Sir Ernest Gowers, who edited the 1965 second edition of Fowler’s Modern English Usage, has referred to these pairs, joined by the conjunctions “and” or “or,” as Siamese twins (other sources call them binomials - the German term is Zwillingsformel or Paarformel).
The pairs can be made up of nouns (“fish and chips”; most binomials are like this), adjectives (“quick and dirty”), verbs (“win or lose”). Some pairs consist of synonyms (“cease and desist”) while others consist of antonyms (“back and forth”).
"In rhetorical works, synonymous binomials can be classified as tautologies: something is expressed by two or more synonymous words with the purpose of intensification or emphasis".
Gowers writes that the abundance of synonymous pairs in English “is perhaps partly attributable to legal language, where the multiplication of near-synonyms is a normal precaution against too narrow an interpretation.” (The same can be said for all these binomials in the Grimm corpus of fairytales, with that "und" followed by a synonym or hyponym/meronym?)
He adds that the wording in the Book of Common Prayer, “seldom content with one word if two can be used, may also have had something to do with it.” (The same can be said for all these binomials in the Grimm corpus of fairytales, with that "und" followed by a synonym or hyponym/meronym?)
In fact, this phenomenon of synonymous binomials (I will use the umbrella to cover hyponymous and meronymous binomials as well) also occurs heavily in Slavic languages -also due to biblical (Hebrew and Greek) and legalese influence?-
According to some Grimm scholars: 3. Die elementare Symmetrie der Märchen zeigt sich
beim Aufbau namentlich in der Wiederholung gewisser Züge und dem Spiel mit Zahlbegriffen, bei der Durchführung im einzelnen besonders in der Vorliebe für Allitterationen, Zwillingsformeln und synonyme Gedanken Verbindungen.
Gowers recommends breaking up or rephrasing pairs of synonyms that are merely redundant.
I support Gowers. Maybe I should play a round of that drinking game using the Grimm corpus, or the Bible. I find these synonymous binomials redundant and meant for either breaking up or rephrasing. However, countless are the translators who pour synonymous binomials word for word into the target language, creating a repetitive effect of redundancy.
It is true that every writer is a world, and that even literary works of the same author may differ, a word (or a polylexematic expression, such as a synonymous binomial) may appear twice or thrice in one text, be a hapax in another, and completely non-existant in the third. A hapax is a term which only occurs once in a text.
Hamlet, for instance, has the most hapaxes out of any Shakespearean play, with King Lear in second place and Othello at the third. Making a word cloud of any text is easy to see the frequencies of the words appearing and thus, spotting hapaxes. In my Othello libretto (Miss Dermark's Verdian Othello), "now," "Othello," "Iago," and "right" are the most frequent. In The Two Made One, "right" is likewise the most common word, with "like" at second place, and "yet" at the third. In my Gustavus Adolphus chair drama, "will," "now," "Swedes," "one," and "Gustavus" take the most prominence.
Hapaxes in Gustavus Adolphus include "flintlock," "midriff," and "Leviathan," as well as "darling" and "freethinker." Hapaxes in The Two Made One include "lieutenant," "banshee," "exhaustion," and "peridot." In Miss Dermark's Verdian Othello, "brocade," "Giallarhorn," "conflagration," "misadventure," and "crucify" are but a few in a long list of meaningful words that occur only once throughout the libretto.