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Can we possibly strangle redundancies to death?


While the world went gaga over Prince Poopy Diapers, Mose was musing over the media's description of the tyke.

Outlets as diverse as button-down NPR and celebrity-centric Yahoo “News” reported the same development this week: Kate had survived the royal pain to deliver a “baby boy.”

Unless the child is Mork from Ork or perhaps suffers from a Curious Case of Benjamin Button, any full-term delivery will produce something we call – in chronological terms – a baby. Adults who age backward are birthed only in ’70s sit-coms and though the magic of Hollywood.

Of course it's a baby! Just tell us the new arrival is a boy – we'll figure out its approximate place on the spectrum of life.

But conversational English plays a little loose with redundancies. Mose is certain that “She had a baby boy” is how billions of humans reported it to their cave-dweller friends who don't have cable.

Editors should know better.

But, alas, the informality of speech often finds its way into the more formal written word. This, for example, showed up recently in a daily newspaper that Mose follows:

Federal disaster assistance could cover expenses related to flooding, such as the costs of cleaning basements, replacing furnaces and hot water heaters, and repairing foundations.

Was it the late comedian George Carlin who asked, rhetorically, why anyone would need a device to heat hot water?

But that was what Mose's mother always called that tank in the utility room, as did probably every mother who didn't have an old AP Stylebook nearby. But even newer editions of the Stylebook have omitted the admonition, figuring that everybody knows “water heater” is sufficient to describe the appliance or that nobody can be broken of the popular conversational redundancy.

Thus, we grammar grouches are compelled to continually warn writers and editors to avoid those traps as well as “at 7 a.m. Monday morning” and “strangled to death,” among other news reporting redundancies.

Those are different from another Carlin peeve – mutually exclusive terms such as “military intelligence” and “jumbo shrimp.”

But that's for a comedic monologue some other time.