Sunday, 27 November 2011

One after the other in succession..

When I correspond, as earlier today, with someone to whom words are important, I subconsciously self-edit as I go – perhaps we all do. It doesn't mean foregoing a conversational tone, or inserting every pronoun: 'Heard it was meant for Lynn and me' would be fine, but 'Heard it was meant for Lynn and I' would be run through the mental grammar checker and auto-corrected. So, when I said this:

'You know that feeling when you're digging a hole for yourself and you start trying to dig yourself out. . .'

there must have been a systems failure, because I was talking to someone who could spot a tautological construction at a hundred pages – not that they would dream of mentioning it. I might have got away with, 'You know that feeling when you're digging a hole for yourself and you start digging all the harder. . .' but hindsight is a fine thing.

In a 1988 campaign speech in Ohio, George H W Bush said, 'It's no exaggeration to say the undecideds could go one way or another', and Barack Obama once campaigned under the slogan, 'Beliefs we can believe in'. The first is a howler; the second, you could make a case for in the name of rhetoric. Many more have become acceptable through usage: 'free gift', 'unsolved mystery', 'short summary', 'new innovation' and the more contemporary 'digital download' to name a few. But my favourite tautology is by someone who is famous for its cousin, the paradoxical contradiction – Peter 'Yogi' Berra, the baseball legend. Berra once said:

'It's like deja vu, all over again.'

Which gives me an excuse for another Yogi Berra quote. When giving directions to his house, he used to say, 'When you get to a fork in the road, take it.' It was meant humorously, but the directions were good: whichever road you chose, you got to the house.
blog comments powered by Disqus