obviate (v): to anticipate and prevent (as a situation) or make unnecessary (as an action)

In June, former Time Inc. editor in chief Norman Pearlstine told CNN

[B]y turning over this information, we obviate the need for Matt to even testify.

In reporting the interview, the Washington Post wrote,

Pearlstine said he believes the documents will "obviate the need" for any testimony from Cooper.

But if "obviate" means to "make unnecessary," isn't saying "obviate the need" redundant?

I realize that most people are unfamiliar with "obviate," so pairing it with "need" clarifies its meaning. Yet given the choice between being succinct at the risk of being misunderstood, and being redundant to be understood, I prefer the former.

Therefore, I would have said that the documents obviated testimony.

Postscript (1/20/06): I posed this question to Jennifer N. Cislo, an associate editor at Merriam-Webster. Her response, in part: “obviate the need for” is "idiomatic and in common use."

Postscript (2/2/06): Another example, from Chuck Schumer, as quoted in today's NYT:

If the president were to voluntarily institute the review and delay the contract, that would obviate the need for our legislation, but a simple cooling off period will not allay our concerns.

At least he gets the subjunctive right and says "were" instead of "was."

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