Twitterpated Tautologies

According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, the word ‘twitterpated” was invented for the 1942 film, Bambi – Thumper, Flower and Owl have a conversation about the fact that springtime causes people to behave in strangely inconsistent and senseless ways, all aflutter with generative ecstasy, one supposes.  Thumper, who was smarter than he looked, describes this behaviour as ‘twitterpated’.  The word ‘twitter’, of course, originated as an imitative German form for describing the sounds of birds – these days it’s more widely recognized as a potent social networking platform for disseminating short bursts of information, often chain-reactions of repetitious ‘tweets’ that constitute a cacophonous chorus of sometimes twitterpated Babel.

‘Tautology’ is one of those words that one encounters in scholarship when people are simply trying to express the notion that someone is repeating something without understanding it, or without detecting its inherent redundancy (as in the study of logic) to whit (OED): ” tautology (n.) Look up tautology at Dictionary.com1570s, from Late Latin tautologia “representation of the same thing” (c.350), from Greek tautologia, from tautologos “repeating what has been said,” from tauto “the same” + -logos “saying,” related to legein “to say” (see lecture (n.)).”

Tautologies in logic are kind of like academic twitters, although, technically, tautology means to say the same thing twice using different words, the needless repetition of an idea, a redundancy, often uttered without being conscious of that redundancy.  My favourite is ‘major nuclear disaster’ as though there is such a thing as a ‘minor disaster’, but some are so ubiquitous that we don’t even recognize them any more – as musical and innocuous as twitters: ‘free gift’, ‘added bonus’, ‘shout out loud’, ‘tuna fish.’ 

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About hickson1

Art historian, professor, Italian Renaissance and Baroque specialist
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