The tweets started flying this morning that last week’s fire on The Block* was, sources tell The Sun, “deliberately set.”
I doubt that eliminating the adverb would lead any reader to think that the fire was accidentally or unintentionally set. In the Oxford English Dictionary, which devotes more than twenty pages (!) to this most versatile of English words, many if not most of the senses of the verb involve putting, placing, or causing—deliberate action. You set your heart on something; you set some money aside; you set someone up to take the fall.
To set a fire is to kindle or ignite one, and that could be the result of an accident—Timmy set the house on fire while playing with matches, but Lassie started barking. But anyone told that the fire on The Block was set is going to assume arson immediately. So while deliberately set is not necessarily redundant, it is more than is necessary.
*The Block, non-Baltimoreans, is a seedy collection of strip clubs downtown where once, in its glory days, Blaze Starr shimmied at the 2 O’Clock Club.
While we’re talking about verbs today, I should mention that there is a common blurring of shimmy, to produce that alluring, swaying vibration so much prized before the craft was taken over by pole dancers, and shinny, to climb rapidly up or down, gripping with the arms and legs. It is a useful distinction to maintain.