common errors in English

I am what I am…

You would think that the tautology would be the province of the foreign language student – after all, we native speakers should probably know our own language well enough to be able to avoid them – but that’s not the case.When you start looking for them, you suddenly realise that we’re surrounded by tautologies, and they seem perfectly natural to us, even though, in literal terms, they’re actually quite nonsensical.

I’ll be there when I get there for example – as opposed to magically being there before you arrive? Or advanced warning – there’s no other kind; if your warning isn’t in advance, then it’s pretty much just a news report. How about it is what it is – well, thank goodness for that, I thought it was masquerading as something else! And finally, that favourite of sellers everywhere, the free gift. I don’t know about you, but if it isn’t free, to my mind it isn’t really a gift, it’s just another piece of merchandise, and in which case, I’d rather they stopped trying to palm it off as something special!

Maybe we should all keep an eye out for such tautological silliness.

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Sharon Creese

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