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I was interested in the following sentence which appeared in an article titled “Kooky Politics Make for Entertaining Races" by Albert R. Hunt in The New York Times (June 20, 2010).

The figure seemed odd until it was disclosed that of Mr. Ensign’s parents each gave $12,000 apiece to the four members of the aide’s family, the maximum allowed without having to file a gift tax return with the Internal Revenue Service.

Can someone clarify if the word "apiece" is unnecessary, as I think it is?

I would drop "apiece", but I'm not sure on this correction because constructions like "each ... $[X] ... apiece" occurs on many occasions on The New York Times and it frequently occurs in others newspapers. So I am wondering if it is in common usage, albeit it isn't the highest register.

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No, it's not. Each of Mr. Ensign's parents gave $12,000 to each of the four members of the aide's family, eight transactions total. The "each" applies to Mr. Ensign's two parents; the "apiece" to the four members of the aide's family. It is undoubtedly a confusing way to have worded it, but it's not redundant. – Peter Shor Jun 10 '12 at 15:56

Both words (each and apiece) are needed here, as the intended meaning is that each parent gave $12000 to each aide’s family member. However, the sentence as published (which is as shown in question) is jumbled compared to what one normally sees; the each is differently placed, as noted below. The sentence could read,

...it was disclosed that each of Mr. Ensign’s parents gave $12,000 apiece to the four members of the aide’s family...

The published sentence's structure is "...that of X each gave...", which means "...considering X, each of X gave...", which is equivalent to "...each of X gave...". The author's intent may have been to have each and apiece close together to account for the arithmetic of getting $96000 from $12000: two parents times four recipients times $12000.

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Arguably it's clumsy phrasing, but it's certainly not redundant.

The word each refers to each of Mr. Ensign's parents, but apiece refers to the four members of the aide’s family.

If each were to be dropped, we might reasonably assume that collectively the parents gave a total of $12,000, where in fact there was one such donation from his mother, and one from his father.

If apiece were to be dropped, we'd assume the donation (or, both donations) of $12,000 was shared between the four recipients ($3,000 or $6,000 each). In fact they each got $24,000 ($12,000 from each parent). Which was the most they could get without the tax authorities becoming involved.

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