HomeLatest ThreadsGreatest ThreadsForums & GroupsMy SubscriptionsMy Posts
DU Home » Latest Threads » Forums & Groups » Topics » Arts & Humanities » Languages and Linguistics (Group) » Does redundancy constitut...

Sun Jul 30, 2017, 07:09 PM

Does redundancy constitute bad grammar?

This is a question about style, or prescriptive grammar, not about linguistics.

TV Westerns used to have theme songs. One of them started as follows:

"Wyatt Earp, Wyatt Earp;
Brave, courageous, and bold ..."

Song lyrics are poetry. This example is bad poetry IMHO, because it's so redundant.

Here's a subtler example: when I hear someone say "warm temperature", it bothers me. I'd prefer to hear about "high temperature" or "warm weather". Since "warm" has the idea of temperature built into it, "warm temperature" strikes me as slightly redundant.

Redundancy is a vice in English, but it's a virtue in some other languages. "No sť nada" and "Je ne sais rien" are acceptable, but "I don't know nothing" isn't. As the Germans say: andere Leute, andere Sitten.

38 replies, 3731 views

Reply to this thread

Back to top Alert abuse

Always highlight: 10 newest replies | Replies posted after I mark a forum
Replies to this discussion thread
Arrow 38 replies Author Time Post
Reply Does redundancy constitute bad grammar? (Original post)
Lionel Mandrake Jul 2017 OP
Xipe Totec Jul 2017 #1
Warpy Jul 2017 #2
Lionel Mandrake Jul 2017 #10
Glorfindel Jul 2017 #3
Lionel Mandrake Jul 2017 #11
cyclonefence Jul 2017 #15
Glorfindel Jul 2017 #16
cyclonefence Jul 2017 #18
Lionel Mandrake Jul 2017 #19
targetpractice Jul 2017 #4
LastLiberal in PalmSprings Jul 2017 #5
tblue37 Jul 2017 #9
rogerashton Jul 2017 #6
Lionel Mandrake Jul 2017 #12
rogerashton Jul 2017 #13
Lionel Mandrake Jul 2017 #20
Rollo Jul 2017 #7
Lionel Mandrake Jul 2017 #21
Rollo Aug 2017 #25
Lionel Mandrake Aug 2017 #31
unblock Jul 2017 #8
Lionel Mandrake Jul 2017 #22
3catwoman3 Jul 2017 #14
Lionel Mandrake Jul 2017 #23
Rollo Aug 2017 #26
3catwoman3 Aug 2017 #28
Lionel Mandrake Aug 2017 #32
3catwoman3 Aug 2017 #33
Lionel Mandrake Aug 2017 #34
Igel Jul 2017 #17
Lionel Mandrake Jul 2017 #24
Docreed2003 Aug 2017 #27
JackintheGreen Aug 2017 #29
Lionel Mandrake Aug 2017 #30
JackintheGreen Aug 2017 #35
Lionel Mandrake Aug 2017 #36
meow2u3 Aug 2017 #37
prodigitalson Apr 2019 #38

Response to Lionel Mandrake (Original post)

Sun Jul 30, 2017, 07:13 PM

1. Take it up with the manager of the department of redundancy management department. nt

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to Lionel Mandrake (Original post)

Sun Jul 30, 2017, 07:18 PM

2. Ah, a nitplicker after me own heart

The true leader of the Department of Redundancy Department has to to ge FDJT. Have you ever tried to read any of his speeches? Of course, he's smart enough to know he's speaking before equivalent idiots, but his prose is so garbled as to be unintelligible, demonstrating not only word salad but an extreme perseveration when he finds a word he likes. I doubt it's intentional. It's pathological.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to Warpy (Reply #2)

Sun Jul 30, 2017, 08:45 PM

10. FDJT?

Let me guess. Fucking Donald J. Trump?

When I see an initialism, I try to guess what it might stand for. That's one thing I can do better than a computer program.

I have to wonder whether Trump ever had an English teacher.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to Lionel Mandrake (Original post)

Sun Jul 30, 2017, 07:23 PM

3. Not always bad poetry, I think...

"The wind was a torrent of darkness among the gusty trees.
The moon was a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas.
The road was a ribbon of moonlight over the purple moor,
And the highwayman came ridingó
Ridingóridingó
The highwayman came riding
, up to the old inn-door. "

Sometimes redundancy makes for very beautiful poetry. At least, I think so.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to Glorfindel (Reply #3)

Sun Jul 30, 2017, 08:46 PM

11. I agree,

Last edited Tue Aug 1, 2017, 05:42 PM - Edit history (2)

although this is an example of repetition, which is not quite the same thing as redundancy. Since poetry is meant to be read aloud, it is like other forms of spoken language and like music in that repetition is often a virtue.

