“Ta-ta” to Tautologies

hero-blue-bookToday’s GrammerBook.com email about English grammar is too good to pass up. It fits in well with our “Word Wednesday” feature, besides teaching proper English grammar.

Isn’t it time you say “ta-ta” to tautologies?

Read on, my friends! And you don’t even have to go above and beyond. Just beyond.

Striking the Surplus from Tautologies

The English language includes the tools it needs to communicate with beauty, depth, and precision. Like any other healthy entity, it also moves most swiftly without extra weight. In the world of words, flabby noun phrases are known as tautologies.

Merriam-Webster online defines a tautology as “1a: needless repetition of an idea, statement, or word.”

Common English is rife with such excess. It often occurs because of needless descriptive emphasis or a simple lack of grammatical economy.

GrammarBook.com touched on this issue similarly before in Pleonasms Are a Bit Much. In that entry, we defined a pleonasm as deriving from pleonazein, a Greek word meaning “more than enough.” “The jolly man was happy” is one such example of adding a pound made more of fat than muscle.

We return to this subject and call it by its other namesake so you might recognize this intruder of our language by either ID card it carries.

Tautologies will never be fully edited from spoken language simply because of inherent informality; only a well-trained and -disciplined mind will omit extra words during a conversation in motion.

Careful writers, on the other hand, have the time and the will to infuse their linguistic diets with protein. They cut the sugar and carbs that add calories without nutrients to their thoughts.

They avoid composing phrases and sentences such as:

each and every one  Choose “each one” or “every one”–both are clear when standing alone.

above and beyond   “Beyond” is all you need in a statement such as “Her report went beyond expectations.”

vast majority   You hear it all the time, and you might even use it yourself. If you do, you now recognize that “majority” means the largest part of the group, so you can cast the “vast” and not lose your meaning.

forward planning   If “plan” means “to devise or project the realization or achievement of” or “to make plans” (as in “plan ahead”), is it possible to plan backwards?

mass exodus   Yet another pudgy phrase we hear or use all the time. An “exodus” is defined as “a mass departure,” so we know which word need not join the evacuation.

Trained expert, violent explosion, invited guest, identical match: The line continues out the door and winds its way to the streets of congested communication outside.

You have the power to improve the speed and flow of traffic in English. Just say “ta-ta” to tautologies by reviewing word choices and ensuring you enhance your meanings rather than duplicate them.

Published in: on April 26, 2017 at 9:00 PM  Comments (1)  

The Presbyterian Philosopher: Gordon H. Clark (3)

presby-philosoper-clark-douma-2017Today we take another look at the new biography by Douglas J. Douma on Gordon H. Clark, titled The Presbyterian Philosopher: The Authorized Biography of Gordon H. Clark (Wipf & Stock, 2017. 292 pp.).

Last time we considered some of the material in chapter 1 (“The Presbyterian Heritage of Gordon Clark”); today let’s consider part of chapter 2 – “Gordon Clark’s Intellectual Influences.”

Here Douma addresses first of all Clark’s philosophical influences, showing that as both a student and a professor (at the University of Pennsylvania) Clark read the classic Greek philosophers, and was influenced especially by Plato and Plotinus. Concerning that latter, Douma writes that Clark rejected Plotinus’ view of God and taught a proper biblical view of “divine simplicity.”

But then Douma asserts that Clark’s largest influence came from the classic Christian and Reformed thinkers – Augustine, Calvin, and the Westminster standards. This is part of what he says in that connection:

Far above Plato or Plotinus, it was thinkers in the tradition of Reformed Christianity that influenced Clark’s life and thought. Like many theologians of the Reformation, Clark was in large part an Augustinian – a follower of St. Augustine (AD 354-430) – and as such, took many of his ideas directly from the ancient church father. Clark was reading Augustine in depth soon after he graduated from the University of Pennsylvania. In 1932, he sought the advice of Ned Stonehouse, professor of New Testament at Westminster Theological Seminary, on a question regarding Augustine, and in 1934, he wrote again to Stonehouse, mentioning that he was ‘slowly ploughing through 511 pages of double columns’ of Augustine’s City of God. According to Clark’s former student Dr. Kenneth Talbot, ‘Dr. Clark always spoke to me about his earliest influences of St. Augustine. He believed any theological or philosophical student needed to read Augustine’s writings.’ [pp.19-20]

Later in the chapter, Douma points to Calvin as a major influence on the thought of Clark:

…Yet among Reformation thinkers, it was not Martin Luther but John Calvin (1509-1564) who most influenced Clark. Clark praised Calvin as ‘Paul’s’ best interpreter.’ In Calvin, as exemplified in The Institutes, Clark found a thoroughly systematic and consistent Christianity which he embraced. Furthermore, Clark saw Calvin’s epistemology as akin to his own in that Calvin looked to Scripture as the sole source of knowledge [p.21].

Next time we will explore Clark’s association with J. Gresham Machen and his involvement in the Presbyterian conflict that led to the formation of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC).