Pleonastic expressions are things that language haters like to hate on. (These people often claim to be language lovers, but they don't seem to be very good at the love part.) So, they're the kind of thing that people complain to me about, with the Americans saying "Why do the British say X? It's repetitive and illogical", and the British saying "Why do Americans say Y? It's repetitive and illogical."
At their worst, these complaints come out as "Why do Americans/Brits always add extra words?"
When I get those complaints, I reply with some phrases from the speaker/writer's own dialect that have 'illogically redundant' words (it's not hard to do) and I say something like "language is not logical and it thrives on redundancy".
I mean, why say Yesterday we baked a cake? Yesterday is in the past, so why bother with the past tense marking on the verb? So redundant. Chinese wouldn't put up with that.
Thinking about these accusations that Brits/American always add extra words, I put a call out on Twitter and Facebook for BrE/AmE-specific pleonasms that others have noticed. We can see from the resulting lists below that there are no innocent parties in the Pleonasm Wars. Many of expressions aren't only said in the 'offending' dialect, but they are more common in one than the other. To indicate the relative "Americanness" or "Britishness" of a phrase, I've given a ratio, which indicates the proportion of instances of the phrase in the British and American portions of the Corpus of Global Web-Based English. (The minority uses in the other dialect may be things like "Can you believe the British call beets beetroot?". That is, the fact that there are some in the other dialect doesn't mean it's necessarily really used in that dialect. The ratios help indicate the chances that it really is AmE- or BrE-specific.) I've bolded the bit of the expression that could arguably be left out without a change in meaning and put links to places I've discussed these before, if available.
American expressions that British folk might find pleonastic
irregardless 5:1 (though generally considered non-standard in AmE)
in and of itself 3:1
tuna fish 3:1 (0 BrE instances as closed compound tunafish)
where I( a)m at 2:1 (again, not exactly standard AmE; and the corpus numbers have a lot of 'noise')
(An American one I didn't count was off of because the of is there for grammatical reasons not semantic ones. See the old post for discussion.)
British expressions that American folk might find pleonastic
in N days' time 10:1
goatee beard 9:1
go and [verb] e.g. go and see = 6:1 versus go see 1:2; note that go+verb predates go and verb in English--the and has been added in BrE, not deleted in AmE
station stop 4:1
at this moment in time 4:1
chocolate brownies 3:1
You might want to argue that some of these are not redundant. It is a matter of perception. Brits might say beetroot isn't redundant because it distinguishes that part of the plant from the greens, but beetroot is redundant to Americans in the same way that carrotroot would be. Chocolate brownies is redundant because in AmE if it's not made of chocolate, it has to be called something else (e.g. blondies). (Americans do have the word brownie for other things too, the context is enough to let us know it's a baked good and not a fairy.) It's been argued to me that station stop is not redundant because trains sometimes have to stop (e.g. for a signal) when they're not at a station, and they sometimes pass stations without stopping. Did you know there's a tuna fruit?
In the end, the Twitter and Facebook and email people gave me more British [alleged] pleonasms than American ones. Possible reasons for this:
- Maybe British English does have more of them.
- Maybe my social media posts were at better times for the US than the UK. (My waking hours don't quite fit the UK, in spite of 15 years' residence.)
- Maybe Americans notice British pleonasms more than Britons notice American pleonasms (I was required to buy a copy of Strunk and White at college. I can't imagine the same happening in UK, where writing isn't a required university subject. So, maybe Americans are trained to cut extra things out of language where British folk are not. We're the country most likely to excise extra letters in the spelling system too.)
All my linguistically-correct tolerance for pleonasms aside, I am a ruthless redactor of extra words in academic writing. I train my students in Strunk and White's Rule 13: Omit needless words. If they write
Another reason why the categorisation of cChocolate* is also particularly relevant significantfor humans derives from the fact that humans are essentially and uniquelyas a ‘languaging’ species.
is also particularly relevant for humans as a ‘languaging’ species]
In writing academic essays for which (a) you have a word limit, so (b) the more words you use, the less you can say, and (c) you can be assured that your reader is going to be tired and grumpy before they even start reading, pithiness rules the day.* The noun has been changed to chocolate in order to protect the author's identity. But chocolate is particularly relevant to humans as a 'languaging' species. Without it, we couldn't have Cathy cartoons.
Thanks to those who contributed pleonasms to the list: Amanda P, Barbara J, Catherine P, David L, Iva, Jennifer, Kim E, Naomi N, Nicole S, Pam T, Rebecca M, Richard H, Sian C, Simon B.
I don't give full names unless I'm given permission to, and I am always happy to link your name to your blog/Twitter/webpage. So, if this applies to you, let me know and I'll add surnames and/or links.