Something Bogey never said in "Capablanca" is nevertheless a motto: "Play it again, Sam."

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to Glorfindel (Reply #3)

Sun Jul 30, 2017, 11:09 PM

15. I'm not sure this

is a case of redundancy; maybe simply repetition to evoke the sound of a horse's hooves pounding on the road? Redundancy would be something like "the highwayman robber came riding on his horse"--or maybe I'm full of shit. Wouldn't be the first time.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to cyclonefence (Reply #15)

Sun Jul 30, 2017, 11:26 PM

16. You're not full of shit, my dear cyclonefence...not at all

I think the whole poem evokes the horse's hooves...

Tlot-tlot; tlot-tlot! Had they heard it? The horsehoofs ringing clear;
Tlot-tlot; tlot-tlot, in the distance? Were they deaf that they did not hear?
Down the ribbon of moonlight, over the brow of the hill,
The highwayman came ridingó
Ridingóridingó
The red coats looked to their priming! She stood up, straight and still.

Tlot-tlot, in the frosty silence! Tlot-tlot, in the echoing night!
Nearer he came and nearer. Her face was like a light.
Her eyes grew wide for a moment; she drew one last deep breath,
Then her finger moved in the moonlight,
Her musket shattered the moonlight,
Shattered her breast in the moonlight and warned himówith her death.

I merely meant that poetry is a bit different from other forms of speech and writing. It follows its own rules. (Or none at all, as the case may be.) I detest redundancy in everyday speech, as: "ER Room." "MVR Report." "ATM Machine." The examples are endless.


Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to Glorfindel (Reply #16)

Mon Jul 31, 2017, 09:06 AM

18. How do you feel about PIN number?

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to cyclonefence (Reply #18)

Mon Jul 31, 2017, 01:28 PM

19. You mean what I have to punch into the ATM machine

in order to withdraw money from my IRA account?

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to Lionel Mandrake (Original post)

Sun Jul 30, 2017, 07:25 PM

4. I love her, but listen to Rachel Maddow with your eyes closed...

She is very repetitive and redundant.... I think it's a thing that helps people remember. But, it can become suddenly annoying once noticed.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to Lionel Mandrake (Original post)

Sun Jul 30, 2017, 07:27 PM

5. If we "refer back" to the OP, we'll come to a "general consensus" that he has a point.

It's "refer" and "consensus."

My favorite is "I thought to myself." How do you think to someone else?

Three terms from the Department of Redundancy Department (thanks, Firesign Theater).

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to LastLiberal in PalmSprings (Reply #5)

Sun Jul 30, 2017, 08:41 PM

9. "Continue on" bugs me. nt

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to Lionel Mandrake (Original post)

Sun Jul 30, 2017, 07:49 PM

6. Back in the sixties,

on a trip to El Paso, my family stayed in The La Fonda Motel on the El Camino Real highway.

Then there are the Los Angeles Angels.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to rogerashton (Reply #6)

Sun Jul 30, 2017, 08:50 PM

12. Most of those are okay,

but "the El Camino Real highway" is runny at both ends. Try "El Camino Real" or even "El Camino".

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to Lionel Mandrake (Reply #12)

Sun Jul 30, 2017, 09:54 PM

13. Doesn't

la Fonda mean "the hotel?"

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to rogerashton (Reply #13)

Mon Jul 31, 2017, 01:39 PM

20. No, it means Jane

(Henry's daughter).

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to Lionel Mandrake (Original post)

Sun Jul 30, 2017, 08:00 PM

7. Then there are those who get their panties in a twist over "hot water heater"...

Doesn't bother me. I can see their point, but ... since just about everyone says it that way, it's just one of those figures of speech that is here to stay. At least everyone knows what it means. If someone ran up to me and shouted, "the hot water heater is about to explode!" I'd get the hell out of there instead of correcting them.

