I had an intriguing encounter with a bank official on Friday. As part of the rites of a transaction I went for, she demanded my means of identification. Note: demanded, not demanded for.
I told her I had my passport with me. But she found my response odd, or she thought I did not hear her well. So, she corrected me, “I mean a means of identification like a driving licence, national ID card or international passport.”
That is the bone of contention – international passport. I told her again that all I had was my passport, as I was trying to be a bit mischievous. But because I did not want to waste her time and mine, I produced my passport – the same popular green document that she referred to as “international passport.”
“Yes. So, you have this, sir; and you still insisted on passport,” she exclaimed.
The fact is that, like many other people, the banker does not know that, in Standard English, there is nothing like international passport. I must have, one time or the other, pointed this out in this class. The name of that document required principally for international trips is simply a passport and neither an international nor a local passport. The reason is that the definition and scope of ‘passport’ already includes the idea of international. So, any attempt to add the adjective amounts to tautology.
Remember, tautology is the concept that captures the largely faulty style of saying the same thing twice over in different words. A lot of people exhibit this linguistic menace; hence, the need to regularly revisit the topic.
According to the Cambridge Dictionary, a passport is a document provided by the government of a country showing the owner is a citizen of the country. This thus allows the person to travel to foreign countries.
The dictionary further describes it as “an official document issued by a government, certifying the holder’s identity and citizenship and entitling them to travel under its protection to and from foreign countries.”
Based on these definitions, it is wrong to still call the document international passport; after all, you do not need a local transport to travel within your country.
Unfortunately, the wrong expression has penetrated our communication culture so much that many official documents, such as registration forms, expressly ask for information about one’s international passport.
Perhaps the reason for this is the prestige often attached to the document since it more or less makes one an international citizen. So, it must be an international or a global passport! Well, the most important point is that when next you want to refer to it, just call it passport for that is its correct and universally accepted tag.
Don’t ‘resume back’!
As some experts have noted, it is the tautology syndrome that is also at work in words or phrases such as over-exaggerates., reverse back, return back, close proximity, predict the future, necessary requirement, autobiography of a person’s life, completely devoid of, repeat again, added bonus etc.
When you exaggerate something, you overstate it. So, you cannot practically overstate an overstatement, since it is only Fela Anikulapo-Kuti that could insist that ‘overtake don overtake overtake…’ When you reverse a car, you move it backwards. So, why do some people – especially policemen – insist on reverse back again? Can one reverse front? The same thing applies to return. You either come back or return – neither return back nor resume back.
Similarly, proximity already depicts closeness; prediction is about the future, while requirement implies things necessary for a particular process.
Back to international passport, the question that may arise is how to reconcile it with the mini photos we use for other purposes, like the ones on our various ID cards. There is no complication at all. The small photo that appears on a passport is called a passport photo. But because it is the same or similar size that we use for the other purposes, the ones on our ID cards and other related documents are also called passport photos or photographs.
Written by Akeem Lasisi
Culled from Punch