Is the expression “Diametrically Opposed” a pleonasm? 
Posted: 18 November 2013 08:29 PM   [ Ignore ]
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Can someone clarify the usage of these two words?  I find there is a redundancy when both words are used together, but it seems to be common usage.

If I say:  “My views are diametrical to John’s. “ it would mean that my views are completely opposed to his. Therefore, I would think the addition of opposed to be superfluous.

The AHD defines diametrical as: “Exactly opposite; contrary.” So why does everyone say: “ My views are diametrically opposed to John’s.”?

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Posted: 19 November 2013 03:47 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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A) Language is an inherently noisy system.  Redundancy is a feature, not a bug.

2) Saying one’s views are diametrically opposed to another’s is a way of emphasizing that opposition.  It suggests, e.g., that not only do I disagree with Mr Blow about the matter of the way to cook kale, but I believe that his method totally destroys the flavor and the food value of kale.

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Posted: 19 November 2013 03:55 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Look at the definition given in Webster’s 1828 Dictionary. “Diametrical” is defined as (1) describing a diameter (2) Observing the direction of a diameter; direct: as diametrical opposition. 

You can have views that are conditionally opposed, or to some degree opposed, to those of someone else: the addition of “diametrically”, besides lending emphasis, leaves no doubt as to exactly where you stand. “My views are diametrical to yours” sounds feeble by comparison with “diametrically opposed”. I much prefer the latter expression, whether or not it’s a pleonasm.

edit: didn’t see Faldage’s post before posting mine, --- sorry for parroting you, F.

[ Edited: 19 November 2013 03:58 AM by lionello ]
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Posted: 19 November 2013 04:32 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Also, the sentence My views are diametrical to John’s takes a moment to process. The hearer must run through the possibilities, with the first thing springing to mind being geometry. Adding opposed clarifies what is being said and takes the burden off the audience.

As for why this particular idiom arose, the above is probably the answer. It dates to the early seventeenth century, when diametrically began to be used figuratively to mean “opposite.” (As opposed to its literal, geometric sense.) Diametrically opposed signaled that what was being meant wasn’t literal geometry during a period when the figurative understanding could not be taken for granted. It’s survived because it’s a useful redundancy.

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Posted: 19 November 2013 06:18 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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If I say:  “My views are diametrical to John’s. “ it would mean that my views are completely opposed to his.

Maybe it would, but nobody in fact says that.

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Posted: 19 November 2013 09:09 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Dave Wilton - 19 November 2013 04:32 AM

Also, the sentence My views are diametrical to John’s takes a moment to process. The hearer must run through the possibilities, with the first thing springing to mind being geometry. Adding opposed clarifies what is being said and takes the burden off the audience.

As for why this particular idiom arose, the above is probably the answer. It dates to the early seventeenth century, when diametrically began to be used figuratively to mean “opposite.” (As opposed to its literal, geometric sense.) Diametrically opposed signaled that what was being meant wasn’t literal geometry during a period when the figurative understanding could not be taken for granted. It’s survived because it’s a useful redundancy.

I thank everyone for the clarification; it certainly makes sense.

I probably would have ascertained this had I perused my OED; laziness is no excuse, thanks again.

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Posted: 19 November 2013 09:38 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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lionello - 19 November 2013 03:55 AM
Look at the definition given in Webster’s 1828 Dictionary. “Diametrical” is defined as (1) describing a diameter (2) Observing the direction of a diameter; direct: as diametrical opposition. 

Thank you Lionello; I wish I did own Webster’s 1828 Dictionary.

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Posted: 19 November 2013 02:23 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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You mght try:  :: Search the 1828 Noah Webster’s Dictionary of the English Language (FREE) :: 1828.mshaffer.com

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Posted: 19 November 2013 06:43 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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lionello - 19 November 2013 03:55 AM

edit: didn’t see Faldage’s post before posting mine, --- sorry for parroting you, F.

No apology necessary.  Redundancy is a feature not a bug.

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Posted: 20 November 2013 11:56 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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I wish I did own Webster’s 1828 Dictionary.

The version I use is on-line at:

http://www.onelook.com/

Together with more than 20 others, including AHD (warmly recommended by none other than languagehat), Etymonline, Webster’s 1913, etc.

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Posted: 21 November 2013 12:47 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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lionello - 20 November 2013 11:56 PM

I wish I did own Webster’s 1828 Dictionary.

The version I use is on-line at:

http://www.onelook.com/

Together with more than 20 others, including AHD (warmly recommended by none other than languagehat), Etymonline, Webster’s 1913, etc.

I was about to thank Droogie for his offer; I am now grateful to both of you, thanks. I shall immediately add them to my Bookmarks.

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