Writing for Business

Jan 28 2014   12:44PM GMT

Redundant pleonasms, with an extra bonus

Ivy Wigmore Ivy Wigmore Profile: Ivy Wigmore

What’s wrong with this sentence?

interrobang Because the customer had a past history of viruses and worms, I suspected that the current problem was another malware infection.

Answer: “Past history” is redundant.

History only exists in the past, so it’s not necessary to specify.

Phrases that use more words than necessary are called pleonasms, from the Greek pleon meaning excessive. Examples include burning fire, unexpected surprise and deja vu all over again. Although redundancies are sometimes employed purposefully to add emphasis — as in fine and dandy or calm, cool and collected — they’re otherwise considered an error.

Here’s an extra bonus for you, Count the Superfluous Redundant Pleonastic Tautologies from George Carlin’s When Will Jesus Bring the Pork Chops?
“I needed a new beginning, so I decided to pay a social visit to a personal friend with whom I share the same mutual objectives and who is one of the most unique individuals I have ever personally met. The end result was an un­expected surprise. When I reiterated again to her the fact that I needed a fresh start, she said I was exactly right; and, as an added plus, she came up with a fi­nal solution that was absolutely perfect.

“Based on her past experience, she felt we needed to join together in a com­mon bond for a combined total of twenty-four hours a day, in order to find some new initiatives. What a novel innovation! And, as an extra bonus, she presented me with the free gift of a tuna fish. Right away I noticed an immedi­ate positive improvement. And although my recovery is not totally complete, the sum total is I feel much better now knowing I am not uniquely alone.”

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