Tautologies, List, Charlie Castor

10 Tautologies I have known and loved

Tautologies, 10

Tautologies have been around for centuries and they have always had a bad press. The word tautology was used by the ancient Greeks (those wise souls) to refer to a statement that says the same thing twice. But if tautologies have been scoffed at for so many centuries, why do we keep using them? 

The answer is simple. Deep down, even though we don’t want to admit it, we like tautologies. They’re like that familiar pair of slippers that we like to slip into every so often.

Without those friendly little tautologies, we’d have to monitor our language constantly so that we didn’t unnecessarily repeat ourselves in the same sentence. That wouldn’t be very fun, would it?

So, fellow writers, take a moment to remind yourself of these 10 tautologies. I guarantee you will have used at least one of these, at least once. (For every person who reads this article, 1 penny will be donated to the Tautology Appreciation Society*. So tell your friends!)


1. It is what it is…

This phrase is usually used after someone has finished telling a difficult story, and doesn’t know what else to say.

It’s called “compulsive ink drinking disorder”. Every time I see a pen, I can’t help drinking its ink. I’ve had to remove all pens from my house.

Gosh that must be very difficult

Well, it is what it is.

Yes I suppose it is.


 2. Boys will be boys…

This phrase can be used to excuse rude or inappropriate behaviour of males towards females.

Sir! Sam Samson has been calling me names.

Look Jane, boys will be boys. Now run along and play.

Would you care to elaborate on that vacuous statement, sir?

Don’t be so insolent Jane! Detention!

You want to send me to Detention for that?

No, Detention is the name of my dog. Detention! Here boy!


3. Whatever will be, will be…

This phrase was made popular by the song by the same name, originally sung by Doris Day. I’m not sure how to interpret the meaning of this song. Here’s one possibility:

Mum, what will happen when I grow up? Will I be a success?

Well, Jane, your life might turn to sh** when you grow up. You might find true love, and then he cheats on you, leaves you for this other woman, and breaks up with you via a text. But it’s best not to think about it. Whatever will happen will happen and there’s sh** all you can do about it.



4. Significant milestone

Milestones tend to be significant. I wonder what an insignificant milestone would look like? It might be a milestone with self-esteem issues; a milestone that perceives itself as insignificant, but does, in fact, play a vital role in the lives of its fellow milestones.


5. Forward planning

Have you ever tried planning backwards? Planning backwards will make you feel very productive, as you end up planning to do things that you’ve already done. For example, today I backward planned to write an email that I wrote yesterday. Now I can check that off my check-list and feel quite pleased with myself for having completed this task.


6. Bits and pieces

bit is a piece by another name. I know this yet “Bits and Pieces” is a phrase that I often deploy. In fact, one of the categories on this blog is called “Bits and Pieces”.  I like the phrase. It has a child-like simplicity that appeals to me.


7. The vast majority

This is a phrase I’ve used several times.

…the vast majority said that they had never heard of the “Tautology Appreciation Society”. We would have interviewed the tiny majority, but we couldn’t find him. The dog may have swallowed him…


8. Very unique

Uniqueness comes in degrees. Some things are “tremendously one-of-a-kind”, while others are only “slightly one-of-a-kind”, and a few are “borderline one-of-a-kind”.


9. That’s all well and good

Phew…that’s a relief.


10. Deliberately targeted


Man was subjected to repeated dart-attacks whilst walking dog, on Wednesday morning. One Dart thrower claimed to have been under the influence of an overwhelming compulsion.

“I felt my hand moving down to my pocket where I keep my spare collection of darts, and well…you know the rest”

The final end

Here ends our tautologous adventure. I hope you have enjoyed the pleasurable fun of this itemized list. If you can think of any other tautologies that you have known and loved, please do get in touch. Have a tautologous day, my friendly friends.

*Tautology Appreciation Society may not exist*


11 thoughts on “10 Tautologies I have known and loved”

  1. As a teacher, I’m most annoyed at my students writing in literary essays “the main protagonist” (hell, the protagonist is always the main character, right?) and “the typical archetype” (self-explanatory).

  2. My parents were always a great source of tautologies; two of my Dad’s favorites were:
    “It will feel better once it stops hurting” and
    “If you don’t clean it up now, you will have to clean it up later”-this was the kind of wisdom that, once we were able to grasp the logic, would make us always clean up messes immediately.

  3. “Enough is enough!” I had manyy teachers yell that out to my class as a kid. It worked. I’d fall silent wondering why in the world she was being MissObvious..of course we knew enough was enough and thankfully for her, we were intelligent enough to know she meant she had enough of our noise.

