SESSION 2
received considerable feedback. One participant suggested that the rampant use of pleonasms (excessive words) by Nigerians to express themselves is symbolic of their wasteful nature. Well, I never thought of it like that but surely that’s food for thought – although these days, people prefer food for eating.

Another participant asked whether Pleonasm is the same as Tautology while an apparently lazy one asked for more examples instead of doing the exercise that was given at the end of the last session. Consequently, we have decided to dwell a little bit more on the topic.

Tautology, derived from the Greek words “tauto” (the same) and “logos” (a word or an idea) has a slightly different literary nuance from pleonasm. It is the repetitive use of words or phrases which have similar meanings, not particularly as a grammatical error but as a literary device to emphasize what the writer is expressing.

Examples

  • The convicted robber was completely devoid of emotion. (Devoid means “completely empty”)
  • I’m going to shout it out loud! (A shout is always loud)
  • Polonius: What do you read, my lord?
    Hamlet: Words, words, words. (Here, Shakespeare deploys tautology with a sarcastic ‘tone’ to convey Hamlet’s scorn for Polonius’s verbosity.
  • If I perish, I perish. (Esther 4:15). Esther uses deliberate repetition here to express her no-going-back disposition.

More common examples of Pleonasm

  1. The reason why I’m saying all this is because I don’t want you to get it wrong.
  • The reason I’m saying all this is because I don’t want you to get it wrong.
  • Why I’m saying all this is because I don’t want you to get it wrong.
  • I’m saying all this because I don’t want you to get it wrong.

(Reason, why and because all convey cause or motive. Note that the third option avoids both reason and why yet the meaning remains the same. Also, all is technically redundant in these sentences but is used for emphasis).

  1. I can’t be able to do the exercise but I can be able to attend the party. (Can = be able to)
  • I can’t do the exercise but I can attend the party.
  • I will not (won’t) be able to do the exercise but I will be able to attend the party.
  • Also: I won’t be able to do the exercise but I would be able to attend the party (If there is a party or if invited to the party. In this case, there is a condition indicated by ‘if’ hence will changes to would)

More on conditional sentences later).

  1. This speculation about the president’s state of health is deja vu all over again. (Déjà vu is a feeling of familiarity or that something is happening all over again)
  2. It all happened at 11 a.m. in the morning. (A.M. = Ante Meridiem/Ante Meridian: Latin for before midday. Therefore, 11 a.m. in the morning means 11 a.m. in the morning before midday. Absurd, isn’t it?)
  3. The unlucky refugees died in the dry desert (They would have survived in a wet desert, right?)
  4. Please, repeat that again.
  5. No, I won’t reiterate it again.

To repeat or reiterate something is to do or say something again. There are many other ‘re’ words that denote repetition or going/coming/bringing back.

  1. My dog has ten baby puppies (I hope yours has adult puppies)

Puppies are the babies (young ones) of a dog. The babies of other animals are called:

Cub (Lion, tiger, fox, bear)

Chick/hatchling (Most birds)

Kitten (Cat)

Calf (Cow, elephant, buffalo, etc)

Kid (Goat) I hope you will now stop calling your children kids.

Find out more names for baby animals.

The opposite of pleonasm is Oxymoron (deliberate combination of two words that have contrasting meanings to create an effect)

Example

He told the judge he was an innocent thief.

Our next topic will be on the abuse of words through misuse or wrong application. You don’t want to miss it.

Exercise 3

Provide examples of words commonly misused in context (within sentences) in the Comments Section below or as comments on the NewsPlus Facebook page for discussion/analysis in the next session.

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