A Rose By Any Other Name Isn’t RedundantPosted: August 15, 2011
The email went to about 2500 people in the agency where I work. The author was looking for a utility cart. She and the people in her section must have been fond of this particular cart, as the hint of desperation in the email will attest.
Subject: Missing: CIS Utility Cart w/ wheels
Someone has borrowed our utility cart and has not returned it. It is 2-shelved, silver, with wheels and it has a chain hanging on one end of it. If you are in possession of it, or if you know who might have it, please let me know. We really need this returned asap please.
Some things that describe an item are implied when you mention the item’s name. To say you are looking for an airplane implies the presence of wings. To say you’re looking for a cart with wheels is redundant.
Shakespeare wrote that “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” Sure, I wasn’t there when he wrote it, but then neither were you. We both read somewhere that he wrote it. I hope that can be proof enough for us both.
The message Shakespeare imparted with that line is clear. If you change the name of something, it doesn’t change what it is. If we renamed roses and called them yams, the fact would remain that having a dozen long-stemmed yams delivered would often result in a good night for the sender.
…Has Its Thorn
A lot of people don’t realize that Shakespeare had more to say about what we call things. According to my research, he took the issue of names a little further. In an earlier draft of that famous line, Shakespeare wrote:
A rose by any other name would smell as sweet. Words still mean something though.
A cart is a cart. A cart without wheels is but a table. A table or maybe, like, a tray or something. Not a cart though.
I think what The Bard was saying is that words have meaning. That implies that when we use a word we mean to imply the totality of that meaning. Highlighting a portion of that meaning by saying what, by definition, is already implicit is redundant.
Monday has dawned for us all. We all have our favorite carts, trays and tables. There are people with their eye on those carts. Be wary. If one of those desperadoes does get your cart, remember to proofread. And always double-check for redundancy. Redundancy and repetitiveness.
- Why Do We Call Them Dog And Pony Shows? (blurts.wordpress.com)