Return Back to Sender

It’s long, but it’s not complicated. Stay with me.

intransitive verb
1a : to go back or come back again
b : to go back in thought, practice, or condition : revert
2 : to pass back to an earlier possessor

transitive verb
1 : to bring back (something, such as a writ or verdict) to an office or tribunal
2 : to bring, send, or put back to a former or proper place
3 : to send back
4 : to give back to the owner
5 : to hit back (a ball or shuttlecock)

Maybe you noted the pattern. Apart from usages like “to bring in profit” or “to elect a candidate”, “return” always includes the concept of “back.”

“Return(ing) back” is, therefore, a redundancy. Nay, let us not fear to call it what it is: an abomination, and one that I have seen and heard too frequently of late.

There is a tide in the affairs of men.
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to silliness . . .
– Julius Caesar, Act 4, scene 3 (edited)

I hope that it is not already too late to stem this tide in the affairs of men: that we have not yet passed the point of no return-back. I hope, too, that we need never return back to the scene of this linguistic crime. I hope that if we collectively return back to our senses, we can return back as well to our former practices of speech and writing. I hope that we can return back any documents issued in egregious error (by return-back mail ideally), for prompt repair by those responsible for them. And in return-back? Our thanks. We would be correct, not ungracious.

In short, I hope that we can return back to the fold and, without being stymied by the law of diminishing return-backs, return back this practice to whomever its sender may be and in such a way that it does not return back to haunt us.

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12 Responses to Return Back to Sender

  1. Jim Taylor says:

    Oh, please, do a rant on “Her and me went to the mall…”
    Jim T

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Jim – LOL. I suspect you’re more than capable of doing your own rant, but I’ll watch for an opportunity. You wouldn’t think pronouns would be so tough. I guess we’re speaking in ways that the evolution of the language instinct (now extinct?) never planned for.

    • barbara carlson says:

      No, no — it’s “Me and her went…”

      “Me” always comes first.

      Hearing this makes me (metaphorically) grind my teeth!

      • Isabel Gibson says:

        Barbara – Ah, this violating two, two, two rules at once. Excellent. I remember learning about this rule: I was stunned, because I’d never heard of it. I’d just learned it in learning the language as a baby.

  2. My current pet peeve is not grammatical but an issue of pronunciation. Who began the trend of turning “s” into “sh,” whether at the beginning or middle of a word? A few weeks ago, I heard a prominent newscaster on a major network defend the sloppiness as “part of the progress of the evolution of language,” or words to that effect. I hear a recent First Lady and interviewers and interviewees speaking thus slushily. Are we as doomed to this diminution of pronunciation as the Castilian Spanish “th” that replaced “ci and ce” and “z” (according to legend because the King had a lisp)? Shertainly not!

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Laurna – Who began it? Opinions vary. 🙂 Bet you didn’t see that coming. I think this one is gone. But read more here: Shh!

      • Aha! Ahead of me, as usual. 🙂 The suspected origins are fascinating, too. I refuse, however, to believe this switch is “inevitable.” It feels too much like trying to speak with a mouthful of something that sprays the audience.

        • Isabel Gibson says:

          Laurna – Well, hardly ahead and hardly as usual. But we each get to dig in our heels on linguistic change where we choose. I’m still doggedly using “take” so I’m hardly one to advise acceptance-of-the-inevitable to anyone. 🙂

          • barbara carlson says:

            I am still using TAKE, too!! Never surrender!

            I cringe at verbal grammar nowadays: best I stay home…

          • Isabel Gibson says:

            Barbara – No fear. I’ll go to my grave using take, right after taking sick for the last time.

  3. Tom Watson says:

    Right back at ya!
    Does that work?

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