Improve Your English: 314 [Archives:2008/1217/Education]

December 18 2008

Dr. Ramakanta Sahu
I. What to Say

Situations and Expressions (101):

Superfluity or redundancy in legal English

Superfluity or redundancy refers to something that is more than necessary. Very often the language of Law abounds in pairs of words that have the same effect. Although linguistically these instances of superfluity appear ridiculous and avoidable, they add a certain flavor to the legal register. Dr. Johnson, the great writer and critic of the 18th century puts it in his characteristic style: “Prolixity is much like obesity; in order to achieve a cure each mouthful must be watched.' The relevance of this statement for us here is that much redundancy may be avoided by avoiding the use of pairs of words that are semantically identical and have the same effect. Examples:

Authorize and empower, final and conclusive, full and complete, eminent and prominent, role and exclusive, order and direct, desire and require

The practice of superfluity or redundancy adds to confusion in the minds of the readers. In an expression such as: 'The trustee is authorized and directed' there is much scope for contradiction, because the doublets don't mean the same. Some lawyers tend to believe that use of synonyms and near synonyms is unavoidable for reasons of specificity. But there seems to be little substance in their contention because, unless the draftsman is careful to check whether the words he places alongside of each other mean the same thing, superfluity can potentially land him in trouble.

II. How to Say it Correctly

Correct errors, if any, in the following sentences

1. I view it unacceptable that students should be late for my classes.

2. It was because of his headache why he didn't come to the party.

3. Outside his house were playing two children on bicycles.

4. The door opened and in went we.

5. There never had been a football match like that.

Suggested answers to the previous issue's questions

1. Do you mind if I smoke a cigar? [We use 'Do -or Would- you mind ' as a polite way of asking permission to do something. We also use 'don't mind' if we say that we don't object to something]

2. Suddenly, there was a loud bang from outside.

3. It is difficult to know why she left her job.

4. It was accepted that a letter of complaint should be sent. Or, it was accepted that I /we should send a letter of complaint.

5. I find it difficult to understand how she could have got lost.

III. Increase Your Word Power

(A) How to express it in one word

1. Strong base of a building, usually below ground-level, on which it is built up.

2. Person who establishes a school, etc.

3. Deserted or abandoned child of unknown parents.

4. Place where metal or glass is melted or moulded.

5. A stream of water that shoots straight up into the air.

Suggested answers to the previous issue's questions

1. Period of two weeks; fortnight (n)

2. Any place for public discussion: forum (n)

3. Recognizable part of a prehistoric animal or plant once buried in earth, now hardened like rock: fossil (n)

4. Help the growth and development of: foster (vt)

5. Having a bad smell or taste: foul (adj)

(B) Words often confused

Bring out the differences in meaning of the following pairs of words:

1. figure, number

2. foster, flourish

3. flounder, blunder

4. flush, blush

5. fluster, flutter

Suggested answers to the previous issue's questions

1. ophthalmologist (n) (doctor who specializes in eye diseases): I consulted an ophthalmologist and got my eye examined.

optician (n) (person who makes or supplies optical instruments, esp. eye glasses): I got a pair of glasses for my eyes from an optician.

2. fort (n) (building or group of buildings specially erected for military defence): Lalkilla is a famous fort in New Delhi.

forte (n) (person's strong point): Painting is not my forte.

3. bold (adj) (without fear; enterprising): He made a bold attempt to contest the elections against the president.

brave (adj) (ready to face danger, pain, or suffering): It was brave of him to resist the kidnappers all alone.

4. berate (vt) (scold sharply): Hanan was berated for her habitual absenteeism.

beret (n) (flat, round cap, worn with sports and holiday clothes): He put on his beret when he went on a picnic.

5. blockade (n) (the enclosing or surrounding of a place by armies to keep people from entering or leaving): The army made a blockade of the President's palace.

blockhead (n) (slow and stupid person): We can't expect anything better from a blockhead like him.

(C) Synonyms and Antonyms

i. Synonyms

Choose the word that is closest in meaning to the one in bold in the following sentences

1. At a party, he is always in high spirits.

a. uncontrollable b. drunk

c. cheerful d. talkative

2. The data compiled by the researcher was very useful.

a. analyzed b. enclosed

c. collected d. published

3. He is a candid politician.

a. frank b. faithful

c. fearless d. soft spoken

4. The indiscriminate cutting of trees has resulted in climatic change.

a. careful b. extravagant

c. unselective d. wasteful

5. It is Ibrahim's practice to get up early and go for a walk before breakfast.

a. convention b. habit

c. fashion d. rule

Suggested answers to the previous issue's questions

Word Synonym

1. envisage to foresee in imagination

2. oppressive unbearable

3. frailty weakness

4. lay ordinary

5. laid down surrendered

ii. Antonyms

Choose the word that is most opposite in meaning to the one given in bold in the following sentences

1. The atmosphere in that desolate place looked ominous.

a. pleasant b. encouraging

c. auspicious d. favorable

2. He spoke against corruption with zeal.

a. indifference b. calmness

c. despair d. passiveness

3. The president remarked that the general manager was an asset to the university.

a. loss b. liability

c. drag d. handicap

4. Modern English poetry is characterized by obscurity.

a. clarity b. precision

c. definiteness d. specificity

5. The story told by the teacher amused children in the class.

a. frightened b. jolted

c. astonished d. saddened

Suggested answers to the previous issue's questions

Word Antonym

1. improvised pre-planned

2. logical irrational

3. indigenous foreign

4. alert careless

5. paltry handsome

(D) Spelling

Choose the correctly spelt word

1. a. akustiks b. ackoustics

c. acoustics d. aqustics

2. a. acqueintance b. akwentans

c. ackwaintance d. acquaintance

3. a. akumein b. accumen

c. akumen d. acumen

4. a. akre b. aker

c. acer d. acre

Suggested answers to the previous issue's questions

1. acquire 2. acquit 3. acrobat

4. activate 5. across

(E) Phrases and Idioms

Use the following in sentences

1. be breathing down (someone's) neck

2. have egg on one's face

3. plain sailing

4. make a pig's ear of something

5. get lumbered with (someone/something)

Suggested answers to the previous issue's questions

1. give it one's best shot (to try one's hardest): The forthcoming job interview is crucial; so try and give it your best shot.

2. all fingers and thumbs (awkward, clumsy at doing something with one's hands): He tried to set right the washing machine without calling the mechanic, but he was all fingers and thumbs.

3. take the bit between one's teeth (to act on one's own without taking instructions from others): My friend impatiently waited a call from the company and so he decided to take the bit between his teeth and phone them.

4. give (someone) his/her marching orders (to dismiss someone from a job): After the employee was caught red-handed stealing the computer, the manager gave him his marching orders.

5. strike it lucky (to have good luck in a particular matter): When I took up my job in Yemen, I hoped to strike it lucky and get a good experience.

IV. Grammar and Composition

(A) Grammar


These people are complaining about the things other people do. Write down what they might say.

1. Aysha is complaining about her younger brother.

2. Mariam is complaining about her husband, Fuad.

3. Fuad is complaining about his wife Mariam.

4. Fatima's boss makes her life very difficult at the office.

5. Dr. Samson is fed up with Hanan, one of the other students in the class.

6. Hassan has just started doing his military service, and doesn't like the officers.

7. Mrs. Jaffar is complaining about her children who never tell her what they are doing.

8. Ali is having a lot of trouble with his neighbors.

Suggested answers to the previous issue's questions

John was feeling very bored in class. He looked at the rows of students reading their books and wondered how he would stay awake for another whole hour. Just then he heard a noise down by his feet. He knew what to do – he was so sure his plan would work that he smiled to himself What a sight there was when the headmaster rushed in – the teacher's scream went higher and higher as the mouse made its way towards her! She went pale as she stood on the chair wringing her hands and turned a funny shade of red. She didn't seem to know anyone else was there. The headmaster told the class to go straight home. John was the hero of the class. They missed four whole hours of school that day and the class bully even promised to buy him an ice-cream on the way home. It turned out to be a great day after all!

(B) Composition

Expand the central idea contained in the maxim



Suggested answers to the previous lesson's paragraph



Some people find it very difficult to say 'no.' They are susceptible to the nuances of the situation and find it easy to escape by showing agreement to an opinion or point of view to which in their heart of hearts they disagree. Such people lack a strong personality or uprightness. By saying 'yes' when they should say 'no', they not only hide their critical judgment, they do positive harm to those involved in the situation by misleading them from the right path. It is true that one should speak the truth that should be pleasing, but under no circumstances should pleasantness take the better of reason. One should hear the dictates of one's conscience and speak it out, no matter how unpleasant it may sound to the other person. An apparently unpalatable truth is preferable to a sugar-coated falsehood. So it is sensible to cultivate the moral and psychological strength to say 'no' in a situation that warrants it rather than be carried away by the temporary need to please others and suppress what is just and reasonable.

V. Pearls from the Holy Quran

“O Children of Adam! Wear your beautiful apparel at every time and place of prayer: eat and drink: but waste not by excess, for Allah loveth not the wasters.” )S7:A31

VI. Words of Wisdom

“Animals are such agreeable friends, they ask no questions, they pass no criticisms.” )George Eliot