Dept. of Redundancy Dept.: Strange expressions of everyday life

Why doesn’t anyone else seem to have a problem with the expression, pick and choose? You don’t even have to think about this one very much to realize how redundant it is. I don’t need to hear even one more person talk about picking and choosing their battles. I wasn’t aware there was any difference between these things. Is anyone out there picking and choosing their nose? I can’t quite get my head around the point of this one nor figure out who’s to blame for it.

Lake Superior State University’s Public Relations department recently did a year-end piece on the top expressions of 2007 that have to go, and to my surprise this wasn’t among them. Nor was that annoyingly overused and meaningless “Tipping Point.” Both should’ve been.

English is not an economical language, in the sense that there are lots of different words that mean the same thing. This is because English is the great Melting Pot of language, and many words borrowed from other languages have been integrated into it over the centuries. In fact, an estimated 81% of modern English comes from French, Latin, and Germanic languages alone. Yet despite having so many ways to say the same thing, most words also have multiple meanings depending on the context in which they are used. Strange as all this is, and as confusing as it must be for non-native speakers to try to understand it, as a result of having this cornucopia of synonyms the opportunities for inadvertent redundancy in English are frequent.

Sometimes we intend to use different words to say the same thing deliberately, either for emphasis, conceptual clarification, or a myriad of other reasons. It just makes sense to do it at the time. But other times, saying the same thing twice in two different ways that actually mean the same thing earns you a visit from the Department of Redundancy Department, and this one’s at the top of the list. Just say NO to picking and choosing!

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