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    Tuesday
    Aug232005

    Negative Sunnis Are Not Very Positive

    Iraq_flag_large.pngQuote:   “If the Sunnis do not support the constitution, that would be very negative.”  American Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad

    Figure of Speech:   tautology (taw TAH low gee), the redundant figure

    “Negative” means “bad” in diplomatese.  If the Sunnis say no to the draft Iraq constitution, that would certainly be negative.  But since “no” and “negative” mean the same thing, the ambassador commits a tautology—repeating the same thought in different words. 

    “Free gift.”  “New innovation.”  “Violent battle.”  All around, we’re surrounded by tautologies.  (Sorry.)  Yogi Berra turned the figure into an unconscious art form:  “You can learn a lot just by observing.”  Most of the time, though, the tautology is a pair of twins (whoops!) who are too close for comfort.

    The writing on the Iraqi flag, by the way, means “God is great.”  Which, arguably, qualifies as a tautology.

    Snappy Answer:   “And if we don’t pull out of Iraq, we’ll still be there.”

    Got a snappier answer?  Email Figaro.

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    Reader Comments (20)

    would 'uncommonly rare' qualify as a tautology?
    February 26, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterSimon Giles
    That depends on whom you ask, but since you asked Figaro, the answer is no. It's a mere redundancy. A true tautology has logic chasing its own tail: it uses the conclusion to prove the conclusion.

    Fig.
    February 26, 2007 | Registered CommenterFigaro
    actually twins come in more than pears... now what kind of rhetorical device did I just use? or did I even just use one?
    April 15, 2007 | Unregistered Commenterniceoboe
    well now that I think about it that would be a pointless/nonsensical pun...
    April 15, 2007 | Unregistered Commenterniceoboe
    "Safe haven" is a tautological phrase that I'm aware of, and detest, but what about "potentially dangerous"? If something has the potential to harm then it's dangerous. So what does "potentially dangerous" mean?
    September 20, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterDavid
    Currently now.....................first initial reaction..........................unthaw the food...............advanced warning................true fact..........................very first...................and finally, "plus, as an extra added bonus, a free gift at no charge to you!".
    September 24, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterJay
    How about 100% Perfect? It couldn't be less than 100% surely?
    April 6, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKeith
    Alice to Bob: Truth be told...
    Bob to Alice: Tell the truth
    Alice to Bob: I just did.
    September 6, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterthe jar
    I disagree. You presume beforehand that supporting the constitution is Good. That is a political choice, not an inherent meaning of the wording. Say, if the topic were a war (which is not Good per se, I assume), not a constitution, the Ambassador would still add information, not speaking a tautology.

    About "God is great": the words do not mean the same, so no tautology at all there. Or maybe it is, in another way. Like when defining: "2 plus 2 is 4". That is when we *need* a tautology! My dictionary *only* has tautologies.
    May 12, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterGuest
    nope - this is not a tautology. My goodness, not even close.
    July 30, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterjake
    what about Oh! is this considered a tautology?
    September 19, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterharley
    A tautology is anything that is tautological.
    October 30, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterEd
    "You can learn a lot by just observing" isn't a tautology. Observing does not imply learning, since learning involves not only the intake of information, but the processing and, most importantly, retention of it. "And if we don't pull out of Iraq, we'll still be there" is spot on, though.
    November 13, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDavid
    One of the best examples of Tautology which is seen everyday: Gender.
    What makes you a man? By "being" a man. By acting like a man, you are a man.
    December 20, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMurakami
    Final upshot
    March 21, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterClose proximity
    Reading this whole page, it seems people are lumping rhetorical tautologies together with grammatical tautologies. The two are very different.
    October 4, 2014 | Unregistered Commentervlasik_pickle
    I don't see the example given as being a tautology, simply because Sunni failure to support the constitution, when viewed by someone else, might be regarded as somewhat or not so negative (as opposed to "very negative"), neutral or even positive.

    Thus, the word "negative" in the context merely describes of one of several potential outcomes of Sunni inaction, so I fail to see how it qualifies as being tautological in the strictest sense.
    October 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJohn
    No matter where you go, there you are.
    .. from an old friend of mine!
    July 17, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterGee Dee Pee
    The ambassadors statement can be rephrased as "If the X says no to Y, that would be bad." You have tried to call this a tautology, but it's not. It's only a tautology by equivocation. If you need to change the intended definition of words to pull out the meaning you would prefer, you have equivocated. Which is not a tautology, it's another, only slightly less obvious failure of logic.
    December 6, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterWiki
    The Yogi Berra quote was "You can observe a lot just by watching." which may qualify as a tautology.
    May 18, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterVictor

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