Wordists & Their Discontents

One of the earliest series of posts on this platform, wordsmithing was a way for us to say something about words we like, words we avoid, and important words almost lost to history. A fun, useful, if shortlived series. On August 12, 2011 we started the Bird of the Day series, where photos tell colorful stories with no words other than species name and photo location. Yesterday’s BOTD marks the 3,251st entry in that series, whereas the wordsmithing ended after the 26th entry. Parsimony of words combined with excellent photography wins the series longevity contest. But I find I still care enough about words to post on the topic. I cringed when I heard this news below, but was glad to read more about the decision to include a nonsensical word creation in the dictionary (I am 100% with the teacher who will still mark it as incorrect):

Regardless Of What You Think, ‘Irregardless’ Is A Word

Merriam-Webster raised the hackles of stodgy grammarians last week when it affirmed the lexical veracity of “irregardless.”

The word’s definition, when reading it, would seem to be: without without regard.

“Irregardless is included in our dictionary because it has been in widespread and near-constant use since 1795,” the dictionary’s staff wrote in a “Words of the Week” roundup on Friday. “We do not make the English language, we merely record it.”

Merriam-Webster defines irregardless as “nonstandard” but meaning the same as “regardless.” “Many people find irregardless to be a nonsensical word, as the ir– prefix usually functions to indicates negation; however, in this case it appears to function as an intensifier,” the dictionary writes.

“It’s not a real word. I don’t care what the dictionary says,” responds author Michelle Ray, who teaches English in Silver Spring, Md.

“You say ‘regardless.’ Regardless of the fact,” she tells NPR’s Morning Edition. “Irregardless means not regardless. And that’s not what you’re trying to say at all. So why, in what context, would irregardless make sense? I can’t understand it.”

The brouhaha regarding the word seems to have started last week when a popular Twitter user took umbrage at Merriam-Webster‘s listing, decrying the death of the English language.

But irregardless was first included in Merriam-Webster‘s Unabridged edition in 1934, a spokesperson tells NPR. Other dictionaries, including Webster’s New World College DictionaryThe American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language and the Cambridge Dictionary all recognize irregardless as a word.

It’s not new.

The Charleston City Gazette of Charleston, Ga., used it as early as 1795, according to Merriam-Webster: “But death, irregardless of tenderest ties, Resolv’d the good Betty, at length, to bereave.”…

Read the whole article here.

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