REDUNDANT: “exceeding what is necessary or normal: superfluous” — Merriam-Webster Online | June 18, 2010: So now you’re abandoned and redundant, wondering whether it’s OK to go see the latest Pixar without a youngster in hand. Yes, it’s OK; you owe it to yourself.

Are you redundant if your children are grown? No, even if you’re the nanny. Redundant is perched on the precipice of sliding into lexicide, helped along by the British, for whom redundant is official-speak for no longer needed (read: unemployed). But that is not what redundant means. Something that is redundant is serving the same function as something else. Far from being useless, redundancies in safety precautions, risk management and data centers are very necessary. Redundancies in writing, on the other hand…

My search of underscores how vital it is we use our words correctly and not scoff, as so many do, at shifts in meaning. Case in point — the only reason the word wasn’t more abused this past month was the prevalence of BP officials touting the redundancies they had in place. They probably thought redundancies were “useless” too, and shut them all down.

Otto E. Mezzo


Repetitious and Redundant

Repetitious and Redundant | July 21, 2010: “One man’s duplication is another man’s competitive analysis,” Clapper said of the newspaper’s assertion that there are excessive redundancies within the nation’s intelligence agencies. | July 19, 2010: We work constantly to reduce inefficiencies and redundancies, while preserving a degree of intentional overlap among agencies to strengthen analysis, challenge conventional thinking, and eliminate single points of failure. | June 25, 2010: The film spends so long running around in ever-increasing circles, it seems to forget where it wanted to go with these characters, and the third act forfeits on its promise of reversals, settling instead for repetition and redundancy. | June 20, 2010: At the same time, Gates has led an administration effort to refocus Pentagon spending by cutting what he considers to be redundant or unnecessary projects and programs.

And that’s in just a 30-day period on one major news website. Our appetite for verbiage truly is insatiable. Now, which is worse: repetitious redundancy or using redundancy as a synonym for useless?

Otto E. Mezzo


Impedance mismatch

IMPEDANCE MISMATCH: “In the field of electronics, Impedance matching is the practice of designing the input impedance of an electrical load or the output impedance of its corresponding signal source in order to maximize the power transfer and minimize reflections from the load.” — from Wikipedia’s entry for impedance matching

If you don’t understand this definition (and I don’t), you have no business using the phrase impendance mismatch. And yet, decrying this tragic inconsistency is fast becoming the new delta (Not that delta was all that old).

Not being a techie, I’m a little hazy on how this phrase escaped from the rarified realm of electrical engineering, but it seems to have emigrated quietly into the world of software development, notably in the term object-relational impedance mismatch. Already, this is wrong. Nowhere is impedance in play; the term should simply be object-relational mismatch. But geeks will be geeks. MBAs, not to be outdone by their jargon-spewing colleagues, are latching onto the phrase to sound more knowledgeable, and now it’s spilling over into “the real world,” as in this op-ed on toll roads:

Relative to what is levied, there is an impedance mismatch between what we pay and the services that are rendered.

What’s wrong with mismatch? How about inconsistency or disconnect? Here’s a good one — use active voice and say “What we pay in taxes doesn’t match the services we receive.”

Meh, like anyone cares what I think. The impedance in impedance mismatch adds nothing but ignorance and verbiage to your writing. However, because it adds a sort of fluffy pretentiousness, it will win and succinctness will lose. If that isn’t an impedance to good writing, I don’t know what is.

Otto E. Mezzo, suggested by Lex

IMPORTANT NOTE: Please please please don’t follow my example. The correct word for something that slows you down is impediment. Impedance refers only to resistance in an electrical circuit. So please — oh, never mind. Just shoot me now.