What is a Pleonasm?

alex atkins bookshelf wordsA pleonasm is a rhetorical device (why do all rhetorical devices sound like nasty medical conditions?) that uses more words than are necessary to express a concept clearly, either for emphasis, fault of style (redundancy) or because it is an established phrase or idiom. The word is derived from the Greek word pleon, meaning “more, too much.” A pleonasm is the opposite of an oxymoron, which is the juxtaposition of two contradictory terms (e.g., “new classic” or “accurate estimate”). “Burning fire” is a perfect example of a pleonasm — naturally, a fire is burning, so you really don’t need the first word. “Tuna fish” and “free gift” are two examples of pleonasms that are established idioms; even though they are redundant, they sound right. Correct, right?

George Carlin was a brilliant comedian who was fascinated by the use and abuse of the English language. He wrote some of the funniest bits about euphemisms, oxymorons, morons in politics, and of course, pleonasms. His collection of observations, “When Will Jesus Bring the Pork Chops” Carlin includes this gem titled “Count the Superfluous Redundant Pleonastic Tautologies”: “I needed a new beginning, so I decided to pay a social visit to a personal friend with whom I share the same mutual objectives and who is one of the most unique individuals I have ever personally met. The end result was an un­expected surprise. When I reiterated again to her the fact that I needed a fresh start, she said I was exactly right; and, as an added plus, she came up with a fi­nal solution that was absolutely perfect. Based on her past experience, she felt we needed to join together in a com­mon bond for a combined total of twenty-four hours a day, in order to find some new initiatives. What a novel innovation! And, as an extra bonus, she presented me with the free gift of a tuna fish. Right away I noticed an immedi­ate positive improvement. And although my recovery is not totally complete, the sum total is I feel much better now knowing I am not uniquely alone.”

Here are some other examples of pleonasms to sprinkle in your conversation and writing:

armed gunman

big giant

boat marina

completely destroyed

difficult dilemma

exact replica

extra accessories

fellow colleagues

foreign imports

free gifts

frozen ice

mass exodus

necessary essentials

past experience

regular routine

stupid idiot

temper tantrum

tuna fish

unexpected surprise

Read related posts: What is a Pangram?
What is a Malaphor?
What is a Semordnilap?
What is a Rhopalic?
What Do You Call a Word with Capitals in the Middle?
Words for Collectors
Words for Collectors 2
Unusual Color Names


For further reading: http://www.oxymoronlist.com


Reading Is, in the Highest Sense, Exercise

alex atkins bookshelf quotationsBooks are to be call’d for, and supplied, on the assumption that the process of reading is nor a half-sleep, but, in highest sense, an exercise, a gymnast’s struggle; that the reader is to do something for himself, must be on the alert, must himself or herself construct indeed the poem, argument, history, metaphysical essay — the text furnishing the hints, the clue, the start or frame-work. Not the book needs so much to be the complete thing, but the reader of the book does. That were to make a nation of supple and athletic minds well-train’d, intuitive, used to depend on themselves, not on a few coteries of writers.

From Prose Works of Walt Whitman (1819-1892),one of the most influential American poets, considered the father of free verse. He believed that there was s symbiotic relationship between society and the poet: “The proof of a poet is that his country absorbs him as affectionately as he has absorbed it.” His seminal work, Leaves of Grass, published in 1855, celebrates nature and man’s relationship to it. Whitman was known for his unfettered experience of nature: he was an unabashed nudist and greatly enjoyed sunbathing in the nude.

How Long Does it Take to Read Every Word in the Dictionary?

alex atkins bookshelf wordsMeet affable English teacher Christian Saunders, founder of Canguro English, a YouTube channel where he teaches English as a foreign language. Saunders thought about how he could uniquely celebrate World Teacher’s Day as well as raise money to provide teachers and teaching materials for thousands of refugees in Europe who do not have access to English education. At some point the English muse inspired him: why not read every word — specifically every headword — in an English dictionary? And broadcast it to the world via a YouTube and Facebook live stream. So Saunders inspired 30 other students and teachers to read the Oxford Dictionary of English, 3rd Edition published in 2010, 2,069 pages long, containing approximately 100,000 headwords. Now that’s a mountain of words to climb, brother! The reading began at 10:00 am on Thursday, October 5, 2017 and ended at 3:00 am Saturday, October 7. (Incidentally, the final word was Zyrian, which was met with great excitement — and exhaustion). In short, it took 41 hours of continuous reading to read the 100,000 words in the dictionary. Bravo!

In an interview with Oxford Dictionaries, Saunders reflected on the impact of the fundraising project: “[Everyone] involved said that they actually enjoyed reading their pages. Once you start reading it’s like a kind of meditation and I think it activates something deep in our brains. I had such crazy dreams the night we finished. I think that the lack of sleep was the hardest part. And after a while it actually physically hurt to read. The inside of my cheeks were red raw from the friction of my teeth rubbing on them, and my tongue was swollen. I expected to lose my voice, but that didn’t happen.” When asked about the least favorite part of the dictionary, Saunders responded: “The hardest part was definitely all of the entries beginning with ‘un-’. It was like reading the whole dictionary again but with ‘un-’ in front of every word. And the repetition of that sound at the beginning made it pure torture.”

