As a replacement for whole, entire, complete etc. Why the redundance? I first heard it in the 1970's.

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  • tough one to find! – lbf Mar 17 at 2:29
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    Welcome, Robert. This is an amazing question, but if you don't mind, please may you consider expanding this into a proper question? We prefer questions with actual context and research, so they're fully fleshed out. See How to Ask. – Lordology Mar 17 at 9:00
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    The language is full of everyday pleonasms, from advance warning to free gift to join together to temper tantrum. Why does this one in particular exercise you? – choster Mar 19 at 10:16

While whole descends from Old English hal, the word entire entered English from Latin via Old French in the late 14th c. It wasn’t long after that the two words began to appear together for emphasis:

As whan yt [the eucharistic host] was hool and enterePilgrimage of the Life of Man, ca. 1430.

…let vs notwithstanding be held backe in a short bridle, that god may alwaies haue his whole entire authoritie ouer vs, and his worde a full course and libertie: — John Calvin, Sermons of M. Iohn Caluine, vpon the.X.Commandementes of the Lawe, John Harmar, trans., 1579. EEBO

indeed i would not much contend with any, that would render the word causally, and so make the verse an whole entire proposition in itself, … — Anthony Burgess, A treatise of original sin, 1658. EEBO

In Kingdoms therefore of this Quality, the higheſt Governor hath indeed univerſal Dominion, but with Dependency upon that whole entire Body, over the ſeveral Parts whereof he hath Dominion; … — The tryal of Doctor Henry Sacheverell, before the House of Peers, Dublin, 1710.

As a rhetorical technique, this is known as pleonasm, the use of two or more words with virtually identical meanings: if something is whole, it is entire. The language is full of such expressions: the nature of a gift is that it is freely given, but that does not stop advertisements from offering free gifts. A tuna is quite obviously a fish, but a tuna salad or sandwich can just as easily be made from tuna fish. A number of pleonasms have become standard in legal language: cease and desist, assault and battery, last will and testament, etc.

The whole entire thing still sounds more emphatic than when either adjective appears alone. While someone eating a whole/entire cake may be a remarkable show of gluttony, eating a whole entire cake likely won’t leave a single crumb.

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