Sunday, July 10, 2011

Redundant Redundancies

The English language is unwaveringly specific about certain things. For example, the pronouns “he” and “she” each apply to one person, not many.  A “couple” of items or people equates to two items or two people.

Our language can also be delightfully and frustratingly vague, such as the definition of “several.” My trusty computer dictionary says it means “more than two, but not many.” But depending on where you are in the country, “several” can mean anywhere from three to five, three to seven, or just plain seven. An East Coast friend once argued that “several” and “seven” mean the same thing, to which I countered, “If they’re the same, why not just say seven?”

But I digress…

Here’s a headline from an online news story originated by the Associated Press:

            “1 Woman, Children Hurt in Denver School Bus Crash”

“Woman” (with an ‘a’) is singular. More than one woman would be “women” (with an ‘e’). Thus placing the numerical value of one in front of “woman” is not necessary.

Nitpicky? Of course. That’s what I do. :-) 

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