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AWADmail Issue 441

A Weekly Compendium of Feedback on the Words in A.Word.A.Day and Tidbits about Words and Language

From: Anu Garg (words at wordsmith.org)
Subject: The pleonasm contest
Def: The use of more words than those necessary to express an idea; redundancy. For example: free gift.

More than 900 readers sent pleonasms in response to this week's contest. Here are some that were sent by a lot of readers:

Misc: preplan, advance planning, past history, past experience, very unique, future plan, forward planning, tuna fish, at this point in time, déjà vu all over again, 9am in the morning, new innovation.

RAS Syndrome (Redundant Acronym Syndrome Syndrome): ATM machine, VAT tax, PCV valve, PIN number, VIN number, START treaty, SSN number, HIV virus, NIC Card, RPMs per minute, ER room, ISBN number, ATV vehicle, SQL language, CRT tube, LPG gas.

Trouble across the languages: chai tea, shrimp scampi, please RSVP, the La Brea Tar Pits.

Raid kills bugs dead Winner of the contest is Tracy Blues of Cape Town, South Africa (blues.tracy gmail.com) for this entry:

"One of my favourite pleonasms is the Raid insecticide tagline: 'Raid kills bugs dead.' In 2002 there was some outdoor advertising of this in Johannesburg with a VW "bug" on its roof next to the advert -- so a pleonasm and a pun!

She wins a copy of the game WildWords (courtesy WildWords Game Company).

The runner up is Manoj Saranathan of San Francisco (anagrammarian gmail.com) who sent this entry:

"My favourite by far is chai tea latte. Chai, as you know, already has tea and milk (which is latte in Italian). So much so that I went to Starbucks recently and asked for an Indian spiced chai tea latte (which is quadruple redundancy) and my friend burst out laughing much to the bewilderment of the barista."

He wins a copy of the word game One Up! (courtesy Uppityshirts).

After reading hundreds of examples my head is swirling in pleonasms, but thanks to every one for participating by taking part in the contest.

Visit our website for a selection of pleonasms and pictures shared by readers from around the world.

From: Vince Marier (vince marier.us)
Subject: pleonasm story

My favorite campfire boy scout pleonasm story:

A vendor at a fair had a sign that read: Fresh Fish For Sale Here. A scout walks by and says, "That sign is too long. Where else would you be selling the fish if not here?", so he rips off the 'Here'. Another scout walks by and says, "That sign is too long. What else would you be doing with fish if not selling it?", so he rips off the 'For Sale'. Another scout walks by and says, "That sign is too long, You couldn't sell any fish unless they were fresh?", so he rips off the 'Fresh'. Another scout walks by and says, "You don't need that sign 'Fish', you can smell them blocks away."

From: Xiè Wéi (davor.danach gmail.com)
Subject: apophasis
Def: Allusion to something by denying it will be said.

The definition of the word "apophasis" always brings a smile to my face, as it reminds me of those very entertaining interviews with football managers, shown in the BBC programme MOTD right after premier league matches are over. It's not very uncommon for those on the losing sides to start answering routine questions in this fashion: "I really would not talk about the refereeing decisions, but..."

From: Christopher Joubert (chris_joubert hotmail.com)
Subject: Apophasis

I was in Ecuador in 1973 when the military, who in the previous year had deposed Jose Maria Velasco Ibarra from the presidency for the umpteenth time, announced that there would be elections. According to the newspapers, Velasco Ibarra said that he would definitely not be standing that time. When I mentioned that to an Ecuadorean colleague he said: "No, no. What he means is that he really will be standing."

From: Lynn Mancini (mancini dtcc.edu)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--apophasis

I won't even mention preterition/praeteritio.

From: Christopher Shea (crshea rcn.com)
Subject: Apophasis

Very similar to apophasis is preterition, from the Latin "praetereo": "I pass by, I omit to mention that ..." Preterition was one of Cicero's favorite rhetorical devices, as used in his First Oration against Cataline: "Nam illa nimis antiqua praetereo, quod C. Servilius Ahala Sp. Maelium novis rebus studentem manu sua occidit (For I omit, as too antiquated to mention, the case of Gaius Servilius, who killed Spurius Maelius with his own hands for fomenting revolution)."

Preterition also has a quite different meaning in Calvinist theology: the doctrine that God passed over or left unpredestined those not elected to final salvation.

From: Ellen Amy Cohen (ellencohen louisglick.com)
Subject: apophasis

When I read the definition, my mind was immediately brought back to the classic Bugs Bunny line: "I won't say it hasn't been a pleasure, because it hasn't."

From: Mary-Clare Adam (maryclareadam yahoo.com)
Subject: apophasis

I really enjoy Wordsmith and, first of all, trying to guess the meaning of the words you have chosen. When I saw "apophasis", I thought "finally, here is a word whose meaning I really do know." Well, in Modern Greek, "apophasis" means 'decision' or, rather, 'apophasisa' = 'I decided.'

From: Neal Horan (cdhoran hotmail.com)
Subject: Sesquipedality
Def: The practice of using long words.

Sesquipedality: n. A fondness for using words such as "sesquipedality".

From: Rudy Rosenberg Sr (RRosenbergSr accuratechemical.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--sesquipedality

While stationed in West Germany in 1953, our 627th QM Refrigeration Company had to secure German driver licenses for our newly arrived tractor trailer drivers.

We took all the drivers to the German motor vehicle bureau so they could all pass the necessary test. Tony Testa, from Belleville, NJ found himself standing across a German road sign that read NICHTDURCHFAHREN. Having no idea what he was looking at, he labored mightily to pronounce that atrocious German sesquipedality.

"Nicktduektfahhren," he stammered out loud, having no idea what he was looking at.
"Ach," exulted the German clerk. "You read German!. That is correct!"

Testa and all our 36 drivers got their licenses that morning.

From: Erna Buber-de Villiers (zakerna cyberserv.co.za)
Subject: sesquipedality

German speakers? Zulu must be the most sesquipedalian language on earth. Here's a sample sentence, taken from a book for Zulu-speaking toddlers:

Phela sengizigugela mina angisakwazi ukukhahlelana namathini emgwaqeni.

29 syllables for seven words - that's an average of 4.5 syllables per word. You won't find that in a simple German sentence!

From: Candy (via Wordsmith Talk bulletin board)
Subject: sesquipedality

Titin is the longest 'word' in the English language, being 189,819 letters long. But as it's a chemical formula some consider it not a word but a collection of words strung together.

This is a video of someone saying the word (I got tired of it after two minutes).

From: Subha D. (arasi14 hotmail.com)
Subject: sesquipedality

In the Tamil language, a long-winded sentence is usually cut short by the listener, saying "ondrai muzhathukku peysathey" -- don't talk for one and a half feet. I wonder which came first, the Tamil or the English version?

From: Lynn Mancini (mancini dtcc.edu)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--periphrasis
Def: A roundabout way of saying something, using more words than necessary.

One of my favourite television series is Yes, Minister (and its follow-on "Yes, Prime Minister"). One of the characters on the show, Sir Humphrey, was a master of periphrasis. (He was also a sesquipedalian.) An example:

Sir Humphrey: "I wonder if I might crave your momentary indulgence in order to discharge a by-no-means disagreeable obligation which has, over the years, become more or less established practice within government circles as we approach the terminal period of the calendar year, of course, not financial. In fact, not to put too fine a point on it, Week Fifty-One and submit to you, with all appropriate deference, for your consideration at a convenient juncture, a sincere and sanguine expectation -- indeed confidence, indeed one might go so far as to say hope -- that the aforementioned period may be, at the end of the day, when all relevant factors have been taken into consideration, susceptible to being deemed to be such as to merit a final verdict of having been by no means unsatisfactory in its overall outcome and, in the final analysis, to give grounds for being judged, on mature reflection, to have been conducive to generating a degree of gratification which will be seen in retrospect to have been significantly higher than the general average." (snip)

Jim Hacker: "Are you trying to say 'Happy Christmas', Humphrey?"

Sir Humphrey: "Yes, Minister."

From: Delores Orcutt (adagio4him gmail.com)
Subject: paralipsis
Def: Drawing attention to something while claiming to be passing over it.

This brought to mind a character from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Gilderoy Lockhart uses a paralipsis when he often says that he's the "five-time winner of Witch Weekly's Most-Charming-Smile Award -- but I don't talk about that." How apropos since one needs a "pair of lips" to win the most charming smile award.

From: Cheryl Hughes (ch206ch yahoo.com)
Subject: Paralipsis

My mother immediately comes to mind. One of her favorite phrases when we talk on the phone is "Not to change the subject, but ..." whereupon she immediately changes the subject.

From: Barbara Gatti (barbsharon aol.com)
Subject: Paralipsis

For those of us from Brooklyn, NY, the best example of paralipsis goes something like this: "I'm not sayin'; I'm just sayin'."

From: Anu Garg (words at wordsmith.org)
Subject: Interesting stories from the net

Saved by the (Lack of a) Preposition
The Washington Post

Across and Down, the Wizard Who is Fastest of All
The New York Times

Budget-Cutting Colleges Bid Some Languages Adieu
The New York Times

Language is an anonymous, collective, and unconscious art; the result of the creativity of thousands of generations. -Edward Sapir, anthropologist, linguist (1884-1939)

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