Except for people who understand the meaning of tautology, in and out of it, its abuse and misuse appear to be on the rise, and no longer matter to the serial offenders whether in the spoken or written word. It worries the purists and masters of the language that in spite of sustained and unrelenting efforts to address the anomaly, those I describe as non-conformists, perhaps, out of ignorance brazenly violate the rules of engagement.
But as I often say, the English pragmatists remain resolute to ensure the right message is conveyed or transmitted to the listening or reading publics. Just sample these, among other tautologous statements that find space on the airwaves and pages of newspapers; “collaborating together”, “lonely isolation”, “meet together”, “merge together”; “strike action”, “joined together”, “joint cooperation”, and the list is endless. You may add your own if you are keen in following the trend, and you know or understand the language and its application or usage. There are no hard facts about it but to learn and make conscious attempt to research it to avoid the common pitfalls and black spots associated with the language of mass communication, wildly spoken across the globe.
Prominent among the tautologous phrase is the verb and adverb, “collaborate together”, especially noticeable in the spoken word. Most Nigerians and learners of the language who choose to impress themselves rather than speak simple and straightforward English indulge in the habit of employing big grammar, so to speak, to impress who, God knows. There lies the problem. Tautology, a noun, according to the reference book, the dictionary, is to repeat the meaning of words found in other words already used. For example, as in “I myself personally…”
The majority who have the tendency or knack to write or speak high flowing or pompous English are most likely to be caught in the web of tautology for the simple reason that they want to impress others rather than express themselves to be understood by the target audience. And so, the statement, “collaborate together”, stands out among the rest to be further explain for clarification and to avoid the temptation of falling a victim of it. The verb, “collaborate, collaborating”, the Chambers 21st Century dictionary defines as, to work together with another or others on something; and again used in another sense, derogatory though, to cooperate or collude with an enemy, especially one occupying one’s own country or territory.
One can now see reason not to fuse together, the verb, “collaborate” and the adverb, “together”. They mean different things. The adverb “together”, according to the dictionary, is to be with someone else; keep company, to be in contact, join or unite with someone for a purpose. For one to write or insinuate the expression, “collaborate together” is not only tautologous but an overkill which renders the statement meaningless. At best it tells much about the person and reveals his or her weakness in the use of the language. I did stress that to know and have a firm grip of the language, one should be ready to sacrifice his or her energy and devote time to studying it.
Like the common saying, to emphasize the importance of continuous education, read everything under the sun to place one in a better position to stay away from making costly mistakes if one must author his or her work, otherwise hire a ghost writer or engage the services of a mercenary to do the job for you, of course, at a cost. In the same vein, “lonely isolation”, “meet together”, “merge together” statements are the other tautologies common place. For instance, to be lonely, one is said to be sad because he or she have no companion or friends. To be isolated on the other hand is to separate from others, to cause to be alone. Matching the two synonyms and the adjective “lonely” and the verb “isolation” is tantamount to repeating the same word already used-that is tautology.
That also apply to the overkill statements, “meet together”, “merge together”, these are all tautologies carried too far. The rest of the misused or abused tautologies are the expressions, “strike action”, “joined together”, “joint cooperation” and many more. Be wary of them, don’t hurt yourself in the process of trying to communicate your ideas or opinions to the audience. The maxim, keep it short and simple is the secret of effective and flawless engagement of the listening and reading audience.
A good writer or speaker prefers the one to two, or at most three-syllable words to capture the minds or attention of the audience. Grandiloquence or high sounding words and sentences annoys and puts them off. To round off the lesson, let me draw the readers’ attention to the frequently misused phrase, “strike action”. That is tautology in its entirety. Some of the popular radio station presenters and announcers are guilty of this. If one is on strike for some reasons, like asking for pay rise or for better living condition, the individual is already taking action to drive home his or her grievances.
It is tautology to speak or write “strike action”, instead correctly write “industrial action”. Period!
Michael Echi (SMS only 08023588879, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org)