Lesson: Reducing redundancy and contradiction
Lawrence Peter “Yogi” Berra was as well known for the RBIs he made while wearing a Yankee’s jersey as he was for his off-field RBIs, or “Real Berra Intelligence.” (Wow. I can actually hear your groaning. Personally, I’m just proud I know enough about baseball to make a joke like that.) My poor joking aside, Berra’s turns of phrase actually did become so iconic that they received their own linguistic category, “Yogi-isms.”
I’m sure you’ve heard of the most famous Yogi-isms:
– “The future ain’t what it used to be.”
– “I didn’t really say everything I said.”
– “It’s like déjà-vu all over again.”
While they are just plain fun to read, there is another reason to discuss Yogi-isms on Grammar Party, that’s because they are a good way to learn about two (at times hilarious) errors in sentence construction: pleonasm and contradiction.
Earlier this week, we discussed some pleonasms that are easy to spot once you get used to them. These are examples like: “free gift,” “up North,” and “invited guest.” However, pleonastic Yogi-isms are more difficult to catch. Instead of using two different words where one word would be sufficient, pleonastic Yogi-isms repeat the idea in two different ways. The last example listed above, “It’s like déjà-vu all over again,” is probably the best example of this type of Yogi-ism.
Here are some more examples:
– “Eighty percent of the balls that don’t reach the hole don’t go in.” (on golf)
“Don’t reach the hole” is the same as “don’t go in.”
– “If you can’t imitate him, don’t copy him.”
“Imitate” is the same as “copy.”
And here’s one that fits in with the type we studied in the last post:
– “We made too many wrong mistakes.”
Can you spot the pleonasm? It’s “wrong mistake.” Is there a “mistake” that is “right”? Maybe in a romantic comedy. I can see it now: Jennifer Aniston and Ashton Kutcher in Right Mistake. And it would probably be about a baby. And it probably wouldn’t be very funny.
Anyway . . . let’s move on to the other type of Yogi-ism
In this type of Yogi-ism, Berra would start a sentence by expressing one idea, and then end it with the opposite idea.
Here are some examples:
– “A nickel ain’t worth a dime anymore.”
– “It gets late early out there.”
– “I wish I had an answer to that because I’m tired of answering that question.”
Yogi-isms are awfully entertaining, but they are also good examples of mistakes to avoid when you are not trying to be witty. Eliminating pleonasms tighten up your writing and speaking. Also, be especially wary of making contradictions when you are building an argument, as they can nullify your point. And if you ever get called to a witness stand, I would not recommend saying, “I didn’t really say everything I said.”
If you would like to read more Yogi-isms, you can find a list here.
Fun fact: Yogi Berra isn’t the only person famous for his interesting style of oration. Computer Science professor David Farber, who was a major force in creating early computer programming languages, is also notorious for his nonsensical slips of the tongue. His quotes are now referred to as “Farberisms.”
Here are a few of his gems:
– “Don’t look a charlie horse in the mouth.”
– “That’s the way the cookie bounces.”
– “Don’t roll up your nostrils at me.”
– “Don’t rattle the cage that feeds you.”
– “It rolls off her back like a duck.”
Farber’s students have compiled a huge list of these sayings. You can read them here for a laugh.