Today I learned a new word, and now I’m going to inflict it on you, my devoted readers (and the other folks who’ve unwittingly stumbled onto this blog and not as yet found the strength to run away?).

That word is:   pleonasm

I ran across it while reading the manual for a potential editing job; I have to admit I had not been aware that there was a word to describe this situation, but I am glad that there is one.

A “pleonasm” (despite what it might sound like) is a certain form of redundancy. The definition (at least the simple one), in fact, is precisely that:

pleonasm: (noun) the use of more words than those necessary to denote mere sense (as in, the man he said); redundancy

(Note how the two definitions even demonstrate the word and its solution. Well it made me chuckle a bit!)

The word derives from the Greek pleon, meaning “excessive or abundant.”

There are a variety of examples of this, all pretty common:

“are found to be in agreement”                       just say they “agree”

“give consideration to”                                   “consider”

               “in order to”                                           is  just plain “to”

Then there are the obvious double-words where one will do just fine:

absolutely essential . . . absolutely necessary . . . actual facts . . .

add up . . . added bonus . . . advance planning

Here’s a link to a whole dictionary of the danged things, if you want to burn an hour or two some day:

Other examples almost as obvious, show up everywhere:

burning fire . . . cash money . . . end result . . . invited guests . . .

There are some situations where an acronym is followed by its final word, repeated, creating a pleonasm:

ATM machine . . . HIV virus . . . RAM memory . . . ABM missile . . .

ABS system . . .ACT test . . . CAD design

Then there are the legalisms, whereby two words that mean the same thing are used in tandem, presumably to leave no doubt as to their intent:

null and void . . . will and testament . . . cease and desist

Finally, some are just plain silly, like “12 o’clock noon (or 12 noon)”—exactly what other hour-time could it be at noon? (Similarly, saying “6:00 p.m. in the evening” is just inane, but how many people do it?)

At any rate now you know that if someone says your writing is “multi-pleonasmic” . . . it’s NOT a compliment!

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