I am what I am ....

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Fri Apr 23 15:28:50 UTC 2010

At 10:15 AM -0400 4/23/10, Benjamin Zimmer wrote:
>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"):

Hmmm.  Is that really *more* tautological than the original?  Maybe
more obviously tautological.

I always liked the contrast between "When it's over it's over" (=
it's over, deal with it) vs. "It ain't over till it's over" (= it
ain't necessarily over yet).


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

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

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