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Tautology

[16 July 2016] Many Ancient Britons will recall how they first encountered the word ‘tautology’ (repetition of meaning), which occurred regularly in the long-running panel game My Word on the old Home Service and then on BBC Radio 4. Participants earned points for spotting such examples as ‘They drank tea and also ate cake as well’ and ‘It grew from a tiny little seed’.

These days the tautological use of ‘cause’ words seems to be hard for subeditors of print journalism to spot, if recent examples are anything to go by:

‘The reason the quarto version [of Shakespeare’s King Lear] is missing 300 lines is because Nicholas Okes, the printer, underestimated the amount of paper needed to fit the play.’ (Jack Malvern, Times, 21 April)
Read: ‘The reason…is that…’.

‘The reason Leave has won the economic argument is because of the nature of the decision facing us on 23 June.’ (Steve Hilton, Times, 13 June)
Read: ‘Leave has won the economic argument because…’.

‘The reason I sought medical help was because I was experiencing some uncommon physical symptoms.’ (Sarah Vine, Daily Mail, 8 June)
Read: ‘I sought medical help because…’.

‘The real reason Gatwick will never be a world-class hub is because it’s dependent on Southern Rail for its so-called Express service to London.’ (Sarah Vine – repeat offender, as it were – 15 June)
Read: ‘The real reason…is that…’.

What to do about this? Vigilance is the single, sole and only cure. We’ve emailed Sarah Vine about her tautological tendencies, and she’s kindly responded by promising to desist.  

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