(Ir)regardless of What They Hope to Hear* ...

I wonder if this is how IRS auditors feel

I don’t like to talk about my job at social gatherings. When I do, some people immediately assume I’m some kind of grammar nazi and that they have to watch every word they say around me. Others think I’m their kind of grammar nazi and start talking about how they support my crusade for good grammar.

I never said, mind you, that I crusade for good grammar. I never even said that advocate for good grammar. They just take the idea that I’m “into” grammar and figure I must be “into” lamenting how our language is going to hell in a handbasket.

Then they’ll start listing examples. And the first to come up is always “irregardless.” Their feeling is best summed up by American Dad character Steve Smith, who in a recent episode said, “Irregardless? That's not even a real word. You're affixing the negative prefix 'ir-' to 'regardless', but, as 'regardless' is already negative, it's a logical absurdity!"

And that’s when I have no choice but to alienate the only people at the party who thought they had reason to like me. According to Webster’s New World Dictionary, the American Heritage Dictionary, and Merriam-Webster’s, irregardless is a word. It means (drum roll, please) regardless.

That’s not to say that it’s a good word. All three dictionaries call it nonstandard. American Heritage even includes this usage note: “Coined in the United States in the early 20th century, it has met with a blizzard of condemnation for being an improper yoking of 'irrespective' and 'regardless' and for the logical absurdity of combining the negative ir- prefix and -less suffix in a single term. Although one might reasonably argue that it is no different from words with redundant affixes like debone and unravel, it has been considered a blunder for decades and will probably continue to be so.”

Still, that doesn’t mean it’s not a word. It does, however, mean I don't get many repeat dinner invitations.

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