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The phrase naming names arises often during the reporting of corruption investigations, political scandals or the like. The word naming is defined as citing by name or giving a name to. I could not think of any similarly redundant phrase for comparison.

Is this phrase merely an alliterative embellishment, or does it say more than a replacement phrase such as naming of implicated individuals would imply?

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See Strunk&White Rule #4: Place a comma before a conjunction introducing an independent clause. –  tchrist Mar 28 '13 at 16:43
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I think the most common context is when people say things like "I don't want to name names, but we all know there's corruption afoot". Which is just a florid/idiomatic way of saying "I don't want to name anybody [that I know/suspect to be guilty]". A matter of style, rather than some subtle nuance of meaning. –  FumbleFingers Mar 28 '13 at 16:54
    
To expand a bit on FF's comment, this is just one example of how the language can be used in creative not-exactly-perfectly-correct-but-not-really-incorrect-either ways that are colorful, evocative, and efficient. Moreover, this usage adds a nice implication that the speaker just might be privy to inside information, and that the listener is privileged to receive this special information in a semi-confidential way. –  John M. Landsberg Mar 29 '13 at 2:54
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2 Answers

Macmillan agrees with your supposition that naming names means naming of implicated individuals:

name names

to state publicly the names of people involved in something dishonest or illegal

Other sources note that name names is an idiom; you can play the same game with other words, but the resulting phrases would be more literal in meaning:

  • link links (link hyperlinks, naturally)
  • game games (rig or otherwise cheat at games)
  • like likes (enjoy your accumulated upvotes on Facebook)

There are many other such examples.

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On the other hand, "I am now going to name names: X, Y and Z" isn't as likely to end one up in a libel case. –  Edwin Ashworth Mar 28 '13 at 17:07
    
@EdwinAshworth That's sense 4 in the definition that I cited. –  Gnawme Mar 28 '13 at 17:30
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Some verbs (in at least some of their senses) take (perhaps only) objects that are etymologically related to the verb: cognate objects.

cognate object (noun) [Grammar]: a substantive functioning as the object of a verb, especially of a verb that is usually intransitive, when both object and verb are derived from the same root.

( http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/cognate+object )

Thus you can only dream - a dream. You can dance a dance or sing a song, but here hyponymous objects are also possible - dance a tango; sing a lullaby. Sing a song sounds a lot better than dance a dance, of course, but it's just a matter of prosody. Variants on naming names don't sound too bad nowadays because they've become accepted usages. Of course, name, unlike dream or dance, is transitive.

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