies have been destroyed in Australia since the Rabbit Nuisance Act passed, the rabbit plague is on the increase." (Rabbits are on the increase.)

the terrible scourge [the Black Death] killed x million people (Fortean Times, October 2011, paraphrase) The Black Death/epidemic/plague killed etc We know a scourge is something terrible, you don’t need to point it out. And if you tell us that an epidemic killed X million people, you don’t need to say it was a “scourge”.

the rot of corruption went to the top: corruption went to the top (corruption is rot)

devastating, catastrophic floods, genocide, earthquake, tsunami
Every tree has been stripped of its leaves, after a devastating tornado in April 2011. Telegraph March 2012 (No need to say “devastating” [general] when you’ve just given an example of devastation [particular].)

There was a catastrophic epidemic that killed 20,000 in Palermo alone. (If you’re going to tell us it killed 20,000 in one city, there’s no need to say it was “catastrophic”.)

The catastrophic fire of 1917, which razed much of the city… Spectator Nov 2011

a grisly skeleton in its closet (A skeleton in your closet is evidence of a crime you want to conceal. It makes no difference if it’s grisly or cuddly.)

a huge head start (If you’re ahead by a head you’re ahead by a head and most horse’s heads are about the same size. A “head start” doesn’t place you miles ahead of the field.)

a ticking time-bomb about to explode (A time-bomb will do. And do they run on clockwork these days?)

a very dangerous fire hazard (extreme fire hazard)

At the ripe old age of 75… (We can tell someone of 75 is old. You can say “at the ripe old age of 16/27/34” if you want to be ironic.)

becalmed in the doldrums
bloody violence (in Syria)

brutal: The Elephant and Castle Tabernacle marks the approximate site where the "Southwark Martyrs" (a group of Protestants executed during the reign of Mary I for their faith) were brutally burnt at the stake. ( Since Mary's reign, we've learned that burning people at the stake is wrong. And there is no nice way to burn someone at the stake. And the word "brutal" is over-used.)

conspire to create a thick wall of silence (NYT If you could talk through a thin wall of silence it wouldn’t be a wall of silence, would it?)

fellow classmate
fellow co-workers
fill X full of Y (fill X with Y)

first, finally “I first asked for their teaching materials in July 2006. I finally got them in December 2010.” (“I asked for their teaching materials in July 2006. I got them in December 2010.” would be just as/more effective.) It was first unearthed in 2000 by Ken Wallace, a retired teacher who was out testing his £260 second-hand metal detector near his Leicestershire home. Telegraph Jan 2012 (First unearthed? Only if he dug it up, reburied it and dug it up again.)

for the very first time (This is also baby talk.)
horrible monstrosity (unlike those pretty monstrosities we meet so often)
inglenook fireplace (An inglenook is a fireplace.)
intermixing: mixing

Is asteroid mining the next big gold rush? (If it was small, it wouldn’t be a rush.)
It’s got linear lines! Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is Sept 2012
Jewish rabbi, Jewish synagogue
mass rally
(A small group isn’t a rally.)
massive $2bn losses

Miliband is quite encircled by gurus (If he was incompletely encircled he’d be semi-circled.)

new innovations

potential risk/hazard/danger
(Risk, hazard and danger all mean “potential harm”, not the harm itself.)

rural countryside
secret plot
stark contrast

She was charged with importing prohibited imports and making false misleading statements. Nothing to Declare

Stalin’s toxic curse on his children has finally died with Svetlana. Simon Sebag Montefiore Dec 2011

terrible blood feuds (They make a change from pleasant blood feuds.)
terrible prophecy of doom (There’s no such thing as nice doom.)
terrible travesty of justice (We're more used to mild travesties of justice.)

The Commission for Racial Equality recently tried to have Tintin in the Congo banned in the UK for its “words of hideous racial prejudice”. (There isn’t an attractive kind.)

they have run out of other optionsThey share the same name (They share a name/they bear the same name)
unprepossessing-looking building (lose the “looking” and avoid strings of ings)

various different rules

More at Tautology III


  1. Okay, I don't mind all of these because some are there for rhetorical emphasis but this was very enjoyable to read. My pet agreed peeve: 'new innovation' (argh). Most amusing tautology here: Jewish rabbi / synagogue. Wut? Thanks!

  2. But as young journalists, we're told not to tell people what to think or feel.

  3. Hello Richmonde, many thanks for quoting my site.

    Sorry you didn't like my use of the word 'brutal' when referring to the Southwark Martyrs being burnt at the stake.

    If I remember rightly, I was employing alliteration in order to emphasise the awful and inhumane events which occurred at that now seemingly innocuous location.

    In all honesty, I'm just a humble cabbie, trying to squeeze in time for writing whenever I can- usually in the wee, small hours after I've completed a long shift.

    You'll have to forgive me therefore if my use of language isn't always up to spec... but I do hope you enjoy London's history and hidden secrets which I aim to share :-)

  4. Hello cabbie, I always enjoy having long conversations with taxi drivers about London's history. I take your point.

  5. Thanks :-) I can see what you mean too though and am always interested to learn about the nuts and bolts of language.

  6. Thanks :-) I can see what you mean too though and am always interested to learn about the nuts and bolts of language.