Most Unique Pleonasm Competition

Bunbury, on another thread, writes

‘…one of the most unique …’

Oh Christ! The standard of English on this website deteriorates by the day. But then, no one thinks twice anymore when they see the phrase ‘close proximity’ (a ‘pleonasm’ in grammatical terms), so the disease has even encroached on the groves of academe.’

I am offering a prize for the reader identifying the most irritating current abusages of the English language. My personal favourites include ‘new initiative’ and ‘almost unique’ (means rare, I think).

The value of the prize to reflect the quality of the entries.

165 replies on “Most Unique Pleonasm Competition”

This has been flagged a few times but I nominate “…contagion spreading…”.

I also want to give an honourable mention to the use of the word “literally”. Example: “If the Greeks hold a referendum, the eurozone will literally die”.

Americans now (almost) always use “alternate” for “alternative”. Does anyone know when/where this started?

From the “Irish Times”:

‘He [Brian Lenihan] claimed that prior to November, that the ECB had been “rather disinterested in Ireland” in relation to banking issues and that had it made suggestions on changing the approach to the banks “we would have been willing to contemplate a more aggressive banking policy”.’

Were the ECB impartial or did they just not care?

As pointing fingers is fun but not always great, for myself I was suprised to learn I didn’t know the difference between ‘effect’ and ‘affect’.

I am offering a prize for the reader identifying the most irritating current abusages of the English language.

“Reform” (in reality, of course, usually means cutbacks/worsening of conditions)

“Austerity” (shafting the wage slaves and welfare recipients for generations with the debts of the rich)

Rather than beating up on those here who might be, somewhat, grammatically challenged – and, let’s admit it, in a medium that does not seem to require or enforce grammatical standards, it might be better to exorciate the abuse of language by those who exercise economic and politcial power and influence.

Examples that come to mind immendiately are:
“more competition and better regulation” which in reality means precisely the opposite;
“public consultation” where any evidence or analysis advanced that critiques or questions the official policy or regulatory line is rejected, ignored or dismissed – without any opportunity to present a counter-rebuttal; and
“democratic legitimacy” which means a tightly whipped vote in the Oireachtas to enact fully-formed legislation drafted by Government behind closed doors (and subject to influence by who knows what vested interests).

I hate the phrase “Going forward” although it is not a pleonasm

Alternatives plural…I thought there was “an alternative” or options but not alternatives

“Progressive politics” code for spending money you don’t have or its close relatives “European Social Democracy” or “European Solidarity”


There was I thinking that EFSF stood for “European Foundation for Science Fiction”. Now I understand everything.

Not a pleonasm, but another one that’s become nearly universal is “disoriented”. The sentence “General Tojo was disoriented by the Americans” is perfectly sound, but I’m at a loss as to other valid usages.

Grammatical solecisms that don’t compromise meaning, don’t really bother me, though I do get a chuckle.

A favorite chuckler is when someone says “for all intensive purposes”

(1) “PAC committee”

Not just a pleonasm (Public Accounts Committee committee) but also shouldn’t be capitalised because the committee is formally known as the “Committee of Public Accounts”. Doubly annoying.

(2) “Nama”

It’s N.A.M.A. an acronym so it’s “NAMA”, not “Nama”.

(3) “Anglo is repaying is bonds out of its own resources”

’nuff said.


You are really on a roll today.
You get my vote… Sorry, I forgot, ‘peripherals’ and ‘boggers’ or is it ‘bloggers’ don’t get to vote anymore.

“the situation has disimproved”

There is no verb to disimprove, except in Ireland where people prefer to avoid the harshness of saying that the situation is deteriorating.

The HQ of EBS Building Society (it’s trading name pre
merger with AIB) – “EBS Building Society Building”

ie Educational Building Society Building Society Building

Finding that €3.6 Billion makes no “no better or no worse off” as the CSO commented – still can’t figure out what amount we found would have made us better off – maybe €48 billion?

