You Can Say That Again

Redundant Writing, as defined in the DSM-5, is “a mental disorder in which a person consistently shows no regard for right and wrong and ignores the rights and feelings of others.” 

Why must the DSM-5’s above-displayed introductory description of Anti-Social Personality Disorder—which bears hefty resemblance to the definition of one’s neighbors whenever it’s 1:50 a.m. on a Tuesday and the Mumble Rap is still going strong—reattribute “mental disorder,” whenever we are reading a book called The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders? Moreover, does someone who shows no regard for right and wrong ever consider the rights and feelings of others?

Philadelphians call it water ice. Sexual deviants call them assless chaps. And the Germans call it language. For the rest of us, it’s called redundancy.

The repetition of unnecessary details causes children to weep and the beloved family dog to take its final breath; therefore, the practice has long since been forbidden by literary authorities as a tragedy and miscarriage of compositional justice. 

There’s your classic Thesaurus Thumper:

“A titanic, humungous, behemoth of a mountain—just a huge piece of rock, and enormous.” 

The Dunderheaded Double-Up:

“With every tuna fish sandwich that you swallow whole, you’ll receive a free gift. That’s an actual fact. “

The Fool by Abbreviation Special:

“I’m so drunk from alcohol that I forgot my PIN number before we got to the MLS soccer match, so I couldn’t use the ATM machine to take out any cash money. Please RSVP— s’il vous plaît.

The Undue Intensity Stack:

“These were extremely important company meetings, and they were met with severely inadequate attendance.”

The Loose-Lipped Lenny:

“Yeah, so that’s basically how you do it; it essentially works like that.”

In all fairness, The Undue Intensity Stack and the Loose-Lipped Lenny can make for humorous combinations, as they can often carry with them a certain amount of irony. The key here is to employ them intentionally and deftly. 

The True Plus True Equals True (Tautology)

“I struggled to find the words to describe the oddly shaped man before me; he was indescribable, due to his appearance, so I was speechless.”

The Tautology by Cliche

“I struggled to find the words to describe the oddly shaped man before me; the cat had my tongue, and I had a rock in my throat.”

Cliches are particularly sinful, for, through their utter banality, they are rendered redundant the moment that they depart the lips or manifest from the keyboard. To use a cliche to emphasize a statement, as depicted above, is a sign of genetic inferiority. 

What we want is deliberateness. Whenever deliberate, these heinous lexical acts aspire to inspire rhetorical emphasis, adding additional dimension and meaning. This called pleonasm.

Here, someone uses pleonasm to show high vexation, perhaps hoping for a payout.

“Yes, officer. That’s right. The stupid idiot and his fellow colleagues completely destroyed my exact replica Porsche by punching it with their fists and kicking it with their feet. That’s a foreign import, by the way.”

The rhetorical forms of merism and blazon, used as they are to describe at length things already stated, could fit into this category, but I have deemed them nearer to sacrifices at the altar of The Description than merely déjà vu all over again. 

All this championing of clear and concise writing for the sake of transparency and succinctness has, however, given rise to the need for balance. Therefore, I’d like to end with a quote from a good friend of mine whom I’ve never met, Mark Forsyth:

“Above all, I hope I have dispelled the bleak and imbecilic idea that the aim of writing is to express yourself clearly in plain, simple English using as few words as possible. This is a fiction, a fib, a fallacy, a fantasy, and a falsehood. To write for mere utility is as foolish to dress for mere utility. Mountaineers do it, and climb Everest in clothes that would have you laughed out of the gutter. I suspect they also communicate quickly and efficiently, poor things. But for the rest of us, not threatened by death and yetis, clothes and language can be things of beauty. I would no more write without art because I didn’t need to, than I would wander outdoors naked just because it was warm enough. Again.”

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