Common Tautologies

Rhetoric Redundancy

The common usage of tautologies in everyday language

In rhetoric, a tautology is an unnecessary or unessential (and sometimes unintentional) repetition of meaning, using different and dissimilar words that effectively say the same thing twice (often originally from different languages). It is often regarded or thought of as a fault of style and was defined by Fowler as “saying the same thing twice.” It is not apparently necessary or essential for the entire meaning of a phrase to be repeated. If a part of the meaning is repeated in such a way that it appears as unintentional, clumsy, or lacking in dexterity, then it may be described as tautology. On the other hand, a repetition of meaning which improves the style of a piece of speech or writing is not necessarily described as tautology.

“Unsolved Mystery”

– “mystery” is something that is unexplained, unknown or unsolved.

“Short Summary”

– a “summary” is a “shortened” version of a text

“Free Gift”

– “gift” is, by definition, something given without charge.

“New Innovation”

– “innovation” is defined as something new.

“digital download”

– given that downloading is the transfer of binary or digital data from a higher level system to a lower one, all downloading is inherently digital.

Hamilton Tiger-Cats

The name of the CFL’s Hamilton Tiger-Cats is tautological, since tigers are cats

Common Acronymns that are Tautologies:

UPC code (Universal Price Code)
VIN number (Vehicle Identification Number)
ISBN number (International Standard Book Number)

Some Tautological quotes:

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

After reading up on Tautologies, I asked myself if I did this, and I believe I am a repeat offender of this. But why do we commit to these rhetorical statements? Its either due to ignorance – not knowing the true literal meaning of certain words and/or phrases; or it could be due to a desire to sound ‘witty’ and intelligent – the more words used implies a greater depth of vocabulary and knowledge. Whatever the reason is, if you are a tautological offender, stop and think about what and why you are doing it, because you may be being redundant for no apparent reason.


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