Updated: Dec 30, 2019
As one who finds herself naturally loquacious, I’m mindful of the need to search for and delete unnecessary words or phrases when they don’t add value to a sentence or paragraph. As one who finds herself naturally aware of most auditory input–whether the chirp of a bird outside my window or words spoken by friends, family, colleagues, news anchors, reporters, or actors–I find myself in an evaluative role far too often. And, Heaven forbid! Now I’m verbally responding to my television. My audible responses end there, though; irritants spoken by adults in my life are quietly filed away for later retrieval, reaction, and response.
I admire several newscasters and hosts on various news networks. In awe of their need to be both intelligible and intelligent while interfacing with others in front of multiple cameras over the course of an hour, I give them an easy pass on fillers and the occasional grammatical error. Once in a while, though, something is uttered by one of these eloquent anchors–or a guest–that truly surprises me:
These ones…Say it isn’t so! Grammatically incorrect and redundant;
Perfectly legal by law…alliteratively redundant.
I’d like to teach the world to hear the words they can set free
I’d like to teach the world to speak without redundancy!
Do you hear a Coke jingle made popular by The Hilltop Singers in the early 70s?
Were you even alive at that time? If not, Google The Hilltop Singers and I’m almost certain there’ll be a YouTube video–or ten–to enjoy! If you really get into the song, create some more lyrics that have to do with redundancy or other grammar or spelling imperfections, Contact Us, and I’ll post them at Perfectly Penned in a special blog. We could have a contest!
Back to the business at hand...
Starting with the ear-wrinkling these ones, let’s examine what makes this a redundant phrase. We’ll consider the grammatical error in another blog, I promise!
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary at www.merriam-webster.com defines redundant as 1a: exceeding what is necessary or normal or 1b: characterized by or containing an excess, specifically using more words than necessary.
It also defines these as the plural of this.
This, as a pronoun: 1. used to identify a specific person or thing close at hand or being indicated or experienced; used to introduce someone or something; referring to the nearer of two things closer to the speaker (the other, if specified, being identified by that); 2. referring to a specific thing or situation just mentioned.
I can still hear the chant “this, that, these & those” which must have been part of my second or third grade English antonyms and singular/plural drills. I can also hear “This one, that one; these & those”; This dog, that dog; these dogs, those dogs.”
These implies that a plural noun should follow the plural pronoun: these cookies, these hats, these shoes; these coats; these ingredients, and so forth. These is a referent that can stand alone without an accompanying noun; and while these dogs is acceptable, grammatically correct, and pleasing to the ear, the phrase these ones–or those ones, for that matter– is not. This is an assault to the ears of certain grammarians; it’s also redundant.
Merriam-Webster defines the prefix re in four ways; two are pertinent here: again or anew; back or backward.
It also defines return (intransitive verb) as 1a: to go back or come back again; 1b: to go back in thought, practice, or condition; 2: to pass back to an earlier possessor; 3: reply, retort; and (transitive verb) as 2a: to bring, send, or put back to a former or proper place; 5a: to give or perform in return, repay; to respond to in kind; 5b: to give back to the owner.
So re- means again, anew, back, or backwards.
Have you ever said or heard return back?
Using the first Merriam-Webster meaning, the phrase return back is literally interpreted as going back back.
I’m returning back to the store to pick up the bag I left there.
I’m going back back to the store to pick up the bag I left there.
Simple corrections for these sentences, in the order above, are:
I’m returning to the store to pick up the bag I left there.
I’m going back to the store to pick up the bag I left there.
He’ll return back to Nashville on Homecoming Weekend.
He’ll return back back to Nashville on Homecoming Weekend.
He’ll go back back to Nashville on Homecoming Weekend.
Simple corrections for these sentences are:
He’ll return to Nashville on Homecoming Weekend.
He’ll go back to Nashville on Homecoming Weekend.
Now, it’s your turn. Read the sentence incorrectly as it’s written, then provide two correct responses that can replace this sentence:
It was such a glorious vacation that she’ll return back to Montana soon.
Similar exercises can be practiced with words such as reply, retell, and respond. These words are often paired incorrectly with back to result in reply back; retell back; and respond back.
Use a dictionary source to examine the meanings of each word and search for the key concepts back or again in the definitions.
This has been a limited exposure into the concept of redundancy in oral and written communication. Additional examples and strategies to refrain from redundancy will appear in future blogs. Eliminating or significantly reducing redundancy is a strategy that will result in speakers sounding more professional. In the event you notice redundancy in your oral communication and wish to reduce it, contact me at Perfectly Penned, LLC today!
Remember, though: Regional jargon has an impact on phraseology. This advice may be impractical or unrealistic in certain regions of the United States. It may be fightin’ words in others. Use your discretion, friends!