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On redundancies


Sorry for the delay. I’m not banged-up in Belmarsh, you may or may not be glad to learn, but had to deal with a couple of rush commissions first. Business before pleasure [1]

You may recall that, a couple of weeks ago, I took a small swipe at redundancies in language in the first of Pet Peeves. Leafing idly through my 1908 Second Edition of The King’s English (the forerunner to Modern English Usage) yesterday, I came across the Fowler brothers’ contemporary examples of otiose repetitions.  H. W. Fowler, the elder brother who went on to write Modern English Usage (1926) after his sibling’s death in 1918, maintained that “any one who wishes to become a good writer should endeavour, before he allows himself to be tempted by the more showy qualities, to be direct, simple, brief, vigorous, and lucid”. You can see how the following orotund pomposities, from the dying days of Empire, would have offended him:

Dr. Redmond told his constituents that by reducing the National vote in the House of Commons they would not thereby get rid of obstruction.—Times.

It is not a thousand years ago since municipalities in Scotland were by no means free from the suspicion of corruption.—Lord Rosebery.

Some substance equally as yielding.—Daily Mail.

Had another expedition reached the Solomon Islands, who knows but that the Spaniards might not have gone on to colonize Australia and so turned the current of history?—Spectator.

As one being able to give full consent … I am yours faithfully…—Daily Telegraph.

But to where shall I look for some small ray of light that will illumine the darkness surrounding the mystery of my being?—Daily Telegraph.

It is quite possible that if they do that it may be possible to amend it in certain particulars.—Westminster Gazette.

Men and women who professed to call themselves Christians.—Daily Telegraph. (An echo, no doubt, of ‘profess and call themselves Christians’)

The correspondence that you have published abundantly throws out into bold relief the false position assumed…—Daily Telegraph.

In the course of the day, yesterday, M. Rouvier was able to assure M. Delcassé…—Times.

Moreover, too, do we not all feel…?—J. C. Collins.

The doing nothing for a length of days after the first shock he sustained was the reason of how it came that Nesta knitted closer her acquaintance…—Meredith.

When the public adopt new inventions wholesale,… some obligation is due to lessen, so far as is possible, the hardships in which…—Westminster Gazette.

[1] There is an old Polish joke that a question for aspiring artillery officers at the Warsaw Military Academy asks which way the guns should be pointed, in the event of simultaneous attacks by the Germans from the west and the Russians from the east. The correct answer is west, of course; business before pleasure.


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