I always get a laugh at Dublin Airport

“This is the last and final boarding announcement”

Exactly right.

Entries that do not qualify as pleonasms will, I assume, be eliminated by an impartial jury.

in actual fact a consensus of opinion shows that pleonasms can’t be entirely eliminated. First and foremost each and every post would need to be carefully scrutinized …
I could go on but I am cheating .. so I’ll cease and desist..

In recent years the phrase ‘We would ask…’ has somehow come to replace a simple ‘please’. When I’m on an Aer Lingus flight the attendants say “We would ask that you now pay attention to the following safety announcements”. Why don’t you go ahead and ask me then? What’s it conditional on? Oh you ARE actually asking me to pay attention. Why not just say ‘please pay attention to the following announcements’?

We could nominate “going forward”, but it is less of an abuse than you might think because it instantly alerts the reader to the likely er, close proximity, of waffle or bullshit.

I think you could consider the – no doubt DoF spin sheet inspired – use of the word “same” to mislead as trotted out by any government part TD or minister as in:

“senior bondholders are the same as depositors”

But there surely can be no greater abuse of the English language than the construction of a sentence that imbues it with mystical powers of invisibility / mind control such that everyone has to pretend they don’t know it exists; so I nominate:

“1.28 The implementation of this Agreement is subject to no currently unforeseen budgetary deterioration.”

In fact possibly even more Orwellian, is the expanded version:

“So-called Government ‘get out clause’
The clarifications confirm that the implementation of paragraph 1.28 of the proposals (the so-called „get out clause‟) “will be applied in a bona fide manner by the Government side” and that “it is not envisaged that, on the basis of any currently known facts, that the clause would be utilised.” The clarifications also confirm that, if such a situation were to arise “the parties would meet at central level (i.e. Government/ICTU) to discuss the circumstances that had arisen and the implications for the Draft Agreement prior to any decision being taken that would adversely affect the pay provisions of this Agreement.”

“Senior bondholder”
“unsecured bondholder”

What difference does it make if they are all guaranteed?

“the disease has even encroached on the groves of academe”

Colm is a great economist, but I think he should steer clear of literary criticism!


I did come across “fait of complait” recently, but fortunately only once.

“All geographies”
“Momentum” (esp. of the forward variety)
“Growing” (as in profits, or market share, when “increasing” is what is meant)

“we aim to finish in july timeframe” (july would do)

or the excessive use of abstract terms like ‘process’ (e.g. the learning process) or ‘functionality, function’, and so on.

“large in size”.

“absolutely essential”

“joint cooperaton”, “past experience”

Three superb works on good English are

“The Complete Plain Words” by Sir Ernest Gowers.
“The Elements of Style” by Strunk
“The King’s English” by Fowler.

All three of these are excellent guides to english usage. The “plain english” campaign in the uk is also interesting. They make annual “Golden Bull” awards for the most obscure gobbledygook from government agencies, marketing campaigns and so on. They also give an award to companies that use clear precise English.

These are not pleonasms but although the title of the post mentions pleonasms the actual prize itself doesn’t, with any irritating abusages (sic) of the language eligible, so here goes with some examples not already mentioned;

“Housing ladder”
“Charming three bedroomed semi-detached house”
“Viewing recommended”
“Spacious 80sqm townhouse”
“Legislation carefully drafted by the Oireachtas”
“Progressive taxation policy”
Every fake subjunctive past tense..”He would have been a friend of mine”
Use of the word “society” where the speaker means “state”, and vice versa

Financial Engineering

Financial products

Financial Industry

Financial Instruments

It was the perfect bolt on acquisition as it had the perfect synergies of fit

I personally approve of CMcC’s new initiative. Planning ahead, we need more, not less, of this type of joined-up thinking.

Actual pleonasm, hard to resist:

‘Greedy bankers’


‘Honest broker’ should be a pleonasm but might also be an implied critique on the brokering profession.

And on the just irritating front:

‘almost infinite’.

