Have you ever noticed how many words or phrases we are stuck with because they are expected, and not because they’re very precise?
The most basic example of this is the ritual exchange of “how-are-you?” “I’m-fine, and-you?” That many before me have pegged.
I have a friend my parents’ age who lives on base. When going through the gate she needs to stop and render her ID, and this exchange usually occurs. Right now her husband is deployed, and at the time of this story she was having some struggles. Her daughter in the passenger seat tore into her as they drove on.
“You’re not ‘fine’.” she said. “Why would you lie to the guy like that?”
“Well,” the patient mom replied, “What should I have said?”
“‘I’ve got issues.'” So that’s what my friend said the next time she stopped at the gate. It ended up being rather cathartic too– for both her and the guard.
(“Don’t we all…”)
But back to redundant sets.
I was updating my brochure for the Woman’s Show, and realized I was trapped in a (necessary?) redundancy: predictable pattern.
Other examples abound, and I was given a nice list in my days as a journalism student (You will probably recognize these from news articles you’ve read in recent weeks, or any of a number of “gripping novels” you may have read):
Serious danger, stern warning, complete monopoly, grave crisis, close proximity, personal opinion (very common– oops, is that another one?), ultimate outcome, mutual cooperation, old adage, completely full, sworn affidavit, general public, entirely absent, end result, grateful thanks.
Most were sets I’d never had thought about until I saw the list (and yes, there are more), because we (or at least, I) saw them squished together (see, there I go again), united so frequently I’d never thought to question their use.
Basically, when it comes down to counting individual words, phrases like these are wasteful.
Off the top of my head I only have one pet-peeve word for this last category: Osmosis.
For those of you who missed/forgotten the lecture (forgivable, it was probably a long time ago), osmosis, at least when I went to school, was a specialized type of diffusion referring specifically to water.
What it has grown to mean is general assimilation because of an environment (“I learned singing through osmosis.”).
Because we have a language that changes as use changes, I suppose I aught to just accept this development and not feel foolish using this word, but I still find myself resistant to the idea, and most of the time will try to say I “absorbed” the information, rather than “absorbed by osmosis.”
Both a redundancy and (at one time) inaccurate.