Take the 2-minute tour ×
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

There is a family of expressions called oxymorons which contain contradicting meanings. What about expressions that add little meaning like "fatally injured"? What are these expressions called?

share|improve this question
2  
It's called, freedom of speech –  Thursagen Sep 2 '11 at 8:51
4  
How does “fatally” not add meaning to “injured”? –  F'x Sep 2 '11 at 9:06
    
If it's in the context of an accident, the expression doesn't add anything to the fact that a person was instantly killed. On the other hand, saying that a person succombed to their injuries adds the information that they were still alive shortly afterwards. –  James Poulson Sep 2 '11 at 9:16
1  
I think "fatally killed" is a better example, that would be better reduced to "killed". If they weren't killed, then of course they were just "injured". –  Hugo Sep 2 '11 at 9:43
1  
"fatally injured" invariably means someone didn't die at the time of the injury. They died later, probably either in hospital or in an ambulance on the way there, despite best medical efforts. It's not at all a "superfluous" pairing of words. –  FumbleFingers Sep 2 '11 at 17:36
show 1 more comment

2 Answers

up vote 6 down vote accepted

These are known as tautologies or tautologous expressions.

Some examples from the Guardian Style Guide:

Aum Shinrikyo
means Supreme Truth sect, but note that the "aum" means sect, so to talk about the "Aum sect" or "Aum cult" is tautologous

affidavit
a written declaration made on oath, so "sworn affidavit" is tautologous.

Eid al-Adha
(Festival of Sacrifice) Muslim festival laid down in Islamic law, celebrates the end of the hajj. Note that eid means festival, so it is tautologous to describe it as the “Eid festival

gambit
an opening strategy that involves some sacrifice or concession; so to talk of an opening gambit is tautologous — an opening ploy might be better

regalia
plural, of royalty; “royal regalia” is tautologous

As a side note, tautologies are often found in place names, my favourite is The La Brea Tar Pits, meaning The The Tar Tar Pits.

share|improve this answer
    
I'll accept your answer. Do you happen to know if there is a difference between tautology, pleonasm and redudancy? Or are they synonymous? –  James Poulson Sep 2 '11 at 9:30
1  
They can usually be used synonymously in this context, but of course there are subtle differences: fun-with-words.com/redundancies.html Tautology is also a term used in logic, and redundancies can apply to lost jobs and having extra backup computer systems in case one stops working (such as in the shuttle). –  Hugo Sep 2 '11 at 10:18
add comment

I've found the word I was looking for. It's pleonasm:

http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/pleonasm

pleonasm (countable and uncountable; plural pleonasms) (uncountable, rhetoric) Redundancy in wording.  [quotations ▼] (countable) A phrase involving pleonasm, that is, a phrase in which one or more words are redundant as their meaning is expressed elsewhere in the phrase. "The two of them are both the same" is a pleonasm (as the word "both" is redundant), as is "killed dead".

Some better examples:

  • "Could you repeat that again?"
  • "It's a really new innovation"

In the same genre there is also redundancies and tautologies.

share|improve this answer
1  
Yes, I would probably go for "pleonasm" in your case-- there's not much in it, but possibly "pleonasm" is more common if you mean more of a linguistic phenomenon (e.g. a redundant phrase that is commonly used as you have), whereas a "tautology" is more of a redundancy of logic or redundancy used as a rhetorical device. But as I say, I don't think there's so much in it either. –  Neil Coffey Sep 2 '11 at 12:40
add comment

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.