We’re being redundant to say we got home safe and sound, yet we say it all the time.
On this week’s edition of That’s What They Say, host Rina Miller and professor of English at the University of Michigan Anne Curzan discuss the origins of repetitive expressions.
Phrases like safe and sound are a result of the history of borrowing in the English language.
“Sometimes we get expressions where people want to make sure that other people understand a borrowing,” Curzan explains. In this case, safe was borrowed from French while sound is a native English term. The two words were originally used together for clarity, and the expression stuck to this day.
Part and parcel - is a similar expression. Both words mean an essential part of, but they have different origins—part comes from Latin and parcel comes from French. Since listeners may have only known one of the two words, they were paired together.
The same is true for the phrase - null and void. Null came from Latin and void came from French, so this pairing helped create shared understanding between speakers and listeners.
However, not all pairings come from borrowing. Each and every, and kit and caboodle are two non-borrowed examples.
“Kit and caboodle is probably a corruption of kit and boodle,” Curzan explains. A kit as a collection of things and a boodle is a crowd. “So if you want all the things and all the people you get the whole kit and boodle, which becomes the whole kit and caboodle.”
What other weird and wonderful redundancies can you think of? Let us know on our Facebook page or on our website!
-Clare Toeniskoetter, Michigan Radio Newsroom