Tautology Club bonds over one quirky interest
November 28, 2016
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The first of rule of Tautology Club is the first rule of Tautology Club. The second rule of Tautology Club is not the first rule.
Tautology Club, founded this semester by senior Aileen Zhang, celebrates this form of circular logic. In the context of language, tautology entails the unnecessary repetition of words or phrases. Examples of tautologies include “evening sunset,” “first priority,” or “necessary requirement,” and acronyms such as “HIV virus,” “PIN number,” or “ATM Machine.”
Although using tautology is widely discouraged by English teachers, Tautology Club embraces these unnecessary reiterations.
“If it sounds repetitively redundant, you’re on the right track,” Zhang said.
Zhang originally thought of Tautology Club during a physics class last year. At first, Zhang only mused on the idea, but she later became serious about starting the club after many students showed interest. Zhang was also inspired by a comic strip from XKCD, a webcomic that she calls a “nerd staple.”
Zhang found support for the club among her friends in physics class and on the quiz bowl team.
“I think we have potential to branch off from tautology and explore. Tautologies on their own are simple, and they serve as a vehicle to teach people more about other kinds of formal logic. It’s like a fun introduction,” senior Keshav Krishnan said.
The club aims to create a lighthearted and whimsical attitude around logic. Zhang hopes its members can escape academic pressures and find comic relief through tautology. The club also pokes fun at the St. John’s nerd stereotype.
“The club makes fun of the fact that St. John’s kids are bizarrely nerdy,” Zhang said. “I’m a sad nerd who spends way too much time on the internet. I want there to be a place for others like me.”
Another benefit of joining the club is the sweatshirts, which were designed by Zhang. The Tautology Club mantra, “It is what it is,” is printed in all caps on the back of each hoodie.
The first tautology writing contest was held in October, and the second one is currently open. Top prize is a pan of homemade brownies.
Club meetings include logic games such as WFF ‘n Proof (Well Formed Formula ‘n Proof) in which members compete to create the longest logically correct sentence using Polish notation.
The club is sponsored by physics teacher Daniel Friedman.
“It provides a safe space for students who want to expand their comprehension of circular reasoning in a risk-free environment,” Friedman said. “To my knowledge, there is no other club as completely judgement-free as Tautology Club. How could anyone argue with a well-written statement that is always true?”