‘casino gambling’ (in many recent references to banks). I wonder what else people think goes on in casinos (or banks!)… money laundering or something?






…. er .. er … er … er … error of the bleed1n century.

Hmm, I just wish to say something.

When I studied English, years ago, it was expounded by lecturer(s), that pleonasm in English, unlike some other languages, was an accepted standard.

Be as it may, I actually have been following it in my communication in English, thus contributing, as you put it, to its deterioration.


Pour encouragement, I can reveal that the prize is

– one crisp Punt Nua

Seafoid slightly ahead at this stage.


“one crisp Punt Nua”

Isn’t the fear than any denomination up to 100 Punt Nuas would be in coin form, such would be the level of devaluation after the introduction of a new currency. Otherwise we’d need wheelbarrows of Punt Nuas just to go for a pint (or a half)

@ Daithi O Giollagáin

I dont know if it would be considered a pleonasm but I was thinking along the same lines, specifically financial engineering. It appears to be the “shock and awe”, “full specrtum dominance” or “operation Iraqi freedom” of this decade.
As such I nominate all the above along with “wealth creators”, “kitchen cabinet”, “non-executive Chairman”, “global governance”….
I’m not sure how many of these are pleonasms so I also nominate this post. And any sentence ever constructed by Donal Donovan.

What George Orwell described as “euphemism, question-begging and sheer cloudy vagueness” can be found in the common use of the term ‘world-class’ in Ireland, which was vividly illustrated by an Irish Times report on 10 Oct, 2010 titled: “Fás board to agree plan for new ‘world-class’ skills body,” ‘A PLAN for a “new world-class skills organisation” is scheduled to be agreed at a meeting of the Fás board today.’

The aspiration of just competence and prudence in public spending may have required the need for some practical specifics rather than the realm of fairytales – – an art we excel at.

A year before, the heads of Trinity College and University College Dublin announced an innovation alliance with bromides such as: ‘world-class ecosystem’, ‘world-class graduates’ and ‘visionary job creation plan.’

Also when younger, broke and unemployed my girlfriend used to encourage me to get a job and stop drinking. I always felt she could have been more succint, (not a pleonasm). So my final nomination is the entirety of the last few months of our relationship

Sorry I cant control myself, I fear Iv found my level.
A “fresh start”, a “new beginining”, an “enduring legacy”
@ Gavin
Artistic/creative control never sounded right to me

Also ‘most unique’ is a perfectly meaningful phrase. Consider a set of compex entities, all unique for various factors. One of these could be the most unique /strangest by being the most different to the other entities.

The UCD website refers to the Belfield Campus as

‘this beautiful leafy 320 acre gem’

So we can pay off our national debt!


““Senior bondholder”
“unsecured bondholder”

What difference does it make if they are all guaranteed?”

See your ‘senior bondholder’ and your ‘unsecured bondholder’, and raise you an ‘unguaranteed bondholder’.

@ All

I really have to protest! The thread is entitled “Most unique pleonasm competition”. However, there is a surprising lack of clarity in the definition of the terms of the competition. “I am offering a prize for the reader identifying the most irritating current abusages of the English language”.

Most of the entries are, in fact, oxymorons. These are not, by any stretch of the imagination, “abusages” and can, indeed, be very useful. Indeed, intelligent discourse in Ireland would be impossible without them.

“The value of the prize to reflect the quality of the entries.”
pretty crappy so far in that case eh?

@DOCM the post title “most unique Pleonasm” is after all an Oxymoron, perhaps the prize should have been offered for “most redundant pleonasm”

Oh and this is the third thread I managed to squeeze this one into:

“..finding €3.6 Bn makes us no better off or no worse off”

I think it’s a koan!

See your ’senior bondholder’ and your ‘unsecured bondholder’, and raise you an ‘unguaranteed bondholder’.

I fold. M Noonan.


Surely an Oxymoron can also be a pleonasm and vice versa?
Don’t the “terms of the competition”

I am offering a prize for the reader identifying the most irritating current abusages of the English language

allow oxymorons that arent pleonasms?

