Embers and Pleonasms

glowing embers
Embers don’t always glow, but they are always hot.

Someone on NPR reporting a fire said something about “the still-hot embers.”

A Google search brings up about 5,000 uses of the phrase “still-hot embers.”

The phrase is a pleonasm. Embers can’t be anything but hot.


ember noun: a small piece of live coal or wood in a half-extinguished fire.


i. the use of more words in a sentence than are necessary to express the meaning;

ii. redundancy of expression—either as a fault of style, or as a figure purposely used for special force or clarity;

iii. an instance of this, or the superfluous word or phrase itself.


Pleonastic idioms sprinkle conversation and advertising:

free gift
PIN number [Personal Identification Number number]
ATM machine [Automated Teller Machine machine]
unexpected surprise
regular routine

Comedians deliberately use pleonasms for humorous effect: “deja vu all over again.”

Careless writers and newscasters make an effort to avoid such jarring pleonasms as:

armed gunman
end result
red-colored areas on the map
advance planning
true fact
burning fire
cash money
two twins
small speck

And, of course, “still-hot embers.”