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irregardless

July 17, 2020

I note that the Merrion-Webster Dictionary has included the word irregardless in its latest edition, defining it as a synonym for regardless. According to the Times of India, this has caused an international outcry, because the word irregardless is wrong, a double negative – the prefix -ir is doing the same job as the suffix -less, and if one takes a strictly logical view, the word ought to mean ‘not regardless’. Merrion-Webster has defended the word’s inclusion on the basis that its job is to record usage, not prescribe what’s correct, and millions of people use irregardless. The dictionary does make clear that it is a non-standard form. Its use was first recorded, apparently, in 1795.

Somewhat to my surprise I find I don’t have any strong feelings about this. Maybe that’s because one hardly ever hears it in British English. It’s an American form so I feel it’s none of my business. When I hear the word in my head it’s an American accent (I imagine Abby Lee of Dance Moms saying it) and it sounds rather quaint.

I can see how it came about: -ir is used as a negative prefix in quite a few other cases (irrelevant, irrespective, irreligious etc) and irregardless sounds like a natural member of that group. It has a more emphatic air than plain old regardless. And longer words are always more fun to say. But I don’t think I’ll start using it myself any time soon.

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One Comment
  1. Simon Carter permalink

    It does sound American – George Bush Jnr in my head but he’d probably deusify it’s employmentification following any complainticity.

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