Isnt the usefulness, or not, of oxymorons entirely subjective and therefore not particularly relevant?

“I am offering a prize for the reader identifying the most irritating current abusages of the English language.”

Note, Colm is not necessarily offering a prize TO the reader identifying the most irritating current abusages of the English language. Heck, he might even offer the prize to himself, which he might graciously accept. Cute hoor is also a pleonasm, is there any other kind?

“cheapest bailout in the world so far”

anything that uses “ever” or “never” and then qualifies it, like “Ireland has never experienced unemployment like this since the 1980s”

“the fundamentals are sound”, so they are, eh, fundamental?

On malapropisms, the caller to deloiveloine who complained that it was all “Lederman’s fault”.

@Michael Hennigan
Surely all those “world class” bodies should really be “state of the art”

@rf @ DOCM
forgot about “sustainable growth” – which phrase is in my opinion an oxymoron. Those engaged in “intelligent discourse” should have a think about that one.

Going Forward

when we have been going backwards at speed

the Smart Economy

two thousand teachers to be sacked

Not sure I entirely buy the premiss here. “Close proximity” is pleonastic only if the sole synonym for “proximity” is “closeness”, because “close closeness” is idiotic. But if you allow alternatives, such as “nearness” or “next to”, then I think you’re permitted to consider the degree of “nearness” or “next to”-ness. The qualifier “close” when applied to “proximity” then connotes one referent that is “very near” or “right next to” the second referent, as opposed to a lesser degree of proximity (i.e., farther away). As for “Almost unique” – it’s really just a compacted means – think of efficiency, you economists! – of saying “I think this is unique but I don’t have the means (or maybe the inclination) to check, so just in case it’s not, I’m allowing for the possibility that there may be other examples.” And I believe we all (or nearly all) get this when we see or hear it used.

Generally, these verbal forms – understandably irritating to some – come into being because they plug gaps in the available language for users, often in a simple way. I admit to having my own prejudices here – for instance, I can’t bring myself to use the word “hopefully” in the sense of “it is to be hoped” as opposed to its original use as an adverb derived from “hopeful”. But the dominant modern use of “hopefully” appears ineluctable for an obvious reason – it serves a purpose that wasn’t being met by the longer linguistic alternatives. In other words, I’m on the wrong side of history here, and I so suspect is Colm McCarthy (only in the narrow context of these pet peeves, of course …)

smart economy (city; meter; transport; growth); knowledge-based economy; digital economy; app economy; innovation hub; cloud computing

add value; value accretive; cost equation (anything with equation, actually)

internal devaluation

thought leadership; forward-looking

more than ever before; now more than ever

“optimizing core systems for an innovation-enabling environment”

From FF’s April 2007 “Next Steps for Ireland” document:

“we will increase public spending by just over 7% per annum, its long-term sustainable growth rate…..Ireland’s net debt will be reduced to less than 3% of GDP under our plan by 2012.”

conduct a review (short for kicking any given issue deep and hard into the long grass by forming a committee which produces multiple reports that are subsequently ignored). Colm, you’ll know what I’m talking about here.

Colm’s opening reference to “almost unique” reminds me of the remarks made by the Labour Party leader (I think it was Brendan Corish) regarding the late Sean Dunne TD: “Sean Dunnne was a unique man, and unique men are rare…”


The same document (2007 FF manifesto, which I keep by the bed) contains the following complete sentence:

‘Ireland stands as one of the world’s greatest economies’.

@Colm McC

“The same document (2007 FF manifesto, which I keep by the bed)”

That’s just a little bit scary.

@ tull mcadoo

“Progressive politics” code for spending money you don’t have or its close relatives “European Social Democracy” or “European Solidarity”

“Spending money you don’t have”, eh? So I take it that you have never taken out a loan, and live in a cardboard box?

How about “at this moment in time” (for “now”).

Garo above mentioned this already, but my favourite is “downside risk”. He also mentions “upside risk” but I never heard anyone actually use that. Neither have I ever heard of an “upside opportunity” (or even a downside one), or any other usage of any side as an adjective unless perhaps in reference to a backside tattoo.

I’m tot too fond either of using nouns or adjectives as verbs (e.g., “impact”). Or, as I have seen in software manuals (American, admittedly): “This version obsoletes all previous versions”.

Here’s a nice entry from a flyer circulated by UCD’s Literary and Historical Society:

‘The government and the Labour Party has repeatedly reiterated their determination to protect the most venerable.’

(I am not making this up, honest).

how about ‘awesomeness’, bad enough the word awesome (which had a perfectly good place in our language) has been used far too often, quite often incorrectly and now actually makes me cringe. Just imagine the intestinal disorder brought on by ‘awesomeness’


‘Another repeat’

Used when people -Paschal Sheehy, I’m looking at you – just mean ‘a repeat’. (or ‘another’)

“very unique”
“fish fingers”
“buffalo wings”

Or, in the context of economics, “X is three times less than Y”. What the hell does that mean?

The poor quality of writing in our newspapers is surely doing damage to the nations literary skills. I also believe that the repetitive content of sports interviews and the repetitive themes pursued by sports journalists are damaging people’s capacity for independent thought.

Lawyers, Journalists, Doctors, Lecturers, Teachers, Priests, Local Shopkeepers, Lollypop Ladies, Bankers and others should all be reminded that, to a large extent, the example they set by their personal actions define them as a person.

In relation to the above matter and all previous posts, correspondence and comments herein, nowithstanding anything else hereinbefore or hereinafter contained, I can’t think of a good pleonasm.

I vote for the misuse of the progressive aspect. Here is a recent example from this blog:

I am offering a prize for the reader identifying the most irritating current abusages of the English language.

The dependent clause which begins with a non-finite verb “…identifying the most irritating current abusages of the English language” should be in the present perfect aspect, as an infinitive. As in: “…to have identified the most irritating current abusages of the English language”. This is because the independent clause introduced chronology through the present continuous aspect. One cannot respect chronology and have two actions in the progressive aspect, unless one is implying that the actions are synchronous.

Example: I am shooting at the Mitsubishi Zen Zero heading into the USS Missouri.

Thus, use of the progressive aspect in the dependent clause implies the award of the prize synchronous to the identification of the abusage. This is impossible, particularly as the posts appear chronologically.

Nor does the clause qualify as an example of deranking. Deranked participles in English must follow an adverb.

“country must save €12.4bn euros over next four years”

Sound familiar from only a couple of days ago?

So you might think, Gosh that’s €3.1bn a year that we need save (12.4/4).

No, no.

It’s €12.4bn that must be saved in 2015 (compared with today), €10.4bn in 2014 + €7.3bn in 2013 + €3.8bn in 2012. Or €33.9bn in total over four years.


‘issue’ being used to mean ‘problem’

‘disinterested’ being used instead of ‘uninterested’ (seconding Gavin)

‘In future we will…’

‘This begs the question about whether….’

This may not be a pleonasm but it is an example of using an extreme, exaggerated word when a simpler one is better. In the English speaking world, the word ‘Absolutely’ has all but supplanted the simple, beautiful and immensely flexible word ‘Yes’. (This is not even sesquipidalian).

‘Did you have a good time at the match?’


It is an extreme, ugly, crude word which allows for no subtlety.

Can anyone imagine Molly Bloom saying: ‘…and I said absolutely, absolutely, absolutely.’?

And by the way, is there anyone alive under 40 who understands the difference between ‘lose’ and ‘loose’?

I think people should consider that what at first appears to be a pleonasm actually conveys some additional meaning.

e.g. “repeatedly reiterated” conveys multipll instances of re-iteration as opposed to “reiterated”. If differs from “continuously reiterated” insofar as the multiple reiterations may have been spread out in time.

