Saturday, December 11, 2010

Yes, “pleonasm is often used for emphasis,” but this raises the question of when pleonasm ends and idiom begins. When my daughter was in sixth grade, she asked about the word “redundant.” I told her it meant repeating yourself by using different words with overlapping meanings, as in “let’s proceed forward” or “the candidate’s past experience makes him an ideal fit for the job.”

I included a caveat about idioms. My daughter was familiar with the church hymn “I am the Bread of Life,” which includes the line, “I will raise him up on the last day.” I told her it may likewise be considered idiomatic, as opposed to pleonastic, to say, “It’s raining outside.” She thought for a moment and then asked, "How about 'I think to myself'?”



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