Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Disirregardless of what anyone thinks...

Another fury, or flurry, ensues. Who knew one word was such a sore spot? Irregardless, "irregardless" is, indeed, a word. To be found in dictionaries and all. Evidently it is also a source of not infrequent debate, in the real and the e-world.

Last October, Tim Moynihan, who blogs on the Crave blog on CNET (CNET of all places - not exactly your "go-to" site for in-depth debates on language, but there you go - clearly this is a matter that crosses all boundaries, joining nerds and geeks of all stripes), got some feedback from his readers for using the word. He had some pithy words to say in response in defense of the word, let me tell you, including:

It's the only word where attaching the "ir-" prefix to the root word has the exact same meaning as the root word: Throwing an "ir-" in front of normal, less bad-ass words that begin with "R" changes the meaning to the opposite of the word. Irrefutable. Irreverent. Irrelevant. Irresponsible. Not "irregardless." It doesn't care what the rules of grammar are. It means exactly the same thing as "regardless," and that's the way it likes it.

He goes on, in depth, to discuss the following (very fine) points - which I urge you to read in full (he's funny, really, he is):

  1. Against all odds, against all logic, and (ir)regardless of everyone hating it, it has achieved official word status
  2. Even though it's a word, Merriam-Webster says you shouldn't use it
  3. It simultaneously makes sense and doesn't make sense
  4. It practices what it preaches
  5. If you think about it long enough, it will blow your mind

I wish I could say any of that better myself, but having stumbled on Tim's magnificent defense, I am left somewhat at a loss for words. What can I add to a diatribe that includes the sentence "It is a text-based Chuck Norris, roundhouse-kicking everything else in the dictionary into submission." Nothing. He's said it all.

I can, however, provide some "authorities" on the topic.


Irregardless is a word that many people mistakenly believe to be correct usage in formal style, when in fact it is used chiefly in nonstandard speech or casual writing. The word was coined in the United States in the early 20th century, probably from a blend of irrespective and regardless. Perhaps this is why some critics insist that there is “no such word” as irregardless, a charge they would not think of leveling at a nonstandard word with a longer history, such as ain’t. Since people use irregardless, it is undoubtedly a word. But it has never been accepted in Standard English and is usually changed by editors to regardless before getting into print.


nonstandard : regardless
usage Irregardless originated in dialectal American speech in the early 20th century. Its fairly widespread use in speech called it to the attention of usage commentators as early as 1927. The most frequently repeated remark about it is that there is no such word. There is such a word, however. It is still used primarily in speech, although it can be found from time to time in edited prose. Its reputation has not risen over the years, and it is still a long way from general acceptance. Use regardless instead.

Did you know this? The verb "cleave" is the only English word with two synonyms which are antonyms of each other: adhere and separate. Huh.

No comments: