Buck's English: Redundancy, it just won't go away

Gene Owens offers advice on how to avoid redundancy.
BY GENE OWENS, For The Oklahoman Published: January 12, 2014
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Jim McCauley, of Edmond, has a bias against redundancy, and he spots it frequently in news reports.

“All of the local TV news readers and weatherpersons have taken to referring to events as occurring at ‘3 a.m. in the morning,' or at ‘8 p.m. tonight,” he told Buck as he got his car detailed at Curly's Soonerco. “I've also noticed that national and local newspersons are saying things like ‘The president, he did thus and such' or ‘Barbara Streisand, she looked simply fab.' I know this is wrong, but I don't know which rule is being violated. And it sounds stupid.”

It sounds stupid, Jim, because people are telling us the same thing twice, but in different words. That's what redundancy is.

When we say “3 a.m.,” we've already said it's morning, because the letters “a.m.” stand for “ante meridiem,” which means “before noon.” When we say “8 p.m.,” we've already said it's evening, because “p.m.” stands for “post meridiem,” which means “after noon.” So when you say “3 a.m. in the morning,” you're saying “3 o'clock in the morning in the morning,” which sounds, well, stupid.

The dictionaries specify that 12 a.m. means midnight and 12 p.m. means noon, but Buck recommends that you avoid confusion by saying “midnight” or “noon.”

Expressions such as “The president, he signed the bill,” are usually heard from people who are not particularly articulate and are not skilled at connecting a noun with its verb. Articulate folks just say “The president signed the bill.”

“Luther, he got drunk and came home at 2 a.m. in the morning,” said Gopher. “Hortense, she clobbered him with her iron skillet, and Luther, he didn't wake up till 1 p.m. in the afternoon.”

“And you just wasted nine words,” said Buck.

Send questions for Buck to BucksEnglish@AOL.com. Please let Buck know what town you're from. For other writings by Gene Owens, go to www.wadesdixieco.com.