Archive for the ‘Pleonasm’ Category

Not necessarily redundant

June 28, 2011

Heard visually see a couple of times in the past week and thought to look at the expression. Over a million raw ghits for {“you can visually see”}, so there’s a lot of visual seeing being done out there.

At first glance, it’s just redundant, pleonastic. But there’s more to it than that.


WOO: The War On Of

October 20, 2009

Having posted about

(1) (a) half (of) a Nom


(2) a half Nom,

focusing on the use of articles in such examples, I was moved to return to another aspect of these variants, the variation between plain (no of) and of constructions following half in the patterns in (1).

As I noted in that posting, some usage writers recommend against things like a half an hour on the grounds that it’s “redundant” or “pleonastic”; the advice is to omit one of the indefinite articles, as unnecessary. Some handbooks also recommend against

(3) half of NP (e.g., half of an hourhalf of the shrubbery, half of the bushes)

as having an unnecessary of; the advice is to omit the ofhalf an hour, half the shrubbery, half the bushes. Similar advice is given for

(4) both/all of NP (e.g., both/all of my assignments, all of the shrubbery)

where once again we are told to omit the of: both/all my assignments, all the shrubbery.

All of has gotten more attention than the others. A few handbooks are resolute on this advice:

Weseen, Words Confused, p. 10: use “all my friends,” not “all of my friends”

Flesch, The ABC of Style, p, 19: a good writer or editor automatically changes all to all of

Some merely say that the of is unnecessary:

Bernstein, Dos, Don’t, & Maybes, p. 12: except with pronouns, the of following all is superfluous and may be omitted

At least one connects the of to informal style:

Garner, Garner’s Modern American Usage (3rd ed.), p. 33: All (of). The more formal construction is to omit of

Several handbooks (Burchfield, The New Fowler’s Modern English Usage, p. 41; Evans & Evans, A Dictionary of Contemporary American Usage, p. 25; MWDEU) note that the all of variant is more recent than the plain all variant.

And some (Evans & Evans, pp. 12, 25; MWDEU again) simply say that both variants are acceptable, as Swan’s Practical English Usage does for all, both, and half.

So far, this is a story of Omit Needless Words, with some writers advocating omission and others admitting both variants. There might also be some additional prejudice against the of variants on the basis of their relative recency (variants that are, or are perceived to be, innovations are often disfavored) or — a probably related consideration — their relative informality (innovations are often perceived to be more informal than corresponding older variants).

But there’s more: a prejudice, plain and simple, against the word of.


Pleonastic indefinite article

October 15, 2009

Caught recently in a Bowflex commercial, a reference to “guys a half my age”:

I’m having pickup [basketball] games with guys a half my age.

You can google up a small number of examples for a half POSS age, with an apparently pleonastic indefinite article, and a small number for a half of POSS age. They are similar to an apparently pleonastic construction that has caught the attention of usage critics at least since 1917: a half a.