Much like the previously discussed case of ‘literally,’ many buzzwords are deployed to provide force of emphasis, exaggeration or intensification. People use these blunt instruments to sound more serious about their topic of conversation.
The urge can drive them to speak redundantly, as though thinly disguised repetition could make their point stronger. One common example is the phrase ‘in actual fact.’
Spoken far more frequently than it is written (at least on this side of the Atlantic Ocean), it’s a needlessly wordy way of saying ‘actually’ or ‘in fact,’ either of which would be fine on its own. Yet, it seems to slip past many nitpickers’ radar because it somehow sounds more scholarly than slangy.
On January 23, 2009, a Toronto District School Board (TDSB) trustee—of all people—was quoted in The Financial Post as saying, presumably with no sense of irony, “The motion is in actual fact kind of redundant.”
Just because “we can,” however, doesn’t mean “we should.”