October 3rd, 2007

me gigglesnort

Pleonasms/superfluous words

One of my friend's introduced me to the word "Pleonasm" today. Not knowing what a pleonasm is, I headed down to my local wikipedia and looked it up. Here is what I found that made me laugh:


Semantic pleonasm is more a question of style and usage than grammar. Linguists usually call this redundancy to avoid confusion with syntactic pleonasm, a more important phenomenon for theoretical linguistics. It can take various forms, including:

* Overlap: One word's semantic component is subsumed by the other:

"Receive a free gift with every purchase."
"I ate a tuna fish sandwich."
"The plumber fixed our hot water heater."

An expression like "tuna fish", however, might elicit one of many possible responses, such as:

1. It will simply be accepted as synonymous with "tuna".
2. It will be perceived as redundant (and thus perhaps silly, illogical, ignorant, inefficient, dialectal, odd, and/or intentionally humorous).
3. It will imply a distinction. A reader of "tuna fish" could properly wonder: "Is there a kind of tuna which is not a fish? There is, after all, a dolphin mammal and a dolphin fish." This assumption turns out to be correct, as a "tuna" can also mean a prickly pear [1]; and "tuner" is pronounced the same in some dialects of English.


My first thought ran to the conclusion that a tuner is someone who tunes, as opposed to an instrument of tuning. In my head, I'd been omitting the superfluous word as I read the sentences to see if they make sense. So "I'd been eating a tuner sandwich" had me chuckling for quite a while.