I had a very nice idea for today’s post. Then I wrote it up and decided it wasn’t such a nice idea after all, so I trashed it. I had just decided I’m not going to post anything when the universe came to my rescue.
The wife asked me how to spell “colleague” (in our home my roles include being a dictionary and encyclopedia along with chauffeur, dishwasher and financial manager). That reminded me of one of my pet peeves as far as language is concerned.
And like a sign from the South African Broadcasting Corporation, just at that moment on the television the theme song of that great British comedy, Mind Your Language, started to play.
I’m not one to disregard signs, so here’s a quick language rant.
Time and again, while reading blogs here on WordPress.com, I come across people, most of them college graduates, most of them with degrees in English, referring to their “work colleagues”. I have to tell you, this one makes me cringe more than all the homophone confusion on all the internet. In fact, it propels me into a full-blown conniption.
“What’s wrong with ‘work colleagues’?” I hear you ask? “Colleagues” means “the people with whom you work”. If you say “work colleagues” you’re essentially saying, “the people at work with whom I work”. Dreadful, isn’t it?
In linguistics, aberrations like these are known as tautology, that is, needless repetition of unnecessary words, ideas or statements (bonus point if you spotted what I did there). Other examples include round circles (so we don’t get confused with the square ones), straight lines (a line is defined as the shortest distance between two points so can only ever be straight; the squiggly ones are called squiggles, not squiggly lines), dead corpses (unless, of course, the zombie apocalypse has finally arrived), and dishonest politicians (are you telling me there’s another kind?).
I consider tautology, like homophone confusion, a mark of either ignorance or carelessness, and something that should be avoided. Writers especially need to be on the lookout for these little bastards. They sneak up on you like sneaky little sneaker-uppers.
Another person who despises unnecessary words is stand-up poet, Tim Clare. He goes at them with a straight-razor every week. It’s very entertaining. You should go check out Death Of 1000 Cuts on his blog. He also has his first novel, The Honours, coming out next year. The little that’s been revealed is intriguing. If he writes half as
good well as he criticizes it’s going to be great.
That is all.