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Scorching means extremely hot. So why do we say scorching hot? Isn't it redundant to bring hot after scorching?

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Blame that hydra-headed serpent — tautology! –  Jimi Oke Feb 1 '11 at 18:42

3 Answers 3

up vote 6 down vote accepted

Scorching is both adjective and adverb. If you use it before an adjective like hot it means you're using it as an adverb, which means very or extremely. As an adverb it means very hot. So it's not considered as redundant info.

Examples:

Here in Houston, it was a scorching 93° today.

It was a scorching hot day.

The scorching desert heat

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Shouldn't that be scorchingly hot? –  SLaks Feb 1 '11 at 16:38
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Also, I'd suggest: "...it was a scorching 93˚ today." –  Jimi Oke Feb 1 '11 at 18:44
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@SLaks: No, here scorching is an adverb. So we don't add "ly" to end of it. –  Manoochehr Feb 1 '11 at 19:30
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@Jimi: You're right, thanks for the suggestion. –  Manoochehr Feb 1 '11 at 19:31
    
On what basis do you say this run-of-the-mill participle is sometimes (properly) an adverb? –  Terry N Apr 22 at 8:29

Scorch, as a verb, means to burn slightly or to cause discoloration due to heat.

As an adjective, scorching can be used to emphasize that the following noun causes burns or discoloration. In that regard, "a scorching heat" implies that the heat causes burns or discoloration. It is roughly synonymous with burning.

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You're right, scorching heat (or scorchingly hot) appears at first glance to be redundant. Also, it is something of a stormy petrel (thank you again, Alex): You can't say something is scorchingly cold or scorchingly tepid.

Good writers might find a sharper way to express the heat, probably avoiding a cliché into the bargain. Still, in conversations and informal writing this kind of adjective (or adverb) is used simply as an intensifier. You'll agree, I'm sure, that scorching heat is many degrees more uncomfortable than mild heat. Is it as hot as extreme heat? I'm not sure. But both extreme and scorching heat refer to weather that is pretty damned hot.

In any case, something that is scorched is heated so as "to become dried out and lifeless" [Webster's] — so it has a particular meaning after all. There are all kinds of heat that do not cause things to become dried out and lifeless.

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"avoiding a cliché into the bargain" -- that's either quite witty or quite unfortunate a way to phrase it. –  Malvolio Feb 1 '11 at 17:17

protected by tchrist Jul 9 at 14:25

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