THE AIR IS FULL of redundancies. My life is clogged with them. I see them in print and hear them in speech and have them spoken to me in airlines where I am told that I now can take with me a "free complimentary" copy of their inflight, magazine. I am so grateful. As redundancies go, this is a new innovation.
This is only me, myself talking. In my own mind, I hear redundancies. I see them in visual observation and hear them in oral conversations. I see them in close, personal contact and feel completely surrounded by them on all sides. I guess this is because of my past experiences or, as the police say, my past record. My future plans are to avoid them. (My future record has been misplaced.)
The banks offer me free gifts. I know no other kind. Stories are totally fabricated and buildings completely destroyed or, worse yet, razed to the ground. People are strangled to death in senseless murders and Washingotn is full of close, personal aides. They are the ones with new initiatives who get prior approval to sign off on a preplanned, on-going process with an ink pen. The president promises to personally testify, which is all right because Ronald Reagan promises a new beginning.
It has gotten so that I no longer know the meanings of words. What is the difference between planned and preplanned? Is a person disposed to do something or predisposed to do the very same thing? What does the word neo men anymore? How is a neo-Nazi different from a Nazi, and what in the world did Jack Kemp mean when he referred to neo-Melthusians in his speech before the Republican National Convention -- a collection of neo-McKinleyans if there ever were any?
Some of the redundancies seem like an attempt by people, especially bureaucrats, to go uptown with their language. Preplanned, for instance, sounds a lot better than just good old planned. It's the same with forewarned and warned and approval and prior approval, although with the last there could be a distinction. The trouble is that prior approval is often used when approval alone would be just fine. The thing to do, I suppose, is to pretest the word in advance. (Help!).
Some of the other redundancies arise, I think, from a need to be very specific -- to get your message across in an unmistakable way. For these reasons, the military goes in for redundancies in a big way and when that won't work it makes sure that an order gets repeated in some fashion: "Full steam ahead ... full steam ahead ... full steam ahead ..." We've all seen the movie.
But most of the redundancies arise from the feeling that something is missing. I, for one, (or I personally) know that surround means to "enclose on all sides." Nevertheless, to merely say "surround" when you could say "surround on all sides" seems somehow incomplete. What makes it worse is that I often say, "surround on three sides" and then, when the surrounding is complete, "Surround on all sides." All of that is wrong, I know, but give me a word to use instead of surround as in the sentence, "surround on three sides."
There are lots of redundancies that seem to be linked to each other, as if nature intended them to be one word. "Sworn affidavit" is one, so is "new record." I have nothing good to say about sworn affidavit, but new record, while wrong, seems somehow right. If you can have an old record, why not a new one?
Purists will contend, I know, that the words say what they were designed to say without any modifier. That is what purists say. But they do not say why, if this is the case, people use a modifier.
In fact, what this represents is a wonderful process in which language is made not less precise, as purists will contend, but more precise. A whole hierarchy has been constructed with the prefix "pre" and the adjective "prior." hWe all know that preplanning is tentative and that when it comes to approval, it is a far, far better thing to have prior approval than simple approval. In Washington, such distinctions are important and will continue to be. That is my advanced prediction.
Still, some redundancies slow up the language, clogging speech and saying nothing. The word "presently" is often used when "is" alone would do just fine. "He is presently an acrobat." The same could be said for that most bureaucratic of expressions, "sign off" or "sign off on," which is different from sign in a way that I have yet to determine.
It is time, though, to come to a complete stop even though I am a self-confessed nut about redundancies. There are other things to do. I have a free complimentary magazine to visually read. It is time to continue on to dinner. I am having shrimp scampi.