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Efficiency in language

Humans exhibit a wide range of efficiency in their everyday behavior. For example, we have inefficiency in Mohawk-style haircuts and high heels. And, on the other hand, we have efficiency in selecting the shortest supermarket checkout line.

Language exhibits a similar range. For example, we have inefficiency in idioms such as ''in and of itself'', used instead of alternatives such as ''in itself'' or ''of itself'', which seem precise enough for casual use. And, on the other hand, we have efficiency in saying ''Um gonna store.'' instead of ''I am going to the store.'' (few people enunciate all the syllables).

A few minutes' thought on my part yields no easy explanation for this.

Does linguistics hazard theories explain why people sometimes embrace inefficiency and sometimes efficiency? Or is this too complex and subjective for scientific approach?

This question might raise flags by seeming too vague. Please, however, note that it is, after all, a yes/no question, and is, in a sense, not vague at all.

Herbert Ward

(Transferred from old LINGUIST List Ask-a-Linguist site)