Pleonasm (/ˈpliːənæzəm/, from Greek πλεονασμός pleonasmos from πλέον pleon “more, too much”) is the use of more words or parts of words than is necessary for clear expression: examples are black darkness, or burning fire. Such redundancy is, by traditional rhetorical criteria, a manifestation of tautology.
In this article, one can read George Carlin’s Department of Pleonasms and Redundancies.
But are all the words on the list that bad? I am going to make the case for keeping some of them, though NOT “three a.m. in the morning.” The inference, in most cases, is that by dropping one or more words in a phrase, the sentence would be equally clear.
absolutely essential, absolutely necessary – became necessary when people didn’t take “necessary” and “essential” seriously enough.
actual facts – as opposed to the made-up “facts” on some TV networks. The problem in the 21st century that it’s become increasingly difficult to tell the two apart.
aid and abet – this has become a specific legal term.
all-time record – in sports, this differentiates from the single-season record.
ATM machine, ISBN number, GRE exam, HIV virus, LCD display, RAM memory, UPC code – I think that most people forget what the initials actually mean.
best ever – not only best in a limited setting.
bouquet of flowers – “bouquet” might mean the smell of wine; too vague.
cameo appearance – when I see “cameo”, I think the item in which one has one’s keepsakes.
cash money – I think this is a legitimate neologism, with money now in checks, credit cards, wire transfers, et al.
cease and desist – another legal term.
completely destroyed, completely engulfed, completely surround, major breakthrough, total destruction – the effect of the primary word not meaning what it used to, now needing the modifier.
drop down – I think of those computer menus, or falling to the ground when on fire. Neither word by itself is adequate.
face mask – this has a specific meaning in football, at least.
fly through the air – where else would the daring young man fly through?
full satisfaction – to be “satisfied” is hardly a ringing endorsement. But fully satisfied, that’s something else.
general public – if it means “ordinary people in society, rather than people who are considered to be important or who belong to a particular group”; it differentiates.
green [or blue or whatever] in color – I’ll accept its inclusion on the list until the color has a synonym, such as orange or olive or peach
knowledgeable experts – having known some supposed experts who were NOT particularly knowledgeable, I’d keep this one.
little baby – I’ve seen some big babies.
live studio audience – this is a TV term to distinguish it from being on tape and having the audience react to that program.
nape of her neck – do most people know what a nape is?
new construction – this differentiates from rehabbing a building, and thus has a specific meaning.
originally created – with things being recreated and sampled, it is helpful.
palm of the hand – saying palm, another word with multiple meanings, is inadequate.
personal friend – a neologism to compare with a Facebook “friend”.
PIN number – not only are the meaning of initials lost, saying PIN, out of context, is so unclear. (And in the South, they’ll think you want a pen.)
Please RSVP – I’d defend this because people don’t (reply). So it’s “please, PLEASE respond”.
polar opposites – descriptive the way “opposites” is not.
preboard on an airplane – it’s airline talk, but it does have a specific meaning.
preheat – heat before you bake.
prerecord – record while you’re away.
private industry – as opposed to public industry; has a specific meaning in the economy.
safe haven – it is now so idiomatic, dropping it would be pointless to change.
serious danger – there’s danger, then there’s serious danger. It’s a matter of degree.
sharp point – in the fine art of pencil-sharpening, there are fine points, and not-so-sharp points.
shut down – don’t know what this means without both words.
single unit – as opposed to multiple-unit dwelling in housing.
skipped over – this means quite a different meaning than skipped.
tuna fish – another thing now so common that we don’t think about it. For me, it differentiates the stuff that comes in cans from the chunk of tuna that one would get in the fish market.
ultimate goal – in business management, they’re always talking about intermediary goals, so the “ultimate” one seems reasonable.
very pregnant – this addresses a specific description, of a woman probably in the third trimester.
visible to the eye – as opposed to visible only by microscope.
white snow – I’ve seen the gray stuff.
Maybe I’m just too liberal, though, and you can make the case that some of these should go. Or you can look at the original list and argue that the ought not to be disparaged.