Redundancy: long-term personal friend of mine

The publication I work for recently ran an interview with a certain individual who described his business partner as:

a long-term personal friend of mine

I love this phrase for being such a great example of redundancy in spoken language. After all, aren't friends usually personal? And can't the 'of mine' be inferred from the context? And why say 'long-term friend' when 'old friend' will do? In fact, you could replace the whole phrase with 'old friend' and be done with it.

Not that I did, of course.

PS Sorry there was no 'Friday roundup' last week but I was enjoying a long weekend at the seaside...


Jacqueline said...

I agree that there is a certain redundancy here.

Writing copy should be a pointedly simple and concise affair; however, when someone is speaking it's a very different matter.

That phrase sounds more conversational (in a way) to me and, though there's a lot of unnecessary words, it does express a mood and essence that 'old friend' really doesn't.

I think it was wise of you to leave it alone.

TootsNYC said...

I think what this points out is that the term "friend" has been cheapened.

We use it for people we work with (a friend at work), people we know casually.

My husband and my daughter are very picky about the word "friend." My husband plays war games w/ a bunch of guys every week; he does not call them "friends," not even when he needs a non-specific group noun. He'll "spend the extra breath" to say "the guys I game with."

My daughter was the only 8-year-old I've ever known who used the word "acquaintance." I'd say, "is that a friend from school?" and she'd say, "well, really an acquaintance; I like her, but we're not really friends."

Ellen Kozisek said...

Is it really that the term "friend" has been cheapened, or is variant usage of the word friend something that's pretty old? (That's a question for the OED I guess.)

Seems to me "personal friend" would distinguish from the sort of friend in the phrase "friend or foe?". Not that that's particularly necessary in this case.

TootsNYC said...

I thought about this issue all the way home!

(if you ever wonder whether anybody's paying any attention, JD, there's your answer. I spent 25 minutes on this last night)

EllenK, I think you're right, that "cheapened" isn't really the right term. That what's going on is that there are degrees of friendship, and we use the word "friend" sometimes for people who aren't necessarily our closest of friends.

The word covers a lot of ground, in few syllables.

so: things i thought about that I thought were also worth sharing:

I have an "old roomate" (BrE="old flatmate"); I don't live w/ her anymore, and my use of that phrase doesn't tell you how long we shared a home.

I have a "long-time roommate"; that's someone I probably still room with, and shared a home with for quite a while.

I have "old friends" that I don't necessarily see anymore; They haven't STOPPED being my friend (they're not "former friends"), but our friendship may actually have faded. Of course, we might still be quite close, but that's not an automatic assumption.

I have long-time friends, and these are people that I have been quite close to for a number of years and probably am still quite close to.

So, "old" isn't a good substitute for "long-time."

(of course, "old roommate" does equal "former roomate," but "old friend" does not equal "former friend.")

Anonymous said...

TootsNYC, I don't know if you meant to do this or not, but I noticed you used "long-time" where JD's speaker used "long-term." In fact, it was the use of "long-term" where I would have used "long-time" that I was going to ask about. I know there's a difference but I can't exactly put my finger on it ...

The Ridger, FCD said...

The "of mine" construction allows for the qualification to be made. "My old friend" is doubly ambiguous in that it could be my ONLY old friend whereas "an old friend of mine" says that he isn't. But it still leaves open the question of "is he still my friend".

Also, I'd say what was meant is "this is a person who I know well, personally not for business, and have known for a long time." "An old personal friend of mine" might have done the trick, but at the risk of allowing the implication that I haven't seen him in years.

TootsNYC said...

I hadn't thought of that, MRP--I think I just used "long-time" because it is more comfortable to me.

Is "long-term" more idiomatic in BrE?

(on a total side note, just because somewhere I want to say this to someone: my 10-year-old son very carefully pronounces all the syllables in the word 'comfortable.' "I'm not com-fort-a-bul," he says.)

JD (The Engine Room) said...

I would certainly use 'long-term' in more contexts than 'long-time' ('long-term relationship' and 'long-term investment' being the examples that spring to mind). I'm not sure that I would describe a friend as 'long-term' *or* 'long-time'. Just doesn't seem to collocate well.

So how would I express the concept? Perhaps through giving a context: 'she's a friend from uni' (as opposed to 'we were friends at uni'). A bit unwieldy?