Weird discovery today: the word “overwhelmed” is redundant.

I mean first I was just looking up “whelmed” on writerly whim because I wasn’t 100% sure it was in the dictionary. Logically it should be, and yet I never hear someone saying how whelmed they are at work. Yet beyond confirming its existence, the dictionary provided the following definitons: to submerge; engulf…to roll or surge over something, as in becoming submerged.”

And most notable of all: “to overcome utterly; overwhelm”

In other words (heh), the notions behind “whelm” and “overwhelm” are entirely the same, except the one in common usage adds an unnecessary modifier of two extra syllables. It’s like the people who say “irregardless” except in this case both words are in the dictionary and no one ever bats an eye at all of us who all these years have been basically expressing how whelmily whelmed we are. We are overoverwhelmed. It would arguably be more grammatically correct to phrase an extreme state of whelmedness as “I am so damn whelmed, dude!”

But the general populace would no doubt give you funny looks about that, the way William Safire gets funny looks when he orders “two Whoppers Junior” at Burger King (I suspect William Safire does not really frequent Burger King for meals, though, no matter his claims to the contrary).

So anyhow, another example of how being grammar police in the English language sometimes feels like you’re a corrupt cop, or maybe at best an honest cop trying to make their way in a corrupt system. How do you get out there every day and stamp on that new crop of “your an idiot”s and “the truth is out their”s when you know you’re ultimately defending an institution that is arguably broken to begin with?

It’s enough to leave one whelmed.