Similarly, saying “In the future, we will” may denote that a course of action will be adopted consistently over span of time, whereas a simple “We will” is more likely to denote a one off action.

Whereas some errors are obvious (‘most unique’), in other cases we should allow that the writer may actually be trying convey something that only that combination of words can come close to conveying.

Don’t forget that while language is incredibly flexible, it is necessarily incomplete. The alternative view point is that our consciousness is a product of language and accordingly we are delimited by language. That idea runs into difficulty when language is misused and where swear words are used to express many various meanings.

Leaving aside pleonasms the combination of two words into one idiotic, “Movember”, “sexting”,”bromance” or “chillaxing”, are to my mind examples of a phenomenan that will end up destroying western civilisation. (Or Welis(i)ation)
(I thought abusages belonged in this category, but apparently not)
Also the use of acronyms in everyday speech….Lol, OMG, FYI, FMI, BTW….And of course the unnecessary bastardisation of lol….rofl, lollipop, lolrific,lulz….would have you despair at the laziness of it all.

“Chimerica” had me genuinely worried when I first heard it.
Im not against word creation in general, just when it becomes an hourly activity.
I go to bed in fear that when I awake the word shoe will no longer be in use, which cant be good.

The lack of vulgarity and dearth of anecdotes in peer reviewed Journals.
The misunderstanding, amongst the pious, of the meaning of transubstantiation and its centrality to Catholic theology

Another common bullshit term is ‘centre of excellence.’

It doesn’t matter that the cart is put before the horse.

Jim Browne, NUIG president used the word ‘excellence’ 13 times in an Irish Times article on scientific research last month.

In the absence of credible output metrics, it’s I guess useful to toss about as it’s something to aspire to, whatever it is.

It doesn’t pass US Justice Potter Stewart’s test in 1964 on hard core pornography: “I know it when I see it.”

under ‘irritating’ catgory: ‘water harvesting’

and very very annoying (& as per my entry in another thread, on the NYT article, ):

the use of the word ‘back’ when talking about bonds in the phrase,

“if Ireland can’t or won’t pay it back”,

when what is being considered is whether to ‘pay it’, or not, but as we, the Irish citizens, never received this money in the first place it is wrong to talk about paying it ‘back’.

Is pleonasm really an issue of grammar? Is ‘but then,’ ‘good grammar’? Is ‘any more’ not the standard use in these parts anymore’? Indeed (Brian Dobson’s favoured News-time pleonasm) the question really is, ‘where are we at grammatically?’ at all.

“And by the way, is there anyone alive under 40 who understands the difference between ‘lose’ and ‘loose’?”

*raises hand*

A few of my own personal pet peeves that bother me:

— ‘lead’ instead of ‘led’ (based, presumably, on the ‘read’/’read’ model);
— ‘awhile’ instead of ‘a while’;
— ‘myself’ instead of ‘me’; and
— LUAS instead of Luas (to tally with DART?).

While picking examples from the world of estate agents is too easy, I have a hard spot (the opposite of a soft spot) for ‘deceptively spacious’.

Many errors, it should be noted, are endorsed by Spellcheck, so, inn sum Ree’s pecs, its know won dare their beak humming Moher freak went.


“pleonasm space”

Are you making a play on words?

Pleonasm…. the final frontier: The derivatives death star is at full throttle and down in the engine room: “The pleonasm reactor willnae take any more Captain.”

Any permutation of:

(Avert/Avoid/Create) A Full-Blown (Credit/Financial/Economic/European/Global) Crisis.

@Colm McC – could you do the tiny world that infests this site a favour and shut the thread? Even a leath-phingin aosta award to some entrant would achieve this in an elegant manner.


Seafoid is the winner, on grounds of quantity plus quality.

I will present him with the Punt Nua at 9 am on the first day of issue at
Banc Ceannais Nua na hEireann, which will be located in the old ECB offices on Dame Street. I will be lurking behind the statue of JC Trichet.

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