You Can Say That Again by Marcia Riefer Johnston is a toothsome book, ideal for lovers of, as the author puts it, “foibled language”.
I’ve written before about Johnston’s last book, Word Up!, which I enjoyed enormously, and much of the same humour and playfulness infuses this volume.
You Can Say That Again is not a heavy book by any measure – it’s a whimsical collection of tautological expressions, whether they are repetitive noun phrases, duplicative adjectives, or verbose verbs. It’s pointed out that sometimes tautology is appropriate for emphasis or even necessary to make sense, but also that flabby tautology does a lot to put readers off – perhaps even to the point where they abandon reading entirely, what amounts to a fatal to the effectiveness of your words.
The main part of the book is a largely alphabetical listing of these unnecessary doublings, and that is also where much of the humour can be found. Who hasn’t despaired of being asked for their PIN number (or even their personal PIN number)? * As someone with a soupçon of French, I was appalled by “with au jus sauce”, but did not know how duplicative “challa bread” was until now.
Fundamentally, this book appeals to the colossal pedant in me. I very much enjoyed the phrases collected.
Whether you are amused by mis-steps in language, or wish to be alerted to where these faux pas might creep in in your own writing, I would definitely recommend You Can Say That Again.
[*] network NIC card is another one that makes me shudder, but since most folks don’t need to worry about installing such things these days it doesn’t turn up very often any more.