It happens every hurricane season. I just saw a cable news report about a neighborhood where homes were ‘completely destroyed.’
If you’ve read this blog long enough, you know the phrase “completely destroyed” is a pet peeve.
I hate it because there’s no such thing.
Something is either destroyed or it isn’t.
It’s either still standing or it isn’t.
I will paraphrase this report. While showing footage of a neighborhood decimated by Ida, a reporter referred to homes that were “completely destroyed.” Then she showed another home. This one still had one wall standing. You notice a different tone in her voice. It seems to illustrate “completely destroyed” doesn’t accurately portray this home. After all, there was that one single wall still standing.
Nevermind that all of the other walls — and the roof and contents — were all rubble.
The very idea is ridiculous, isn’t it?
ThoughtCo. lists several examples of redundancies that involve the word completely. They include “completely annihilate,” “completely eliminate,” “completely engulfed,” “completely filled” and “completely surrounded.”
If you fill something, it’s full. If you surround something, it is surrounded. You see how this works.
Let’s suppose you’re touring a neighborhood where a hurricane, tornado or earthquake struck.
You come upon a house with everything demolished…except for one wall. You marvel that in all of the carnage, this one wall magically stands. It might even strike you as being a miracle. Or you might think it stands defiant, mocking the force of nature that reduced everything else to rubble.
But I have to ask. As you stand there looking at that scene, don’t you think destroyed is the perfect word to describe that house?
I wouldn’t. If I see a house with only one wall standing, I’m going to assume it’s a total loss.
Here’s hoping next year will be the year I don’t hear someone make that mistake!