As for French, redundancy is indeed built-in. In high school I used to enjoy describing to my friends who were taking German instead of French the literal translation of "Je ne sais pas", as "I not know not". Perhaps it's a clue into the popularity of double negatives among our less refined, as in, "I don't know nothing".

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to Rollo (Reply #7)

Mon Jul 31, 2017, 01:49 PM

21. Every time I say "hot water heater",

I have to ask fogiveness from the grammar gods and promise to forgive others for saying it. I think this particular gaffe comes from conflating "we don't have any hot water" with "our water heater isn't working".

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to Lionel Mandrake (Reply #21)

Tue Aug 1, 2017, 12:35 AM

25. Well, does "cold water heater" make any more sense?

No, didn't think so.

Language is full of little quirks and redundancies. The purpose of language is to communicate. Nobody is unsure what is meant by "hot water heater", are they?

And I suspect that "hot water heater" is used primarily to refer to an appliance that heats water attached to plumbing for use in a home or business. A water heater inside some piece of industrial equipment - or even in a coffee maker - would not get that tag. I think. The "hot water" part sort of conveys what comes out of the "hot water tap". If only cold water comes out, then it's a signal to scream, "The hot water heater is not working!!!"

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to Rollo (Reply #25)

Tue Aug 1, 2017, 01:37 PM

31. No, a coffee maker is not called a water heater, although it does heat water.

Similarly, the gizmos that put out fires in some large laser printers are not called fire extinguishers. They look like fire extinguishers, but they are called "anti-scorching devices". That's Madison Avenue for you.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to Lionel Mandrake (Original post)

Sun Jul 30, 2017, 08:32 PM

8. It depends on the medium. Novels vs. songs vs. ordinary speech

Last edited Sun Jul 30, 2017, 09:02 PM - Edit history (1)

In spoken language, and there's a heavy emphasis on effective communication. You can't go back and re-hear a word you missed the way you can re-read a word in a novel. So a little clarification or redundancy goes a long way.

In poetry or song, repetition has an important role in marking significance. Even "mirror, mirror, on the wall" alerts us to the esteem in which the mirror is held.

I used to be a purist about efficient and elegant language, but as I get older I find I avoid words like "eschew".

The double negatives in some languages remind me of an old joke about a professor who says that while there are languages where a double negative means a negative, and where a double negative means a positive, he insists there's no language with where a double positive mean a negative. To which a wiseass student says, "yeah, yeah!"

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to unblock (Reply #8)

Mon Jul 31, 2017, 01:51 PM

22. Yeah, right.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to Lionel Mandrake (Original post)

Sun Jul 30, 2017, 10:37 PM

14. How about menus that offer...

...roast beef "with au jus."

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to 3catwoman3 (Reply #14)

Mon Jul 31, 2017, 01:52 PM

23. That drives me up the wall,

as does "Please RSVP".

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to 3catwoman3 (Reply #14)

Tue Aug 1, 2017, 12:39 AM

26. Even worse, I had someone at a very fancy function ask me if I wanted my roast beef "with awe jew"

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to Rollo (Reply #26)

Tue Aug 1, 2017, 01:58 AM

28. Auggghhhh!

I have also seen posts and texts from people who are trying t make a point with some flair, drama, and sophistication, and end their messages with "Walla!"

It took me the longest damn time to figure out that these folks meant "Voila." (Sorry, don't know how to get the little 'reverse apostrophe' over the "a."

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to 3catwoman3 (Reply #28)

Tue Aug 1, 2017, 02:02 PM

32. About that reverse apostrophe...

The word voilŗ, which we have borrowed from French, includes l'accent grave on the a. The way I did this was to copy a word with that accent and paste it into my post. Google and Wikipedia are my friends in finding such words. There are better ways to do this, but they depend on your operating system, whether your computer is a Mac or a Windows machine, etc.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to Lionel Mandrake (Reply #32)

Tue Aug 1, 2017, 03:19 PM

33. Thanks for the info and...

...the copy and paste hint. I hate to misspell things, and diacritical marks matter - I fear looking ignorant is I do not include them, especially among the learned population here at DU. I have a Windows system - not sure it is easily doable. My iPhone makes it very easy - just continue to touch the letter, and the various choices appear.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to 3catwoman3 (Reply #33)

Tue Aug 1, 2017, 05:25 PM

34. Yeah, I try to appear knowledgeable even when I'm not.

I can fake it pretty well with some help from my friends: Google, Wikipedia, Wiktionary, etc. DU is kind enough to provide "Check Spelling" and "Preview" buttons.

