This post is by Josh Westbury, a scholar-in-residence at Faithlife.
In addition to being a Hall of Fame baseball player, Yogi Berra is perhaps remembered most for his pithy witticisms, affectionately known as “Yogi-isms”. These short sayings often strike a humorous tone by playing on obvious contradictions or redundancies. A couple of my personal favorites are: “Sometimes you can observe a lot just by watching,” and “It’s deja-vu, all over again.” These two Yogi-isms are funny because they break one of the basic rules of language: avoid redundancy.
As children we naturally learn to avoid redundancy when speaking or writing—for the simple reason that redundancy can make it hard for people (our “addressees”) to process what we are trying to say. But, as Yogi has taught us, when used intentionally, redundancy can have a powerful and even comic effect. In fact, when we pay close attention, we find that we use redundancy more often than we might expect.