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"Patently" in this context is synonymous with "obvious" so this essentially translates to "obviously obvious". I've heard this particular turn of phrase crop up fairly often - ironically often in academic circles - to the point where I've become baffled at how and why people seem to consider it a perfectly valid expression when it's patently redundant. (Sorry couldn't resist!) Could someone please explain?

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  • Is it obvious, patently or otherwise, what problem might be created if the expression is "redundant"? Why would it not be a "perfectly valid expression"? – Hot Licks Nov 21 '15 at 1:18
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    In my experience, some obvious ideas are obvious only in hindsight; for the patently, it's not necessary to wait. – deadrat Nov 21 '15 at 1:24
  • Not quite sure what either of you are getting at but what I meant is that if "patently obvious" is synonymous with "obviously obvious" (please correct me if I'm mistaken on this assumption) then it's blatantly ridiculous. If anyone said "truthfully true" we'd laugh at them. This sort of expression sounds more at home on beauty pageant stages than academic lecture halls. – user1985189 Nov 21 '15 at 1:35
  • In other words, you don't like the way it sounds? How does this make it wrong? – Hot Licks Nov 21 '15 at 1:37
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    Note that there are a number of different idioms containing "obvious" -- "not immediately obvious", "obvious upon inspection", "came to be obvious", etc. These do not imply "readily visible" in the sense that "patent" does. And note the definition of "synonym": "a word or phrase that means exactly or nearly the same as another word or phrase in the same language". "Patent" and "obvious" are not the same word and do not mean the same thing, with all their nuances. To use one to reinforce the other is not unreasonable. – Hot Licks Nov 21 '15 at 2:54
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People like the sound of it so much they don't bother about the meaning. So much so that it actually has become one word: patentliobvious. Wait, I've got proof!

The phrase "It's just too patently obvious" doesn't make the least bit of sense. Too patently? What? But they still use it, don't they.

ACADEMIC CIRCLES. It's too patently obvious.
SKEPTIC. Are you saying that if if it were less patently but more, say, vaguely, obvious, it would be acceptable?
ACADEMIC CIRCLES. Huh? What are you talking about, my lad?

It has ceased to occur to people that "patently obvious" is actually two words, not one.

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  • I'll vote up because it's more or less what I expected but hesitant to accept this answer as it's not really satisfying. Of course, it could simply be the case that there's nothing more to say on the matter and then it's no fault of yours that I find the answer unsatisfying, but for now gonna wait and see if anyone else has something more insightful to offer. – user1985189 Nov 21 '15 at 2:06
  • @user1985189: I could rewrite it in terza rima, if you wish. – Ricky Nov 21 '15 at 2:08
  • For that I would create a second account and thumbs up again! :P (Not really though) – user1985189 Nov 21 '15 at 2:13
  • Don't encourage him, 1985189 -- he'll do it. OK, @Ricky, put down that iamb, back away, and nobody gets hurt. – deadrat Nov 21 '15 at 4:04
  • Creative and imaginative. – user140086 Nov 21 '15 at 5:53
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There does not seem to be a logical flaw with the statement "the truth of x is obviously obvious." Let us suppose that the properties of x are, in fact, obvious. Suppose that you are having a conversation with John Doe, who is suffering from no mental deficiencies. Mr. Doe, for whatever reason, does not understand the properties of x, even after analyzing x for days. We can tell Mr. Doe that "the properties of x are obviously obvious." There is no logical flaw in this case. One of the truths about x is that its properties are obvious. So, the obviousness of obvious is, in fact, obvious. The sky obviously appears blue at times, and the obviousness of this truth is itself obvious.

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I vote with the people who say it is redundant. Usually, when I hear someone say "patently obvious," I assume they don't know, or aren't paying attention to, what the words mean.

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  • Hi Linda, welcome to English Language & Usage. Note that this site is a bit different from other Q&A sites: an answer is expected to be authoritative, detailed, and explain why it is correct - whereas your post is simply a comment on other posts plus a personal opinion. For further guidance, see How to Answer. Posting comments is a privilege you can easily earn through further participation on our site. I can also recommend taking the Tour :-) – Chappo Hasn't Forgotten Monica Nov 2 '18 at 0:57

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