On Tautologies

A couple times a week, I hear someone remark ‘It is what it is,’ accompanied by a weary sigh. I always puzzle over the expression a little bit, thinking What else could it be? ‘It is what it is’ is a literal tautology, an apparently needless repetition intended to convey something more. Overused, it has become a cliché, reflecting a too-easy acceptance of bad situations... Likewise ‘If it’s late, it’s late’ can imply nonchalance (on the part of a student: If it’s late, it’s late. Who cares?) or reinforcement of the obligation (on the part of the professor:If it’s late it’s late, even by a minute). And if a deadline-enforcer says ‘If it’s late, it’s late,’ the response might be ‘But it’s not late late.’ Here repetition indicates that the canoncial meaning of late it intended.It’s not late late, it’s just a little late.

Edwin Battistella, "How to Use Repetition," https://blog.oup.com/2017/06/repetition-linguistics/. Relevant advice apropos end of semester essay deadlines.

timothywstanley@me.com