Is the phrase "too premature" redundant?

Anthony Fauci is quoted as directly using this phrase, and it struck me as repetitively redundant. What’s your grammatical understanding out there?

It depends on the context. Something might be necessarily premature just like something might be necessarily redundant. Although necessary, something can still be excessive.

Repetitively Redundant is also repetitively redundant. I guess I’d have to see the quote and context to know.

“I think it’s too premature to be talking about a fourth dose [of the vaccine].” - Dr. Fauci

Yeah, context is important, isn’t it? I guess I didn’t think there was any such thing as “properly” premature; the word itself implies to me something necessarily undesirable.

Sometimes oral utterances go wrong because we edit them mid-sentence.

Fauci might have started to say “I think it’s too early” and then decided “early” didn’t properly convey what he wanted to express, and substituted “premature.” The result might be a sentence he would never write (for a report or speech to be given or anything else), but happened to say, this time.

Or perhaps he uses that phrase frequently. That would make it more of a ‘poor usage’ issue.

The question might be re-phrased as: Is “premature” a comparable adjective? That is, can it be modified as “more premature” or “most primature” or “less premature”? That is, can prematurity exist to various degrees? Or is prematurity a purely binary attribute, that something either is or isn’t, with no degrees in between?

Suppose two babies are born prematurely. One can be more premature than the other. The more premature one might not be viable, and may not survive long. The less premature one might live. Thus, we can say that the earlier premature baby was “too premature” and the later one was not.

And where something is conditioned on the degree of prematurity, it obviously makes sense.

The baby is too premature to be viable.

The vaccine approval was too premature for Fauci to expect to keep his job.

But I doubt Fauci was using it in a construction like this. More likely it was just an intensifier - as others have said, arguably a minor stylistic faux pas.

[ninjaed by @Senegoid on the premature baby example ]

It makes sense to me. Any speculation is going to be premature to some degree, as we will not yet have all the data we need. But it can be too premature to even being the speculation. We can have insufficient data to even form a hypothesis.

I’m not saying that Fauci meant it that way, but the concept makes sense to me, even in this context.

For example:

Public opinion is not constrained to the presumption of innocence of due process, but it’s too premature even to speculate on his guilt.

Only with extreme pedantry could you insist that the “too” is logically superfluous there. The sentence works with or without, in my opinion “too premature” is stylistically preferable.

[pedant mode]That’s not a grammatical question, but an usage question.[/pedant mode]

There is almost never one answer to a usage question. One always has to consider whether the usage is written or spoken, spontaneous or rehearsed, formal, colloquial, or street, or a dozen other variations.

“Too premature” may be considered faulty in written, formal language. This doesn’t seem to be either. As said above, “too” appears to be used as an intensifier and those are commonly redundant or contradictory, as in “very unique.” Pedants scoff and everybody else in the world ignores them.

Yes. It is.

I would say something can be acceptably premature or premature to an excessive degree, so ‘too premature’ is not redundant.

There’s merely premature and there’s prematurely premature.

What’s wrong with being redundant? English is filled with redundancies, and it’s an important part in making the language intelligible.

Somebody in the 19th century said once that redundancy was evil and pedants hold on to that as if it were a Button Gwinnett autograph.

Agreed. Properly employed, pleonasm is an effective rhetorical tool.

It makes no sense to say it is redundant. Not unless you think “too” has the same meaning as “premature” or that “premature” is incapable of being nuanced.
Clearly neither are true.
Is the phrase “too young” a problem? If “too premature” is wrong so is “too young”. Which is just plain silly.

Try these:

This proposal is…
… slightly premature
… premature
… too premature
… much too premature

(and, with a nod to Mark Twain):
… very premature
… damn premature
(which the editor changes to) … premature

(“eschew surplusage”)
… very much too premature

I think the problem here is that there is often an unstated clause.
“This person is too young to go on this carnival ride.
“This proposal is too premature to be acted upon now.”

Oddly enough, once stated in this way, dropping the “too” makes the sentences awkward.

In obstetrics/neonatology, “premature” and “too premature” can have very different meanings. Your basic “premature” term means delivered developmentally early, which also means get them to the NICU. While “too premature” often means “not developed enough yet to live”.

I don’t see ANY redundancy in the phrase “too premature” the definitions are:
too: to an excessive extent or degree; beyond what is desirable, fitting, or right.
premature: occurring, coming, or done too soon.

An occurrence may be premature but NOT too premature.