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Why do Americans use so much redundancy? Is it because of their schooling or their every day influence? Or is it something totally different?

Examples:

  • It was an even tie. (They reached the finish line together, making it a tie.)
  • Other countries abroad.
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4  
I’m not certain that your assumption these are Americanisms is true. A search for “even tie” in COCA (Corpus of Contemporary American English) and BNC (British National Corpus) gave no examples of the usage you cite. A search for “countries abroad” gave 8 examples in COCA and 6 in BNC. –  nohat Aug 21 '10 at 17:57
    
I didn't find the expression even tie in the New Oxford American Dictionary either. I do find there was a tie for first place as example, though. –  kiamlaluno Aug 21 '10 at 18:23
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I would like to see some evidence that this occurs significantly with Americans speaking English. I don't recognize either of these phrases as common phrases. Even if they were common, redundancy occurs throughout languages around the world, and I think it would be easy to find British English phrases that have some sort of redundancy. Lastly, I don't see how anyone could answer this even if it were true and a special feature of American English. –  Kosmonaut Aug 21 '10 at 22:05
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My personal 2¢: I might use "other countries abroad" with "abroad" as a synonym of "overseas." That is, "other countries" include Canada and Mexico, but "other countries overseas" does not. Or in other words, I don't hear the phrase as redundant, just precise. –  Dori Aug 22 '10 at 1:22
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There's the infamous 'at this moment in time'. –  Brian Hooper Aug 22 '10 at 9:50

3 Answers 3

up vote 4 down vote accepted

To give them the benefit of the doubt, maybe they do it for purposes of emphasis, for example this sentence:

That is a tiny little fish you caught there!

The most common issue I see is with acronyms when the word is rarely broken out in common usage and people don't think about what the letters stand for.

Can you tell me where the nearest ATM machine is?

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3  
Then I can put my PIN number in and get some cash. –  mmyers Aug 22 '10 at 4:25
    
The M in ATM already means machine; saying ATM machine is redundant, but it's quite common. –  kiamlaluno Aug 22 '10 at 21:45
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OOOOOOHHHHHHHHH –  Arlen Beiler Aug 23 '10 at 1:27

I think the (very few) examples you give are just general sloppiness, which can be encountered in all cultures, and not representative of anything.

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Most American dialects use constructions like that one there, and so, do many others in the rest of the English-speaking world, such as Cockney and Scots. Therefore, the outlier may be Standard English, which did not become the standard until around 300 years ago. Wikipedia has a good article on double negatives, a closely related form.

My own opinion is that the reason the redundancy survives is meter; which of the following sounds better?

  1. "I can get no Satisfaction"
  2. "I can't get no Satisfaction"
  3. "I cannot get any Satisfaction"
  4. "I can't get any Satisfaction"
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