Tuesday, February 12, 2008


Word: tautological

The context in which I most recently heard/saw it used
: NY Magazine's Year-End Approval Matrix placed in the low brow despicable quadrant “tautological reasoning in MIMS' 'This is Why I’m Hot'”.

Meaning in the aforementioned context: Needless repetition of the same sense in different words; redundancy.

Potential future use of the word: I used it in this post, pondering whether the phrase "discover something previously unnoticed" was tautological.

Other thoughts on the word: There is a fine line between tautology, repetition for the sake of emphasis, and bad similes. The difficulty in judging something as tautological is distinguishing repetition from needless repetition. Let us explore some specific examples.

Mims’ “This is Why I’m Hot”

I’m hot cause I’m fly
You ain’t cause you not
This is why
This is why
This is why I’m hot

I appreciate that NY Magazine highlights MIMS' poor reasoning, but I don’t think it’s tautological. On the contrary, it falls under some logical fallacy, like self-definition or something. To restate MIMS' reasoning:

I’m hot because I’m hot.
You’re not hot because you’re not hot.

It’s simply bad logic. There’s no support behind his claim of hotness and notness.

Ludacris' "Money Maker"

E thinks that this is tautological. There's a mash-up of the song circulating on the internet called "Money Making Money Maker That Makes Money." The title alone seems to affirm his belief. The lyric in question:

Shake your moneymaker
Like somebody 'bout to pay ya

I find nothing wrong with this lyric. One could argue that Ludacris has chosen a poor simile, but I think he’s simply instructing the listener to act as though they were a dancer for money and further defining the term "moneymaker".

There are more straightforward tautological Ludacris lyrics, such as...

Ludacris' "You's* a Ho"

There’s a lot of repetition in this song, but is it needless?

You doin' ho activities with ho tendencies...
Ho tendencies to do what you do…
Ho (HO!)
You's a ho (HO!)
You's a ho
I said that you's a ho (HO!)

Surely, Ludacris' claim of the subject's ho status would be better qualified with more adjectives or specific examples of ho-like action. But the repetition seems to be solely for the sake of emphasis ("I said that you's a ho").

This song does not warrant further analysis since I assume the artist does not intend to be taken seriously regarding the literary acumen of the lyrics.

Ying-Yang Twins' "Shake it Like a Salt Shaker"

I haven’t heard this song, but by the title, I will assume this song contains many poorly chosen similes.

*In the few times I've seen this contraction written, it is written "youse". I know slang is slang, but this looks disgusting to me, and I choose to stick with the contraction. I'm all for the evolution of language, but I don't understand the need to spell slang completely phonetically. "Youse" comes from the slang "you is", so the contraction "you's" is perfectly reasonable.


E said...


my examples of tautology are wrong. My primary error rests in trying to explain why I find that Luda $Maker song so repulsive through your current word fixation. In short, a failure on both accounts. It just stinks. Regarding Mr. Mimms. From a rhetorical application of tautology, he fits the Wittgenstein sense of the term by essentially equating A=A and -A=-A. I hold this to be in the spirit of any Philosophy 101 class discussion, a level of discourse that few blog postings should ever eclipse.

The_Writer said...

Huh. I like "Money Maker". Maybe I'm just grateful that Ferrel produced some beats in 2007. He needs to replace Timbaland as the #1 pop song producer, stat! I also really like the "took your mama nine months to make ya" lyric.