I came across this quote from some popular guy who likes to use big words and I was wondering if it's correct.

Their vacuous posturing, pharissaical sanctimonies and sadducceical homilies now has the tinge of becoming nauseating, megalomaniacal, vexatious and scabrously schizophrenic.

Basically, is it possible for all the adjectives to mean one thing, is there a form or category of speech (not tautology) that allows you to use multiple adjectives and still refer to them as one adjective?

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    All the adjectives in this passage seem to perform a unique function to me (they all denote separate, specific, characteristics). But maybe I'm overlooking something obvious: which set of adverbs do you find repetitious? BTW, the rule to bear in mind is that English is not algebra, and that repetition (and many other things which would be considered bad form or even erroneous in an algebraic statement) is not only common and permissible, but in many cases useful. Repetition can be used for emphasis, clarity, humor, etc. Nothing inherently wrong with it.
    – Dan Bron
    Sep 30, 2014 at 11:49
  • Hmmmm, interesting opinion. Well, the reason I'm asking is that the has in the sentence seems like an error as it should be have right? Sep 30, 2014 at 12:11
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    That's a bit different than your original question, but the short answer is either has or have would fit (consider: "their vacuous posturing have"? No). Using "has" combines all the activities mentioned (and possibly more like them) into an undifferentiated mass of behavior which the speaker disdains. Using "have" works fine as well "sadducceical homilies have"), but treats each type of activity, and potentially each instance, distinctly. In this context, I would prefer "has", because it better focuses on the "sinners" rather than the "sins". But either works.
    – Dan Bron
    Sep 30, 2014 at 12:27
  • Hmmmm, thanks these two perfectly answer my question. Can you put it down? Sep 30, 2014 at 12:48
  • @DanBron I disagree. It should indeed be have since the verb applies to their vacuous posturing, pharissaical sanctimonies and sadducceical homilies which are three separate things.
    – terdon
    Sep 30, 2014 at 13:56

1 Answer 1


This particular sentence is admittedly pretentious and in an attempt to show off his or her sesquipedality the author you quote has run aground.

First of all, it should indeed be have since the verb in that sentence applies to three separate things: their vacuous posturing, their pharissaical sanctimonies and their sadducceical homilies.

I also don't quite get how something can have the tinge of becoming. It could have the tinge of but not really the tinge of becoming. At any rate, it sounds very strange to me.

In short, the whole sentence reads like someone showing off. Badly. However, there is absolutely nothing wrong with stringing multiple adjectives with similar meanings together. This has been used to great effect by many authors over the centuries. To take a bad example from a great author:

And with them scourge the bad revolting stars

(Shakespeare, Henry VI, part 1, Act 1, Scene 1 )

Though the sentence you posted is not really an example of it since the words are not so similar in meaning, the use of multiple words that mean the same thing (or which are unnecessary) is called pleonasm, a type of tautology. For example, this quote from Becket's Molloy which I found on Wikipedia (emphasis mine):

"Let me tell you this, when social workers offer you, free, gratis and for nothing, ..."

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