Sunday, November 13, 2005

It's "regardless" not "irregardless"

Twice on my favorite news programs (Countdown and Hardball), I've heard someone use the word "irregardless." Most people know that "irregardless" is one of those words that experienced writers shun like a leper. Its reputation is regarded even more loathingly than many "four-letter words."

  • Last week, Wednesday (11.09.05) or Thursday (11.10.05) I believe, Chris Matthews used "irregardless" on Hardball during a bumper (scroll down to "bumper") into a commercial while promoting an upcoming segment of the show.
  • This past Friday (11.11.05) on Countdown, reporter Roger O'Neill used "irregardless" on a piece about language, indicating that it isn't a word and you can't find it in a dictionary. He made a big deal about it not being found in a dictionary.
Before I chided Chris Matthews on his use of the word, I thought I should make certain that it is indeed not a word. Boy, was I surprised! It not only is a word, although "nonstandard," it appears in several online dictionaries, such as the Merriam-Webster. In fact, to see how many online dictionaries list it as a word (regardless of whether they approve of its use), do a search at OneLook, which is a place to run a search to get results from multiple (although not exhaustive) sources.

"Irregardless" is one of those words that everyday Americans pull out of the subconscious like a magician pulls a coin out of an ear. Another example is the frequent misuse of the word "fortuitous." Both have been so frequently used, people don't give them any thought. That's probably why they are in the dictionary -- because they're used often, even if they're improper.

I decided to share with the Countdown and Hardball folks and you what I had discovered. A little fact-checking will do wonders to strengthen a claim (or avoid an error), especially with word zealots on-guard.


Blogger Carmi said...

Even if a word can be found in a dictionary, I'm still not convinced that it belongs in everyday speech. Irregardless annoys me to no end, even if Merriam-Webster deems it worthy of inclusion.

Beyond the discussion of this one word - which I immensely enjoyed reading, by the way - lies the overarching truth that language is a liquid entity, shifting in all sorts of unpredictable directions dictated by the evolution of society and its mores.

Great topic treatment.

12:20 AM, November 17, 2005  
Blogger wordsworth said...

Good observations. I harbor a short list of words that annoy me: "irregardless," "impact" used as a verb, and "importantly" used as an introductory clause, to mention just a few. The problem with our language is that people misuse words and misuse certain words so often the misuse becomes part of the vernacular. Impact as a verb is a prime example. It sends shivers up my spine every time I hear it.

9:59 AM, November 17, 2005  

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