way, shape, or form

by Paul Niquette
Copyright ©2001 Resource Books All rights reserved.

  • way a course from one place to another
  • shape outline or contour of a thing
  • form contour or structure of a thing
...usually preceded by "in any," as an emphatic idiom in place of "in any way at all."

The attorney who writes the script for safety briefings must think airline passengers are hopelessly incompetent ("Insert the metal piece into the buckle and pull on the free end of the strap..."  Hmm, so that's how this thing works).  The insult does not stop there.  We are routinely reminded that "Tampering with, disabling, or destroying a smoke detector in the lavatory is prohibited by law."

Now, I ask you, is it possible to destroy a smoke detector and not at the same time disable it?  Or having disabled it, why would you then want to destroy the thing?  Finally, can you do either without a little tampering?  So "tampering" is all that needs to be prohibited by law.

Redundancy is the hobgoblin of legalistic minds.
         -- 101 Words I Don't Use by Paul Niquette
Consider a commonly heard protest of innocence: "I was not involved in any way, shape or form."  Whoever first coined the phrase -- surely not an attorney -- must have neglected to notice that neither "shape" nor "form" have much to do with "way" and therefore probably nothing at all to do with the involvement being denied.  Where's the redundancy?  The addition of "shape" and "form" actually dilutes the meaning of "way."  For more legalistic impact, the synonyms "manner" and "fashion" might have been selected instead: "I was not involved in any way, manner, or fashion."

But why stop there?  Make your attorney really happy by saying, "I was not involved in any way, manner, fashion, style, method, procedure, or aspect."

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