Work of Art — A cheeseburger con queso

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By Art Trujillo

I don’t know whether my childhood friend remembers any of this, but for what it’s worth, this lesson is on redundancy.

Tony Lucero, about whom I’ve written before, was a fine baseball player. He made his way up from high school player to the Las Vegas Merchants, a local team composed mostly of out-of-high-school athletes like Nick DiDomenico, John Burns, Loyd Anderson, Chris and Adam Trujillo, Tony Serna, Casey Martinez, Ken Ludi and others (Sorry! I don’t have a ‘50s roster with me, and the risk of offending someone by an egregious omission often negates the good will one intends by mentioning others). I trust some reader will soon send me a complete roster.

And, in my circumlocutious way, I’ve given the impression that the column will be about baseball. No, it’s about redundancy. Here goes:

Back in the ‘50s, I joined the Merchants on a trip to Española for a baseball game. I went as the scorekeeper. After the game, the team manager treated us to hamburgers at a local restaurant.

One of the players wanted cheese on his sandwich, and accordingly, ordered a cheeseburger, and as he walked away from the counter, he yelled, “Con queso,” in a way that made sure the order was clear.

That brought down the house. The orderer, totally unaware of the reason for our laughter, asked nobody in particular, “What’s wrong with ordering a cheeseburger with queso.” At that point, the waiter, who’d ignored our silliness, embarrassed the young man even more by adding, “Oh, I understand; you want a cheeseburger with cheese.”

Finally the young man snapped. Tony, the first to catch his teammate’s faux pas, never let him forget his redundancy.

All in good fun. The redundanteer even mentioned it to me when I saw him at a class reunion a few years back.

Well, redundancies are often more subtle than that. In the Optic newsroom, we often ponder the deeper mysteries of the AP Stylebook, our Bible, and we agree that certain expressions are redundant, in the sense that they repeat the message, as did the baseball player who wanted cheese on his cheeseburger, but he didn’t snap until it occurred to him he’d employed two languages in making his order.

What about the term “Ten-year anniversary?” A writer in the New York Times calls that a redundancy in that the word “anniversary” already includes the elements of a year. The Latin “anno” indicates year, so aren’t we being redundant in referring to a ten-year-year event?

And what can we say about a “first annual” anything? Let’s say I took my wife out to eat at the Sonic, and the food was so good that I professed to do so every year, perhaps on our 48th-year anniversary (did you catch the built-in redundancy?).

The occasion being so momentous, we obviously want to do it over and over again (did you catch that one too?). But the AP Stylebook says, “An event cannot be described as annual until it has been held in at least two successive years.” So we need to wait a whole year before any kind of anniversary.

In Las Vegas, we have a number of events that take place around the same time each year: The Stu Clark Invitational Tournament, The People’s Faire, Heritage Week, the Kiss-a-Pig competition, and the Over-the-Edge performances.

The “annual” identification is justified, for these long-running events, but we can’t call anything annual in its first go-round, no matter how desperately people might want a reprisal.

But wait: There’s more. Some users of the language appear to totally disregard the notion that “annual” encompasses a 12-month period. An article in the Atlanta Constitution even referred to a woman who observed the “third month anniversary of her husband’s death.”

Can we get away with that? The Latin root for month is “mensis.” Maybe we should make “mensiversary” a word and in time let it morph into “monthiversary.”

Meanwhile, what do you think? Are the following terms redundant? Added bonus, planning ahead, basic fundamentals, filled to capacity, Dallas Cowboy ineptness, consensus of opinion, end result, ways and means, free gift, unexpected surprise, actual fact, Raiders’ greatness.

• • •

A recent column on opposition to the 1963 Interstate bypass drew some reaction. The column referred to a host of Grand Avenue business owners who feared a bypass would cause Las Vegas to dry up.

A couple of readers mentioned that I’d left out some of the businesses on that street, such as the Dogpatch Drive-In and Mr. Burger. It’s correct that their names — and a slew of others — weren’t mentioned, but the column tried to list only those businesses that chipped in to pay for being listed in the full-page ad, in 1963.

How many of those businesses listed 50 years ago still remain?

• • •

Last week’s column on the differences between how the British and the Americans express themselves drew a same-day response from a reader, Lori Hartse, who correctly noted I’d given authorship credit to the wrong person.

In the Victorian age, many sisters wrote books. The novel I think is so great, “Wuthering Heights,” was penned by Emily Bronte, not her sister Charlotte. I forgot to mention that my second favorite book, “Jane Eyre,” was written by Charlotte.
It’s great to learn we have such perceptive readers, who try hard to keep columnists honest, and for that I thank Lori Hartse.

• • •

There are two subtle redundancy planted late in the text. Can you find them? (And you needn’t add that the entire column is a redundancy.)

Art Trujillo is a copy editor at the Optic and a contributing member of the newspaper’s Editorial Board. He may be reached by calling 425-6796 or by e-mail to artbt@rezio.net or atrujillo@lasvegasoptic.com.