L.A. Kennedy

Beyond the story

By Maeve Maddox

Redundancies abound in everyday speech: phrases that say the same thing twice. For example, two of the most common expressions that include a redundant adjective are “free gift” and “closed fist”:

Credit cards offer free gifts to new cardholders. 

Still she came at me, so this time I hit her with a closed fist.

1. free gift
A gift is a thing given willingly to someone without payment. The adjective free is redundant.

2. closed fist
A fist is by definition a hand with the fingers folded inward toward the palm and held there tightly, typically in order to strike a blow or grasp something. The adjective closed is redundant.

3. verdant green
The adjective verdant derives from a Latin word meaning “green.” Verdant came into English from a French word meaning “becoming green.” The English meaning of verdant is “green” or “green with vegetation.” An enthusiastic fertilizer manufacturer advertises a product that will provide the consumer with “a verdant green lawn.” Either verdant or green will do.

4. rubicund red
The adjective rubicund derives from a Latin verb meaning, “to be red.” Something that is rubicund is red or reddish. This description from fan fiction can do without one of the adjectives: “Drawing rivulets of blood, his fingertips glowed a rubicund red.”

5. overused cliché
The blogger who wrote this sentence could have saved an adjective: “The overused cliché I hate the most is ‘off the beaten path.’” In reference to language, a cliché is an overused expression.

6. unexpected surprise
A surprise is an unexpected occurrence. The phrase is not uncommon on the Ngram Viewer, and is frequent online:

An unexpected surprise greeted us upon our arrival home.

Life is full of unexpected surprises.

A foreigner in the dining hall was an unexpected surprise.

As “unexpectedness” is part of the definition, it’s enough to say that something is a surprise.

7. universal panacea
Panacea derives from a Greek word meaning, “cure-all” and is defined in English as “a universal remedy.” Because panacea contains the meaning universal, it’s not necessary to tack universal onto it, as in this sentence written by a journalist: “When Henry Grady was inviting Northern capital South, we were much more certain that industrialization was the universal panacea for all economic and social ills.”

Panacea is sufficient.

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