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Judy Spooner: They're all repeating themselves!

I felt trapped recently after being introduced to a man who should be indicted for First Degree English Language Abuse.

"To understand the basic fundamentals of the true facts," he said, "you need to connect them together or they cancel out what's important."

You might find this hard to believe, but I was speechless.

I thought about escaping the situation by telling him I was late for my root canal appointment, but I knew that would be too sassy. Instead, I said I had spotted someone I needed to talk to and moved away.

He didn't need to say "basic fundamentals" because fundamental means basic. Connecting means there are two or more things coming together. Cancel is a perfectly good word on its own and does not need "out." Facts are true. There are no false facts.

We all use words or phrases incorrectly in casual conversation. "I saw it with my own eyes," for example, is not correct since I only see with my eyes and not someone else's. This expression was said for emphasis that few grammarians would object to.

But this man used so many redundant phrases that I lost track of what he was talking about.

To avoid this, be wary of using words that end in "ly," such as "completely." You can't completely annihilate, destroy, eliminate, fill or surround. All of the words are already complete.

Reporters say that a fire "completely engulfed" the house. If the whole place is on fire, then, by definition, it's "engulfed."

The word "pre-register" has always bothered me. You can't register before you register. In the same vein, you can't preheat or pre-board. You can, however, heat the oven or board the plane.

Frozen ice, brief moments or burning embers are redundant. Ice is always frozen, moments are brief and embers are on fire.

I prefer that you don't repeat that you are surrounded on all sides. I won't repeat that you are surrounded.

Same goes for "close proximity" and "end results." The result is what happens at the end, especially if you are close.

Those who write ads offend more often than most of us do. Ads offer "free gifts." If you are given a gift, you didn't pay for it.

If you can no longer see it, it's disappeared. You don't need to say, "disappeared from sight."

The same logic applies to "vast majority" and "sink down."

ATM stands for automated teller machine. You don't need to say, "ATM machine."

"A pair of twins is redundant," I told daughter Margie.

"Then, so is 'a pair of shoes,'" she said. "If you have a pair of shoes, it means you have two sets of shoes."

If you put some of the redundant phrases together, as my brief acquaintance did, it might look like this:

"If you join together and look ahead to the future, the general public can merge together and consider the total destruction of the ultimate goal without having to pick and choose or vacillate back and forth."

This is what happens when writers think about words.

It doesn't explain, however, why Lloyd has two l's.

Judy Spooner
Judy Spooner is the longest-serving staff writer at the South Washington County Bulletin. Spooner, who covers education and features in addition to writing a weekly column, has been with the newspaper for over 30 years.
(651) 459-7600