When language-mutilator Yogi Berra said that something was “like ‘deja vu’ all over again,” everybody laughed. Lately I get the feeling that some people who say it don’t know it’s a joke.
Yogi’s “belts and suspenders” approach to words seems to be on the increase. We’ve all seen ads that offer “a free gift.” Sometimes it’s “an absolutely free gift.” It’s as if people don’t trust a word to mean what it means.
Some recent examples from the media include: “adequate enough,” “a navy sailor,” “an army soldier,” “coupled together with,” and “the maroon-coloured Jaguar.”
Sometimes explanatory constructions are necessary in certain contexts. One can refer to a Mafia “soldier,” for example, but if the context is the evening news about the Iraq war, a listener can be trusted to understand the word without tacking on “army.”
Besides sounding foolish, the practice of bolstering a word with a a word that replicates its meaning weakens the expressiveness of the language.
Here are some redundant combinations I’ve heard or read lately in the media. The careful writer will avoid such nonsense.
forests of trees
speeding too fast
a human person
a baby nursery
fast forward ahead
two twin towers