So what do you learn from reading 100,000 words? Apparently, a lot. Saunders elaborates: “I think what surprised me the most is the amount of foreign words that we have adopted without any type of anglicization, especially French words. I have a chart in my office that shows that 21% of modern English comes from Old French, but it’s only when you start to read the words without any context that you realize just how plunderous English has been of other languages. But the most surprising [thing I learned] is that it is actually really fun to read the dictionary in that way! There was not a single person reading who didn’t stop once in a while to marvel at a word and take the time to read its definition and absorb it. I also learned that you sound a bit like Eminem when you read really fast.”

To learn more about Team Saunder’s efforts or to donate, visit here.

Read related posts: How Long Does it Take to Read a Million Words?
How Many Words in the English Language?
How Many Words Does the Average Person Speak in a Lifetime?

How Many Books Does the Average American Read?

For further reading: http://blog.oxforddictionaries.com/2017/10/how-long-does-it-take-to-read-every-word-in-the-dictionary/?utm_source=Oct19-17&utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=od-newsletter&utm_content=reading%20thedictionary-blogpost-secondpanelright

We Are Drowning in Information, While Starving for Wisdom

alex atkins bookshelf quotationsWe are drowning in information, while starving for wisdom. The world henceforth will be run by synthesizers, people able to put together the right information at the right time, think critically about it, and make important choices wisely.

From Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge by Edward Osborne Wilson, Pulitzer Prize winning author, biologist, and naturalist. He is considered “the father of sociobiology”, “the father of biodiversity”, as well as the leading authority on ants. The Ants, co-written with Bert Holldobler, is considered the definitive scientific study of ant behavior; it won a Pulitzer Prize in 1991. He taught at Harvard from 1956 to 1996.

Confessions of a Bibliophile: J. Kevin Graffagnino

alex atkins bookshelf booksAs with most human passions, there is disagreement over whether booklovers are born or made. For my part, I can only say that I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t a biblio­phile. I grew up surrounded by books. When I was a boy in Montpelier, Vermont, in the 1960s, our house contained somewhere around 1,000 books — then (and now, I suppose) considerably more than the average for an American home. My family’s “library” was an eclectic, unplanned mix of subjects and titles. Thirty years later, I can remember concentrations in European and American history, dozens of beautifully printed Limited Editions Club volumes from the 1930s to the 1950s, various impressive but impenetrable classics from the Everyman Library series, and an assortment of mod­ern literature, economics, biography, and philosophy. Even though there was almost nothing specifically aimed at chil­dren, beginning at about the age of nine or ten I still managed to fill many happy hours at home reading books I was too young to understand, plowing cover-to-cover through a near-complete run of American Heritage, and mining the tissue-thin pages of the eleventh edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica for arcane, out-of-date information to include in school papers and assignments. The absence of television — we were the only family I knew in Montpelier that didn’t own a TV — may well have steered me toward books for entertainment, but I don’t recall any particular sense of deprivation over having to substitute books for the delights of My Three Sons, Bonanza and The Man from U.N.C.L.E.

From Only in Books: Writers, Readers, and Bibliophiles on Their Passion by J. Kevin Graffagnino. Graffagnino is director of the library at the State Historical Society of Wisconsin.

There’s a Word for That: Cacoepy

atkins-bookshelf-wordsAlthough it sounds like a disease of the intestines, cacoepy is defined as the mispronunciation of a word. Ironically, the word is difficult to pronounce: kuh KOH uh pee. The word is derived from the Greek kakoepeia, meaning “faulty language.” The proper pronunciation of a word, on the other hand, is orthoepy (pronounced: or THA we pee).

Read related posts: There’s a Word for That: Esprit de l’escalier
There’s a Word for That: Jouissance
There’s a Word for That: Abibliophobia
There’s a Word for That: Petrichor
There’s a Word for That: Deipnosophist
There’s a Word for That: Pareidolia
There’s a Word for That: Macroverbumsciolist
There’s a Word for That: Ultracrepidarian
There’s a Word for That: Cacology

Books are Magic Doors

alex atkins bookshelf quotationsBooks are, indeed, “Magic Doors” through which one can walk into innumerable wonderful worlds. The desirable thing — if chance has not solved the matter for us — is to enter first through the door which attracts us personally. The book to start with is the book which will cause the most intense mental excitement and leave an indelible impression that books can be alive. The individual should begin with those books which deal with subjects or people or places which exercise some strong attraction on his curiosity.

American journalist Jesse Lee Bennett (1885-1931) from What Books Can Do For You: A Sketch Map of the Frontiers of Knowledge (1923)

For further reading: https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=uc1.$b658756;view=1up;seq=34

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