Friday, August 10, 2012


To close out the workweek, I've chosen the bane of my (and any teacher's) existence...words that aren't words. There are more of these to come, but I'm starting with a big one.

Let's think about irregardless for a moment. What do you think it means? Most people who use it say something like, "Irregardless of the weather, we are still going to the movie tonight." That would make it seem as if you're going to the movie no matter what the weather is. Without regard to the weather, right? Well, that's what regardless means: without regard. So if you think about ir- as a prefix that means "not," then irregardless would have to mean "not without regard." After canceling out the double negative there, irregardless truly means with regard! And I don't think anyone who uses it means it that way.'s quite understandable why people have adopted irregardless the way they have. There are plenty of similar words that start with R and have the same prefix - irregular (without regularity), irrational (without ration/reason), etc.  The difference is, of course, is that regard already has a suffix (-less) that means without, so it doesn't also need a prefix meaning the same thing. We don't say irregularless, do we, when referring to something that isn't regular?

To wrap up, despite the peculiarity of this word and its sometimes frustrating omnipresence, it signifies a key part of our language. English is a fluid, evolving and living thing, constantly changing to reflect the people who use it and the world we all live in. And you have to appreciate that!

This is David Wartik, wishing you a great weekend. Word up!

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