one more tautology

Garson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Thu Apr 29 03:28:01 UTC 2010

John Locke uses a remarkably concise meta-tautophrase several times in
"An Essay Concerning Human Understanding":

What is, is.

There is an anti-tautophrase based on a different sense of the word
fair. The proverb incorporates an explanation for its anti-tautology.

Citation: 1804, Proverbs; or, The Manual of Wisdom, Page 24, Tabart and Co.

Fair is not fair, but that which pleaseth.


On Wed, Apr 28, 2010 at 11:47 AM, Benjamin Zimmer
<bgzimmer at> wrote:
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Benjamin Zimmer <bgzimmer at BABEL.LING.UPENN.EDU>
> Subject:      Re: one more tautology
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> On Wed, Apr 28, 2010 at 11:23 AM, Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at> wrote:
>> I just found myself using this one:  "Fair is fair".  Lots of hits,
>> but it's hard to count given all the ones for "How fair is fair
>> trade?" and the like.
> G.L. Apperson's _English Proverbs_ dates "Fair is fair, work or play"
> to 1710 (Samuel Palmer, _Moral Essays on Proverbs_ 31). OED2 has the
> more colloquial "fair's fair" ['(reciprocal) fairness is called for']
> from 1898 (Google Books has it from 1840).
> --Ben Zimmer
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society -

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