  4. 4 is not a tautology:
    A milestone occurs every mile, to mark a point one mile from two other milestones. Most of this are insignificant, but some might be significant. The milestone that marks the halfway point, or the point one mile away from the destination might be motivating in the way that the 13th milestone out of 73 would not be.

    7 is not a tautology:
    A majority of the vote in favour of x is when >50% of the votes are in favour of x. In some contexts, a larger majority may be needed. 2/3rds majority might be needed for a more far-reaching change for example. In some cases it neeses to be the case that the people not included in the majority are a very small group indeed. In such cases you need the vast majority, which will be at a 2/3rd majority and likely >85% percent, for example.

    8 is not a tautology: among unique things some can be more ‘one-of-a-kind’ than others. Consider the following collection {red teleophone box, green telephone box, red fire engine, green fire engine, purple fish}. Every item in that collection is unique, but the purple fish is both the only fish, and the only purple thing, whereas there are two green things and two red things, two fire engines, and two telephone boxes. Thus the purple fish is more unique than the other unique things in that collection. It is very unique, by comparison to the other unique things.

    The final end:
    There is a (I’m guessing unintended) reading of this on which it is not tautologous. End has historically also been used to mean something like aim – as in ‘the end justifies the means’ – and one can have one aim subordinate to another. I have the aim of getting coffee, but this is because I aim to get work done. The end of getting coffee is a means to the end of getting work done. An end which is subordinate to no other is my final end.

  5. Also 10 is not a tautology. If I have a piece of software that points a LASER at people and fires it, it targets them, but it does not deliberate. It does not deliberately (nor intentionally) target them. But in explaining why the LASER still pointed at them when they tried to run away, we would want to appeal to the fact that they were the target.

    1. Dear Graeme,
      Thank you for your comment. However, I must point out that the way in which I am using these phrases is not necessarily the way in which you are using them. By my usage of these terms, I stand by my statement that these are tautologies.

      (I define a tautology as a phrase which includes an unnecessary repetition of meaning.)

      If you look up a dictionary definition of ‘milestone’ you are right that one of its meaning, and perhaps its original meaning is “a stone set up beside a road to mark a distance in miles”.

      However, another (and equally valid) meaning, which is the common meaning of the word, I believe, is as “a significant event or stage in a life, history, or project.” Going by its common usage, a significant milestone would be an unnecessary repetition of meaning.

      With regards to your second point about “vast majority”. I appreciate that if you are comparing the size of two majorities, then one majority may be larger or smaller than the other. However, if you are taking majority to mean simply “most people”, in the vague way that it is commonly used in speech (e.g. the vast majority of people who attended seemed to enjoy the party) then I think it would be unnecessary to say that “most people” is a large group.

      But I take your point. In other contexts, particularly in political ones, your meaning makes perfect sense, and in that sense of the phrase, it is not a tautology.

      Regarding “very unique”. Someone might say “John is a very unique person”, and this usually means “John is one of a kind”. The reasoning that you outline here, looks correct to me and demonstrates that something can be very unique without being a tautology. That was a nice example. Thank you for highlighting that one to me.

      However, I think, in common parlance, it is unnecessary to stick “very” in front of “unique”. If something is very unique it suggests that being unique is something that comes in degrees, and people or things can be more or less unique than each other.
      However, in the common usage, I think “unique” is an absolute. Something either is unique or it is not.

      So, to recap, when someone says “John is a very unique person”, they may have reasoned as you have, in which case, what they say is not a tautology, as you say. However, if they have not reasoned as you have, I think this qualifies as a tautology.

      With regards to “final end”, seeing an “end” as an “aim” is an interesting way of seeing it. In that case, final end would not be a tautology. I’m sure you realised that I wasn’t using it in this way, but thank you for pointing out that other usage. I hadn’t thought of that.

      With regards to 10, you have provided me with an example of targeting which might be described as non-deliberate, thereby suggesting that the phrase “deliberate targeting” is not a tautology. I have three things to say to this. First of all, you might re-describe your example as deliberate targeting, since the software was made with the intention of targeting things or people using a laser, and it was made by a person who has intentions or “intentionality”.

      Secondly, some philosophers/people who work in artificial intelligence might argue that a computer has intentionality, and that it can intend to do something.

      Thirdly, when people say “deliberately targeted” they are usually talking about people (who have intentionality) doing the targeting, and this was the sense in which I was using it. However, I applaud your example.

      Basically, I agree with everything that you say, but I think I can still maintain that my tautologies are tautologies. You have illustrated lots of interesting examples which use senses of these phrases which would render them non- tautologous, so thanks for that.

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