There are some words in the English language that we hear a lot, and, in the days of 140 characters and texting shortcuts, are becoming a part of our collective vernacular, that aren’t exactly words. Well, some are, but those that are are so frequently and grossly misused on a regular basis that their misuse is becoming an accepted application.
Take for instance the word ‘irregardless’. This, I will assert, is not a word. But the debate is a lively one as to whether I, and millions of other people are right. From the comments section of the word’s own definition on Merriam-Webster.com to an entire radio show about it. In her most recent edition of “That’s What They Say”, University of Michigan English Professor Ann Curzan argues to the other side of the debate, saying that if it’s in the dictionary, and people use it, and know what it means… then it’s a word.
Tell us what you think. Is irregardless a word? Would you use it in conversation without fear of being judged?
Here’s the transcription of the show. (Listen to it here for a more in depth version).
By MICHIGAN RADIO NEWSROOM, SAT OCTOBER 13, 2012
Though it may be underlined in red immediately after I type it, “irregardless” is indeed a word.
Anne Curzan, a professor of English at the University of Michigan, confirms its legitimacy ; but its usage, she warns, only invites contempt.
“A year ago I was talking with someone, and I said, ‘You know, people use it, it’s in most dictionaries.’ And you could see that his respect for me and my scholarly perspective was shaken,” says Curzan.
The word comes from a blend of “irrespective and regardless.”
“Most people seem to use irregardless synonymously with regardless,” says Curzan.
While redundant, it is joined by a swarm of other words and phrases of its kind.
“Language is redundant. You hear us use the same word twice in phrases like ‘free gift,’” says Curzan. “A verb that is sneaking in is ‘de-thaw.’”
Irregardless of its redundancy and mixed reputation, irregardless continues to thrive in our language.
“Linguists would say that if it’s a word and we know what it means, it’s a word, and you’ll find it in most dictionaries,” says Curzan.
- Cameron Stewart, Michigan Radio Newsroom
That’s What They Say is a new weekly segment on Michigan Radio that explores our changing language.
University of Michigan English Professor Anne Curzan studies linguistics and the history of the English language. Each week she’ll discuss why we say what we say with Michigan Radio Weekend Edition host Rina Miller.
“That’s What The Say” airs Sundays at 9:35 a.m. on Michigan Radio and you can podcast it here.