An Amply Adequate Sufficiency of Tautology

Sign with sharp edges

As Russ Swan of Laboratory Talk pointed out in reference to my previous post on the redundancy of the phrase “male semen”, there are numerous other examples around. For instance, the phrase HIV virus is equally redundant as it literally says, “human immunodeficiency virus virus”, likewise ATM machine (automated teller machine machine), PIN number (personal identification number number) and the Sierra Nevada mountain range (Snowy mountain range mountain range). There are lots more everyday examples of interlanguage tautologies of the latter kind on Wikipedia

But there are plenty of examples in science and technology. For instance, this patent title – RAID array configuration synchronization at power on is just one of many examples that cite the acronym RAID followed by the word array, as if RAID standing for “redundant array of independent disks”. Ironic indeed that the phrase itself contains the word redundant.

HIV virus shows up countless times throughout the media, and no less in scientific journal article titles, such as this one – Prevalence of HIV virus among patients, I even saw the phrase “female girls” in one reference on the subject of Rett syndrome. And, there are plenty of examples along the lines of LED display, LCD display, and DC current.

Not quite a pure rhetorical tautology, the graphics acronym TIFF is often accompanied by the word “file” as in a TIFF file, which literally means “tagged image file format file”. Same goes for the phrase pertaining to Adobe’s almost ubiquitous and much-maligned “PDF format”, which expands to “portable document format format”. Then there are phrases like DOS operating system (disk operating system operating system), Windows NT technology, (Windows New Technology technology), BASIC code (Beginners’ All-purpose Symbolic Instruction Code code), and ISDN network (Integrated Services Digital Network network).

There’s a nice extensive, long itemised listing of redundant tautologies to be found located here, but is there any purposeful point to drawing your attention to these phrases? Not really, but they’re great fun to find so if you discover any others please let me know via the comments box.

9 thoughts on “An Amply Adequate Sufficiency of Tautology”

  1. The C in AC and DC most certainly does stand for “Current”. But, yes point taken one might in a profesional electrical environment wish to qualify AC and DC. This wasn’t an entirely serious post, you know?

  2. “DC Current” IS acceptable:
    DC Current (The value of the current is constant in a circuit where the current is direct)
    AC Current (The value of the current is constant in an circuit where the current is alternating)
    DC Voltage (The value of the voltage is constant in a circuit where the current is direct)
    AC Voltage (The value of the voltage is constant in an circuit where the current is alternating)

    The C has a different meaning to the word “Current”

  3. Alkkemist, nicely spotted, although I suppose the phrase “emitting diode” would not quite explain what these devices do, and obviously for a “diode” without qualification there is no prerequisite for emissions of any kind.


  4. LED == light emitting diode, not to be confused with the smoke emitting diode, or the more troublesome flame emitting diode

  5. And these damned things seem to be breeding. In consecutive sentences in a news release today I learn that: “…the new Gilson 171 and 172 diode array detectors have been developed to enhance detection. The 171/172 DAD detectors offer easy integration together with…”

    Of course, that’s a tidied version. The original included the equally redundant and equally omnipresent ‘solution’ as roughly every third word – in the style of modern PR writing. Grrr.



    The error of stereotyping by outer appearance.

    “Don’t judge a book by its cover” they say. But they also say: “If it looks, walks and quacks like a duck, it is a duck.” Tell that to Hans Christian Andersen!

    Morphism – discrimination and labelling on grounds of appearance – must be stamped out. Tolerance, in this damaging area of social practice must not be tolerated.

    Since the PC revolution, took hold in the mind of person (formerly man) we have been subjected to the use of “his or her” and “he or she” ad nauseam. THESE ARE MORPHIST TERMS; dependent upon the erroneous idea of just two denominations of person, presumed definable and presumed accepting of their defining. This is a vile heresy. It is Morphism in all its presumptuous effrontery.
    To designate a person in terms of external fitments and aspect ratios, without paying attention to internal adjuncts, endocrine chemistry, brain wiring and mind programming, is to fall prey to Morphist Madness. The next time you espouse, carelessly, the assumption of “he or she” on encountering an unknown person, draw back from the abyss and remember the Anti-Morphism Code:


    To avoid affront to all those poor devils whose outward manifestation is misleading to the general public, we owe them the deference of using the wholly proper terms: “they” in place of he or she and “their” in place of his or her.

    We have long accepted the “woman” in a suit and man in a dress; now it is time to remove those irritating – nay offensive – signs on toilet doors and to re assess the whole business of “public convenience”. I suggest that just as motorway services have: knife and fork, bed, petrol pump etc on the sign, we need signs for, sit-down, stand up, disposal bin, baby changing etc. on every toilet door. These symbols would simply indicate the facilities within, to be judged in terms of suitability for the task to be addressed by the approaching human. Gender need not be defined.
    I leave it to others, more qualified than I, to define and present, through the medium of the symbol, those parts and functions of the body which might reasonably be serviced in a public toilet.

    This would only go a small way to the suppression of Morphism, but it is a start. I can only hope to see further progress in the fullness of time.

    Jan 03

  7. I stop at the local coffee emporium for a pot of tea a few times a week. My usual is what they call “Long Ching Dragon Well” – which just repeats the name of the tea in two languages.

    It’s just a few blocks away from The El Camino Real Street.

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