Grammar

Brutally Beaten? Isn’t a Beating Already Brutal?

There are certain phrases that make me cringe anytime I hear them. The phrase ‘brutally beaten’ is one of them because it’s redundant.

The other day, I heard a news story about someone who had been “brutally beaten.” It’s one of those silly phrases that immediately makes my eyes roll.

There are plenty of examples.

Here’s a story out of New York about a man arrested for “brutally beating” a 62-year-old man.

Here’s another out of Utah where a teen was “brutally beaten” in what appears to have been a racially-motivated attack.

And here’s a story about the death of mob boss “Whitey” Bolger which describes how he was “brutally beaten” during the attack at a West Virginia prison.

The phrase is so common that it’s often written without a thought.

But think about it for a minute. In each case, these attacks did not consist of a single punch or a single blow. There were multiple hits. They were beatings, and beatings, are, by definition, assaults in which the victim is hit repeatedly. These kinds of beatings are not meant to cause minor scratches: the intent is serious injury if not death.

The “brutal” part of a beating is automatic.

Some killings aren’t necessarily considered ‘brutal.’

It’s a different story with a phrase like “brutally murdered” because some cases of murder (or manslaughter) do not involve what many people would consider brutality. For example, someone facing a long and presumably unwinnable fight with cancer may ask for help in ending his life. To some, such an act doesn’t involve “brutality.” In fact, some might even refer to such an act as a “mercy killing.”

The law, however, may not see a difference with respect to whether a crime has been committed.

Still, the addition of the word brutal when the exact method of death isn’t mentioned, as in a “brutal murder,” may imply the intentional infliction of great pain or injury was a part of the killing.

Assault seems to be a case where there’s a gray area. A person who slaps another has committed an assault by legal standards. But is that a brutal assault? Probably not.

A beating, though, would seem to always involve some level of brutality.


What phrases that you consider redundant would you love to see disappear?

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Patrick is a Christian with more than 28 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.