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I owe you an apology.  I made a mistake.

I can hear you all gasping in horror. “What? The Maven of Strong vs Weak Words made an error? That can’t be! My world is shaken.”

Sadly, it is true.

I’ve called phrases like “rate of speed” and “at this moment in time” tautologies. Wrong-O. They are examples of pleonasm, or where more words than necessary are used to convey an idea.

Your car can:

“Travel at a rate of speed of 50-miles-per hour. 

~ Or ~

“Travel at a speed of 50-miles-per-hour.”

~ Or better yet ~

“Travel at 50-miles-per hour.”

A tautology, on the other hand, is using a series of words that mean the same thing. For example, “tiny little spider” or “big huge spider.” If a spider is tiny, can it be anything other than little?

See the difference?

For the record, I dislike tiny little and big huge spiders. Not crazy about mid-sized medium spiders either.

The lines of distinction are blurry at times because both pleonasm and tautology refer to redundancy. But let’s not split hairs here.  Think of Mr. Pleo as using too many words to introduce or transition an idea, and Mr. Taut as repeating, reiterating, and restating yourself.  (My kids accuse me of being Mrs. Taut.)

Mr. Wick E. Pedia (a good friend of Mr. Pleo and Mr. Taut) pointed me to this quote when I educated myself on the subject at hand.

“At the risk of being redundant and repetitive, and redundant, let me say that tautology is the last thing children need from their parents, especially when they are in trouble.”

~ Tom Sturges, Parking Lot Rules & 75 Other Ideas for Raising Amazing Children

Tommy-boy knows what he is talking about.

A parent shouldn’t say, “You stupid, idiotic, and daft child. Why did you waste time reading Robin’s pointless, inane, and moronic blog when you could have watched Dancing with the Stars? (Tautology for those of you I lost.)

If a parent were to scold using pleonasms, it would sound like this. “In my personal opinion, it is a true fact that the amount of time you spend on Robin’s blog is a waste of time.

What does this all boil down to? Don’t use more words than you need to say what you have to say. (Better yet: Don’t use more words than you need.)

 P. S. I will sift through my examples on previous tautology posts and correct my wayward behavior.

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