The Mail

What egregious misuses of the English Language make your blood boil?

Writers write to be read. I’m not always certain that anyone reads my monthly columns but, from time-to-time, I’m pleasantly surprised to receive responses from you about something I’ve written either by means of a letter to the editor, an email or a personal comment. I was reminded of this while driving home the other day, listening to the radio, and hearing an aspiring young politician say that he was running for city council because he wanted to “advance things forward.”

The column to which I’ve received the most responses was a tongue-in-cheek critique of the many redundancies that occur in both spoken and written English (see “Linguistic Crusade” in the December 12, 2017 edition of CC). In this column I’d like to thank some of the fine responses I’ve received about egregious misuse of the English Language.

Reader Anne van Arragon is galled by the expression one of the only, which she heard on CBC radio. One would think that Mother Corp CBC would certainly know that “only” is derived from the word one (e.g. one-ly) and would therefore be one of the only reliable sources of good English on the radio. (Whoops, I just did it myself!)

Astute reader Bob de Haan (by the way, did you know that the name “Bob” is a palindrome?) provided me with a whole wonderful list of additional redundancies, including such dandies as added bonus, closed fist, revert back, prior history, sum total, end result, free gift, advance warning, future plans and exact duplicate. He also mentioned true fact; but, perhaps in the Trumpian era, it has become necessary to specify which facts are true facts, alternative facts, or fake facts (take your pick).

Repetitive redundancies 
Careful reader Barbara Stehouwer wonders about the frequent, incorrect insertion of the little word of in phrases such as: all of the other events, or all of the other people present. Why not just “all the other events,” or “all the other people present”? Believe it or not, she sent me an example of this linguistic travesty from The Banner, the official publication of the Christian Reformed Church in North America!

Dissenting reader August Guillaume suggested that my taking issue with the word pre-planning as totally redundant fails to realize that in large bureaucracies it is often necessary to plan what a plan should seek to accomplish and who should be involved in this prior decision making about future plans, hence the need for pre-planning. My rejoinder is that even the making of a pre-plan might be so complex as to require considerable pre pre-planning. Any right-thinking person will agree that giving in to such notions can lead to an infinite regress and that just seems plain wrong.

Finally, good friend Marian Piekema gets the last word (or words) when she wrote to me, “reflecting back on our conversation, I agree and support you 100 percent . . .  stamp out and abolish all repetitive redundancies!” To which I say: “Yay and Amen.”

  • Bob is a retired Professor of Education (The King’s University) living in Edmonton.

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