I am what I am ....

Benjamin Zimmer bgzimmer at BABEL.LING.UPENN.EDU
Fri Apr 23 14:15:48 UTC 2010

On Fri, Apr 23, 2010 at 8:09 AM, Charles Doyle <cdoyle at uga.edu> wrote:
>>On Thu, Apr 22, 2010 at 9:08 PM, James Harbeck <jharbeck at sympatico.ca> wrote:
>>>>Is there a technical term for such silly phrases?  Of course, the end of the
>>>>statement is "a yam."
>>> Tautologies, I suppose.
>>Safire called them tautophrases.
> A good many proverbs, in addition to "Let bygones be bygones" and one or
> two others that Safire quoted, appear (on the "surface") to be tautological
> propositions or mere assertions of identities (of course, they aren't really):
> "Business is business"; "A deal (bargain) is a deal (bargain)"; "Boys will be
> boys"; "When you've got to go, you've got to go"; et al.

Another one that has perhaps reached proverbial status is Woody
Allen's line about l'affaire Soon-Yi, "The heart wants what it wants"
(often misquoted more tautologically as "The heart wants what the
heart wants"):


--Ben Zimmer

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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