Redundant Tautologies[1]


an uncoordinated spastic

As my regular readers know, I’m not a fan of euphemisms.

It’s not the word retard’s fault that people began associating its past participle form with “mentally slow, lagging significantly in mental or educational progress.” Etymonline.com attributes its medical mental health coinage to G.E. Shuttleworth, “late medical superintendent, Royal Albert Asylum, for idiots and imbeciles of the northern counties, Lancaster” in 1895.[2]  Back then in the realm of the mentally challenged “retarded” was considered a polite term.

Speaking of idiots, I think the first tautology I ever noticed was “stupid idiot,” a favorite pejorative among my tweenage playmates in the Twin Oaks subdivision of Summerville, South Carolina where I came of age in those chigger-ridden days of yore when woods were still abundant. Once I made the discovery, I’d respond to being called a “stupid idiot” by barking back, “Are you sure I’m not a brilliant idiot, you subliterate moron?”[3]

What I don’t like about euphemisms is that their tiptoeing around unpleasant connotations can lead to verbal obesity.

Hey, by the way, you can read medical articles free at no charge on the National Library of Medicine website. I just perused a study entitled “Patients’ Preferred Terms for Describing Their Excess Weight: Discussing Obesity in Clinical Practice” by Sheri Volger, Marion L Vetter, Megan Dougherty, Eva Panigraphi, Rebecca Egner, Victoria Webb, J Graham Thomas, David B Sarwar, and Thomas A. Wadden. [4]

According to the article, people who carry “excess weight” don’t dig being described as “obese” and “fat,” nor do they dig terms like “obesity, fatness, and heaviness.” Our ennead of nine authors suggests that when discussing weight issues with patients, caregivers use terms like “weight,” “BMI,” “weight problem,” or “excess weight.”[5]

Roscoe “Excessive Weight” Arbuckle

So anyway, I’d rather call a spade a spade rather than “a figure resembling a stylized spearhead on each playing card of one of the four suits,” but you know what, in conversation I do my best to avoid terms that might be considered pejorative, because I don’t want to hurt people’s feelings, and also, as restauranter-goer Brett Kavanaugh has come to learn, there is some danger in being an asshole.

By the way, how many “redundant tautologies” appear in this post?


[1] I.e., the saying of the same thing twice in different words, generally considered to be a fault of style (e.g., redundant tautologies).

[2] Did you catch the tautology in that sentence? By the way, what’s the difference between an “idiot” and an “imbecile?”  In the callous insensitive old days, psychologists defined an idiot as one whose mental development never exceeded two years, an imbecile’s never exceeding seven years, and a moron’s never exceeding twelve years.

[3] As opposed to a highly literate moron.”

[4] If you believe in statistics, 4 of the 9 authors are likely to be obese, with one being “severely obese.”

[5] Body Mass Index

3 thoughts on “Redundant Tautologies[1]

  1. Don’t think I didn’t notice your hijacking of my WordPress profile pic (which I hijacked from the great Stanley Mouse)!

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