Friday, June 11, 2021

Your Department of Redundancy Department

Someone put this headline on a syndicated column in an area newspaper today.  I got used to such gaffes from the student paper at Indiana University, but thanks to venture capitalists cutting costs, professional journalism seems to me to exhibit them more and more.

It happens on TV and radio too.  In particular I've noticed what I think of as wandering adverbs, where modifiers stray from where they weirdly ought to be, to my inner ear anyway.  (My placement of "weirdly" is meant as an example of the tendency.)  Maybe it's just a case of language changing; I don't know.

In the same issue of today's paper, there was a story about sexual harassment in the Fire Department.  Several women firefighters sent a letter to their administration, declaring:

We come to work expecting a workplace free of harassment and violence, yet when it occurs it is treated like a slap on the wrist, even when the accused captain freely admits to the actions ... and this was his first offense!

This probably is a case of language changing, where the writer doesn't really think about the cliche she's using; if enough people make this mistake, it may become the standard form.  I presume the writer meant that the offense is punished with a slap on the wrist.  And I'm not judging -- I've garbled a figure of speech or two in my day.  But when it appears in print, it's especially jarring.