Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams are talented and beautiful women, but I remember watching Destiny’s Child videos, and I couldn’t take my eyes off of Beyonce. It’s like I wanted the other two to go away so I could focus on her. She has what I believe is referred to as the X Factor, or as the French say, a certain je ne sais quoi.
It was the same with Michael Jackson and Justin Timberlake. Who doesn’t love the Jackson Five and ‘N Sync (did I just write that out loud)? But, some people need to leave the group so they can shine brighter.
It’s the same with words. There are some words that in themselves are so powerful and imbued with meaning that they don’t require any supporting words.
For example, one of my students wrote:
She strongly detests her boss.
The problem is that detests in itself is such a strong word. It already means to dislike intensely. It doesn’t need the word strongly in front of it because by definition it’s a strong word. I dislike cooked celery; therefore, if it’s in a dish, I will pick it out. I detest sea urchin; therefore, get it the hell off my plate.
And, ironically, doesn’t putting strongly in front of detests seem to actually weaken detest’s impact?
It’s the same with absolutely phenomenal.
Phenomenal already means highly extraordinary. When we put an absolutely in front of it, it’s overkill. Absolutely looks like it’s competing with phenomenal. They’re both strong words; it’s like deciding who should headline the show: Beyonce or Mary J. Blige.
Other commonly used redundant phrases are:
Totally destroyed (Can something be partially destroyed?)
Unexpected surprise (If we expected it, then it wouldn’t be a surprise.)
Absolutely essential (Essential already means that we are screwed if we forget it.)