People who equate truth with fact are missing the point.

Repetitious Redundancies

This business of writing about not-so-serious things is growing on me. I think I’ll try to stretch it out a little longer before we return to our regularly scheduled program. Because really? The chaos storm is ever raging and it’s nice to write about something else for a change.

Let’s turn our attention to the worldwide scourge of repetitious redundancies. That’s right; I’m talking to you, all of you who like to say things twice when once will do.

Let’s start with the most obvious offenders: the acronym repeaters.

  • PIN Number – Tell me, are people unaware that what they are really saying is “personal identification number number?” It’s just a PIN. Yes, it’s a short word. If that bothers you, feel free to call it a personal identification number.
  • VIN Number – See above, except replace “personal” with “vehicle.”
  • ATM Machine – An ATM is an automatic teller machine. You’ve got all the necessary descriptors right there in those three little letters. Why complicate matters?
  • Please generalize this rule. I used to work in the Writing and Reading Assistance Center, called WRAC. Every time someone called it the WRAC Center, my teeth started to sweat a little. I doubt you want to be responsible for anyone’s sweaty teeth.
Here in New Mexico where most everything has a Spanish or Navajo, Apache or other NA name, we have another problem based on the linguistic misunderstandings of English-only speakers.
  • There’s a big river here. As such, the Spaniards named it the Rio Grande. Rio = river; grande = big. To call it the Rio Grande River marks you as a flatlander and a newcomer.
  • Avenida and paseo both roughly translate to avenue, so you don’t need to say “Paseo del Norte Road” or “Avenida Cesar Chavez Street.” If you are visiting my little corner of the globe, I’ll totally forgive you. If you’ve lived here longer than six months? For shame!
And finally, the ones I hear all the time, the ones that cause me to want to throttle people on the news (did I ever mention that I tend to overreact?), the worst of all the repetitious redundancies.
  • Past history – Is there some other kind of history to talk about? I mean, the time we’re in now will, at some time, be the future, and technically this, now, will be history, so we could be living present history. I’m guessing, though, that that wasn’t the intended distinction.
  • Here’s a nice corollary: Future prediction. Yeah, if you predict something in the past or the present, that’s pretty much useless and I can’t see why you’d bother.
  • Hot water heater – If it’s hot, why are you heating it? Acceptable terms: hot water tank, or water heater. Never the twain shall meet. Please. You don’t put toast in the toaster, do you?
  • Did you just tell me that you’ll be here at 9 am in the morning? Are you planning to go to dinner at 7 pm this evening? You DO know what am and pm mean, right? Because the morning and evening parts are already in there.
Technically, these are called linguistic redundancies. I propose, though, to call them, henceforth in the future, “repetitive linguistic redundancies of language.” Why say a thing once when you can really go after it till it falls over, a dead corpse?
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11 comments to Repetitious Redundancies

  • I LIKE the funny you!
    You are a funny humorist.
    Yours in redundancy. Twice.

  • Dude! I hate things like that too! It bugs the crap out of me!

  • I might have thrown a shoe at the TV once or twice when a news anchor said something about past history. MIGHT have.

  • Haha! I love it. Those things drive me crazy too. I was at a county fair in Indiana and the sign actually said “ATM Machine” I guess since it was in Indiana I shouldn’t have been surprised, but seriously.

    Thanks for the giggle. 🙂

  • i love you. are we the same person?

  • Oh, when it’s actually on a sign? That’s so much worse! Gah!

    Marian, we COULD be the same person. Does apostrophe misuse give you a twitch in your left eye?

  • I hate that the MLB network calls itself the MLB Baseball network. Major League Baseball Baseball network? Really? No wonder no one cares about that sport anymore.

  • Oh lord, I hope I didn’t just offend baseball lovers everywhere. Please don’t flog me! I know baseball is great! So much better than hockey or cricket!

  • Anonymous

    How about “plan ahead?” Did you ever know people who plan any other way? OTOH, people do plan behind, often called Monday morning quarterbacking.

  • Boyfriend and I have conversations about PIN and ATM all the time. We have come to the conclusion that most people are idiots and it has made them a bit easier to deal with. “Oh, he is just an idiot – pay him no mind.” “Oh, okay.” Then you can move on 🙂 Thanks for the laugh!

  • Dave

    A couple of minor points:

    “Future history” is a term used in science fiction to describe the history of stories that are set in the future. It’s also a term used to describe a particular set of Robert Heinlein’s stories. If there’s a future history, it stands to reason that there must also be a past history. 🙂

    It is, in fact, a hot water heater – there is rarely cold water in there. While I’m sitting here writing this, my water heater is happily kicking on and off, heating – you guessed it – my already-hot water. If you want a plain old water heater, you’d best buy one of those nice inline ones that makes hot water on demand; if you’re like the rest of us, though, your water heater puts most of its time and energy into dumping heat into hot water.

    Much of the fault for some of the other ridiculous redundancies that you mention goes to the people who coin the terms. People seem to have some sort of pathological need for descriptive terms like “center,” “number,” and “machine” to clarify their sentences, particularly when the terms are unfamiliar (say, 30 years ago in the case of ATMs). Those who are tasked with coming up with TLAs (Three Letter Acronyms) for common objects would do well to remember to leave a general descriptor out of the TLA, and end up with terms like “ABT machine” for an automatic bank teller machine, or “PIV number” for a personal identity verification number. They’d save a lot of gnashing of teeth for those of us who are pedantic enough to care. 🙂

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