Posts Tagged ‘Redundancy’

On Redundancy, Oxymora, and Grammatical Correctness

November 19, 2011

It would be redundant to say that Dave was “completely devastated” when his hamster died because there cannot be degrees of devastation. I can be extremely scared by radio reports of zombies in my neighborhood, but it would be inexact to say that I am extremely terrified. Conversely, it would be oxymoronic* to declare that Dave was only “slightly devastated” by the news of his hamster’s untimely demise.

For the poet (by which I also of course mean the novelist) the phrases completely devastated and slightly devastated have all sorts of wonderful possibilities. However, writers seeking precision with their words (students enrolled in a Freshman Composition class, for example) should avoid such phrases.

* George Carlin has helpful lists of redundancies and oxymora in his book Braindroppings

Evaluation

State whether the highlighted portions of the following sentences are redundant, oxymoronic, or grammatically acceptable.

1. I was a tad heartbroken when my wife left me for my younger brother.

2. My aunt is a little bit pregnant.

3. Dresden was totally incinerated by the Allied bombing.

4. Pizza is extremely overrated.

5. My cat was completely dead after the accident.

6. Gertrude was a little bit exhausted after studying six straight hours for her English exam.

7. Osvaldo was completely miserable after he lost the tiddlywinks tournament.

8. The traffic around here is somewhat slow after jai alai matches.

9. Pham was extremely furious when I told her the results from Dancing with the Stars.

10. Ted overdosed slightly on pain medication.

by Richard W. Bray

Resources for a Lesson Plan on Redundancy and An Amusing Teacher Story

March 30, 2010

George Carlin

Resources for a Lesson Plan on Redundancy

Use the list of redundancies from George Carlin’s wonderful book Braindroppings and The Redundant Little Short Story to teach a lesson on redundancies. Carlin’s list includes examples such as PIN number, safe haven, closed fist and linger on. (However, I would quibble with Carlin on the terms time clock and security guard. There’s a difference between a clock and a time clock just as there is a difference between a guard and a security guard.)


The Redundant Little Short Story

The two twins Ted and Ned lived in a teeny tiny little bungalow in the city of Chicago. The silly clown Fred Toolshed was Ted and Ned’s closest best friend. Fred lived in a small cottage near the University of UCLA. One day Ted, Ned, and Fred decided to go on a long journey in search of a famous celebrity or a royal queen. Ted said, “Fred, you would have to be a crazy maniac to travel through snowy blizzards and blustery tornadoes.”

“Ted,” said Ned, “only a stupid ignoramus or a cheap miser would pass up an opportunity to meet big giants, brilliant geniuses and dead mummies.”

So Ted, Ned and Fred had many exciting adventures in search of renowned luminaries and distinguished dignitaries. They also ate frozen popsicles with a young infant named Bed Wetter and an elderly octogenarian named Jed Sledder. The five of them met all kinds of living organisms, including a smelly skunk, a sleepy insomniac, a tiny microorganism, and a tall giraffe.

An Amusing Teacher Story

Sadly, due to the ill-conceived efforts of our current Education Secretary and his two immediate predecessors, frightened school administrators across the country are doing their best to eradicate all traces of art and humanity from the teaching profession (because, you know, teaching should only be about raising test scores).

But this sick, sad trend really has nothing to do with “accountability.” It’s just about power. (Accountability is a nice-sounding word, but in practice it means that schools are micromanaged by bureaucrats in Washington DC instead of being directly accountable to local school boards)

Back in the days before the federal government (a seven-percent stakeholder in education) made it so difficult for teachers to make even the smallest efforts to enrich the lives of their students, I used to show the kids gems like Donald O’Connor singing Make ‘em Laugh or the Nicholas Brother doing their thing in the movie Stormy Weather at the end of the day as we were preparing to go home.

Now, I’ve always been rather sympathetic to Freddy in My Fair Lady because I too find Audrey Hepburn to be irresistibly enchanting. So one day I was trying to explain why Freddy was so smitten with Eliza Doolittle before showing them the song On the Street Where You Live. I said that he had decided to sit in front of this woman’s house for days on end because he was in love with her but she was not in love with him.

One of my girls said, “I get it. He’s a stalker.”

I’m afraid she was right. (Kids really make you think sometimes.)

By Richard W. Bray