In my spare time I’ve been counting pleonasms.
Beginning with my own (that could be one), I am trying to become more aware of the human tendency toward redundancy.
Pleonasm is the use of word combinations that are unnecessary because the words mean the same thing, such as sum total or close proximity.
Pleonasm isn’t necessarily wrong. It has been shown in some cases to help clarify or reinforce an idea.
It’s hard to determne exactly when pleonasm is appropriate. When the waitress tells me a dish includes Brie cheese or sherry wine, I never know whether she is committing a syntactic oversight or patronizing me pleonasmically (an adverb I just made up).
The legal vernacular is full of pleonasm. Consider cease and desist, terms and conditions and null and void.
A few that make me shiver include ATM machine and PIN number, as well as Please R.S.V.P.
If your interest in this topic extends beyond these general observations, and if you are not afraid to see how many widely used examples are really out there, visit this blog of Pleonasms and Redundant Phrases. Their list is so extensive it might make you fearful of speaking another word (is that one?)
If you want to make a little game out of it, go in and look at the list, pick one and then substitute a word. For example, a bouquet of flowers – what else would be in a bouquet? A bouquet of sneakers?
Try doing this with face mask, tuna fish or visible to the eye. How about armed gunman?
Have fun with it. After taking tomorrow off, I will be getting back to my regular routine.