The Write Stuff

Part and parcel of the package

2004-07-14 13:39

Redundancy and tautology are undesirable, and a sign of less than careful writing. By redundancy we mean the use of words or phrases that add nothing significant to the sense/meaning of a sentence, for example: "I believe we should take greater care of the environment", where "I believe" is unnecessary, since the writer would not write what (s)he did unless (s)he believed it!

Tautology may be seen as a special case of redundancy; for example: "reverse backwards", where "backwards" is implied in the meaning of "reverse". (See "Redundancy", The Witness, April 8, 2003.)

There are, however, some phrases that contain what at first glance may appear to be redundant elements but which, on closer inspection, do add something significant to the whole. I'm thinking of expressions like "each and every", "house and home" and "part and parcel".

The "something significant" that is added may be an element of emphasis. "Each and every one of us . . ." has a more emphatic "feel" than simply "each of us . . ." or "every one of us" and the combination is not, therefore, tautological.

Besides merely effecting emphasis, two seemingly repetitive elements may require each other's presence for the expression as a whole to make any sense at all. Thus "They ate us out of house and home" functions as an alternative way of saying "They ate a lot of (our) food." Omitting either "house" or "home" would leave us with a less than desirable English sentence - "They ate us out of house" and "They ate us out of home" are just not English!

"Part and parcel" looks like a hybrid of the above two examples. While we could omit "(and) parcel" - for example: "The insurance is part of the whole deal" - we could not omit "part" and say "The insurance is parcel of the whole deal."

There is sometimes only a fine line between the use of fixed expressions for effect (whether or not they contain apparently redundant elements) and the sometimes irritating over-use of hackneyed phrases. We should guard against the latter and not emulate (albeit unwittingly) the cartoon character who, when advising his friend on style, told him to avoid clich?s like the plague!

  • Nicky Grieshaber, formerly a university lecturer, is now a translator, text editor, study skills trainer and general entrepreneur.

    Disclaimer: News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24.


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