Fortunately I already know (1) how to conjugate the verbs "lie" and "lay", (2) the differences between words that are pronounced the same but spelled differently, e.g., their, there, and they're, and (3) the nominative singular and plural forms of certain nouns, e.g., κριτήριον (criterion), κριτήρια (criteria). Spell checkers can't fix problems of types 1, 2, and 3.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to Lionel Mandrake (Original post)

Mon Jul 31, 2017, 01:48 AM

17. Sometimes.

1. Not all song lyrics are poetry. Sometimes you put in repetition to round out the tune. (And let's not get started with, say, a Palestrina mass or Handel aria. And what do you do with all the la-la-las that are sometimes used?)

Many song lyrics are bad poetry, but they have music to carry them.

2. I like "high" and "low" for temperatures, but some don't. Glass thermometers make sense for high and low. I think of big numbers as high, but I find at lot of kids raised completely digitally are losing what probably started off as physical descriptions. I stopped being shocked at having to explain "clockwise."

And there's no other way for "high" vs "low" frequency.

3. All languages are highly redundant. No se nada, je ne sais rien, nichego ne znaiu, nic nevidim (let's add Russian and Czech) aren't usually classified as double negatives. I think "negative polarity items" is the wonky phrase that comes to mind. You use one indefinite with a positive verb, a different indefinite with a negative. Si, se algo, je sais quelque chose, ia znaiu koe-chto (or nechto), neco vidim. (The Slavic words with ne- there aren't negative. Look like they could be, but they're not.) "I don't know nothing" isn't okay in standard or formal English, but it's alive and well in some social dialects.

Otherwise we always live with a lot of redundancy. Removing redundancy is a virtue in dense formal language, but much is built into the grammar. In colloquial, spoken language we constantly miss information and redundancy fills it back in. Still, languages get by without copulas and even number. For example, "Song lyrics are poetry" marks plurality twice: -s, are. Russian phrasing would just be "Song lyrics poetry," and would force 'song' to be an adjective on which number and case and gender would be marked, or would make "song" possess (lyrics of song -- poetry). Chinese would drop the -s and compound "song lyrics" as English does but doesn't bother to write. You can't really say "Songs lyrics", has to be singular for compounding.

Plus all those articles, "these" versus "this". Even words like "but" can be omitted through parataxis--it's less clear sometimes, but not here. "Redundancy is a vice in English, a virtue in some other languages." "Vice" and "virture" clearly contrast, so "but" is redundant.

Even things like "When I hear someone say 'blah', it bothers me" has a strange subject. That "it" is pretty meaningless, either it's a filler to make sure every verb has a subject or it refers to "when it bothers me" as the subject. That complete English-language clauses function as subjects is known, but it's most definitely not colloquial. "It's known that English-language clauses function as subjects" is stylistically better these days.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to Igel (Reply #17)

Mon Jul 31, 2017, 02:04 PM

24. It's clear that you know what you are talking about,

as always. As for song lyrics, some aren't even meant to make sense:

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to Lionel Mandrake (Original post)

Tue Aug 1, 2017, 12:41 AM

27. While redundancy has its place in poetry....

I swear it gets under my skin when Trump uses redundancy nearly every day. Here's a good example of his redundancy that pisses me off, and I think, highlights his idiocy:

"Reince Prebus is a very very good man. A very good man. Gen Kelly will be an amazing Chief of Staff. Priebus is a very good man"

Trump does that shit all the damn time and it's infuriating!!!

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to Lionel Mandrake (Original post)

Tue Aug 1, 2017, 05:51 AM

29. Not a mention of the long history of rhetoric?

Anaphora, epistrophe, palilogia, and a half dozen other forms of repetition were defined by classical Greek rhetoricians. It was mentioned that repetition is an important part of many languages (South Asian, for example), but English has been deeply inflected by the Greek classics, being a central component of the liberal arts education into the 1950s, and repetition has been a "classic" English rhetorical device for ages and ages (see what I did there?).

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to JackintheGreen (Reply #29)

Tue Aug 1, 2017, 01:17 PM

30. I'm not sure how to parse the 2nd clause in your last sentence.

"... but English has been deeply inflected by the Greek classics, being a central component of the liberal arts education into the 1950s, and repetition has been a 'classic' English rhetorical device ... ."

