Regardless of what you might think, ‘irregardless’ is a word
Recently, Merriam-Webster caused a stir of emotions in people who have an issue with the word “irregardless.”
Upon first look, the definition of it appears 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 employees wrote in a “Words of the Week” roundup last Friday. “We do not make the English language, we merely record it.”
The dictionary giant defines irregardless as “nonstandard” but at the same time it means 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,” they wrote.
“It’s not a real word. I don’t care what the dictionary says,” said author and English teacher Michelle Ray.
“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 heat surrounding the word appears to have started a week ago when a well-known Twitter user took issue with Merriam-Webster’s listing.
Yep. English is literally dead. https://t.co/hGVXeSNDV7
— Merriam-Webster (@MerriamWebster) July 1, 2020
However, the word was first introduced to the Merriam-Webster Unabridged edition in 1934, according to a spokesperson who talked about the matter with NPR.
Other dictionaries such as The American Heritage Dictionary, the Cambridge Dictionary, as well as Webster’s New World College Dictionary have all included irregardless in their pages.
And contrary to what many people may think, it is not a new word. The word was used in 1975 by The Charleston Gazette, as per Merriam-Webster:
“But death, irregardless of tenderest ties, Resolv’d the good Betty, at length, to bereave.”
And way back in 1895, The Baltimore Sun wrote that a man
“had endeavored to discharge his duty fearlessly in this case, irregardless of those who may consider this discourse discourteous to the ‘Plugs.’ “
Later on, The Baltimore Sun published the word again in John McIntyre’s commentary last Saturday
“‘Irregardless’ is too a word; you just don’t understand dictionaries.”
“People get upset about the dictionary because they think it is some sort of official document,” McIntyre told NPR. “And it’s not. It’s just lexicographers identifying words that people use and trying to find out, well, how are they spelled? How are they pronounced? What meanings do they have? Where did they come from?”
He says that the dictionary
“doesn’t enroll a word as correct in the English language”
“It just says this is a word that a lot of people use in English. And here’s what we know about it.”
“Irregardless” is definitely a word, but nevertheless people are being discouraged to use it in formal writing.
Back in 2016, NPR’s standards and practices editor told his employees to “just say ‘regardless.’“
According to The Ap Stylebook, the word is a double negative, while The American Heritage Dictionary says that a number of experts “has roundly disapproved of its use.”
Meanwhile, Ray is still planning to mark the word as incorrect in the work of her students.
With all that being said, there’s probably no point in sending hate mail to Merriam-Webster and others.
And McIntyre has a simple solution for the problem:
“You don’t like it? Don’t use it.”
Do you use the word ‘Irregardless’ in your own dictionary? Let us know by joining the conversation in the comments and please share this article if you’ve found it informative.