Which "has been a central component ...", English or the Greek classics? (I would hope both.)

Do you really mean "deeply inflected"? I'd say that ancient Greek was highly inflected, but modern English has remarkably little in the way of declensions and conjugations. It's true that we have borrowed lots of nouns from ancient Latin and Greek, typically using the nominative cases of those nouns (transliterated as necessary). We have also invented Latin-like nouns, complete with Latin-like plural forms. The latter are called Latinate or Modern Latin. Is that what you have in mind?

What happened to liberal arts education after the 1950s? I was an undergraduate from 1957 to 1961, and it seemed to me that the curriculum was stable during those years. I think it must have been somewhat later that Eurocentrism became a dirty word, and Western Civ. was replaced by World History. Other changes during the 1960s that I recall were a response to political events, such as the civil rights and antiwar movements. But you may have something completely different in mind.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to Lionel Mandrake (Reply #30)

Thu Aug 3, 2017, 12:46 AM

35. Hrm...I thought the grammar of the clause was reasonably clear

but on rereading I can see where confusion might arise. Typically, at least the way I was taught, dependent clauses support the adjacent noun/clause, in this case "...the Greek classics." But then, these rules don't count for as much as they did when I was in grammar class. (That's both a poorly veiled commentary on the degradation of grammar and an admission that the rest of the world is not English class.)

To the point, I know that Latin and Greek remained a part of a regular - if not required - Harvard education, for instance, into at least the beginning of the 1950s. I cannot speak with the same certainty much beyond that, so I hedged my bets. You seem to have hooked into the hedge. I know that Greek and Latin continued to be taught in higher secondary schools in parts of Europe (Belgium and The Netherlands for sure) well into the 1960s, with the changes you mention taking hold in the 1970s.

'Inflected": for clarity, I should have used 'influenced,' as it probably would have raised fewer hackles. But 'inflected' does a non-linguistic denotation, in the sense of bending or turning from a course, e.g., the path of an object flying in space passing through the gravity well of the earth would be inflected towards earth. That's a clumsy example, but the usage is true enough. I meant in the sense of "pure" English (whatever the the nine hells that is) was inflected towards Greek rhetorical, not grammatical, structures. Old English (and Saxon and OHG or OI, for that matter) have very different rhetorical structures. Modern English's rhetoric has been inflected, turned towards, the Greek through the layering of "classical" literature since, what, their "rediscovery" Renaissance? I don't know enough about the linguistic collision of Old English and French post-Hastings to be able to say there were no similar influences from OF prior.

I'm using more " than I like in the hopes that I won't be derided for claiming there is a pure English (there isn't), that classical (epoch-wise) literature was ever lost (it wasn't), etc.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to JackintheGreen (Reply #35)

Thu Aug 3, 2017, 04:41 PM

36. Thanks for the clarification.

Usually I depend on semantics to resolve any syntactical ambiguity, but either English or the Greek classics would make sense, so the ambiguity remained for me until you answered my question.

Here in the USA English translations of the Greek classics were standard fare when I went to school. Knowledge of ancient Greek itself was rare, and it still is. Knowledge of Latin is and was less rare, but it wasn't and isn't required for most students.

As a physicist, I use the term "deflect" rather than "inflect" to describe a turning away from a course. I think "deflect" is also the more common word in plain English. (Words like deflect, reflect, inflect, genuflect, flex all come from flecto, flectere.)

The literature now studied in Classics departments was never lost entirely. Knowledge of it in Western Europe was minimal during the early middle ages. Greek literature was there all along in the Byzantine Empire, but that literature was inaccessible to Westerners who didn't know any Greek. Successive waves of translations changed all that for a while. But we have entered a new dark age, as far as knowledge of Latin and Greek are concerned. Now that English has become the planetary language, many Americans see no need to learn any other language. (Okay, I'm exaggerating, but only a little.)

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to Lionel Mandrake (Original post)

Tue Aug 15, 2017, 02:50 PM

37. The RAID insecticide ad slogan

Kills Bugs Dead--as opposed to killing bugs alive?!

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to Lionel Mandrake (Original post)

Sun Apr 21, 2019, 09:50 PM

38. people say I'm redundant

They say I repeat myself and say the same things over and over.

I don't think I'm redundant.

Others do.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink

Reply to this thread