World O’ Words: Welcome to the dictionary, ‘Irregardless!’

World O’ Words: Welcome to the dictionary, ‘Irregardless!’

Language hawks are all a-chatter these days with the news that “irregardless” has been added to the dictionary.

Language hawks are all a-chatter these days with the news that “irregardless” has been added to the dictionary.

“Irregardless” is the most well-known example of a word used wrongly. As an error, it’s a mash-up of two words — a portmanteau word — of “regardless (meaning “in spite of”) and “irrespective” (meaning “regardless of”). Here, I make a bold, unsupported statement that one in 10 English speakers says it in conversation. As an error, its first recognized appearance in the English language was in 1795, and it has been driving the language hawks crazy every since.

I’m not one of these, by the way. I’m renowned for stuttering out wrong words, making my sentences meaningless. Sometimes I do it deliberately.

And the meanings of words evolve over time. In the Elizabethan period, for example, “entertain” meant to employ or pay; a “practice” was a scheme or deception; “discover” meant to reveal or expose. “Advertisement,” in the 16th century, meant the giving out of information, or a warning.

Evolution of words, for sure, is different than acceptance of a word, however wrong it is, because of widespread usage.

That’s not to say the inclusion of “irregardless” in the Merriam Webster dictionary means it’s suddenly correct usage. It just means lexicographers have thrown up their hands, as if to say “fine, use ‘irregardless’ if you wish. In fact, use whatever words you want.”

The dictionary qualifies its definition of “irregardless” as “non-standard,” that is to say, “not conforming in pronunciation, grammatical construction, idiom, or word choice to the usage generally characteristic of educated native speakers of a language.”

Merriam Webster itself offers this response to all the to-do, in an FAQ:

“Is ‘irregardless’ a word? Yes. It may not be a word that you like, or a word that you would use in a term paper, but irregardless certainly is a word. It has been in use for well over 200 years, employed by a large number of people across a wide geographic range and with a consistent meaning. That is why we, and well-nigh every other dictionary of modern English, define this word. Remember that a definition is not an endorsement of a word’s use.”

Fair enough, I say. The dictionary goes on to add that “irregardless” means the same thing as “regardless,” and the prefix “ir—”, which usually indicates negation, and would by being added to “regardless” would make it a double negative — very bad! very bad! — but the prefix in this case functions as an “intensifier,” whatever that means.

The dictionary also adds that, regardless of “irregardess’s” inclusion in the dictionary, it would be better to use “regardless” instead.

Speaking of words that begin with “ir —,” or even “irr—,” there is a beautiful word that I had occasion to use the other day — “irruption.”

I wanted to use “irruption” in a headline in last week’s Advertiser, in regard to the sudden appearance of stone ladybugs, placed around town and around the region by the owners of Ladybug Coffee at the Kootenay Bay ferry.

“Irruption,” in ecological terms, means a sudden sharp increase in the relative numbers of a natural population usually associated with favorable alteration of the environment. We see this word used a lot with regard to bird or insect populations.* You can say that there has been an irruption of bird photos in our Urban Wildlife pages in the Kootenay Advertiser. There’s certainly been a irruption of stone ladybugs in the Kootenays (read full story here)

But I did not use that word in a headline. Back when I was learning the newspaper business, when we were cranking out pages on Gutenberg presses and when only one per cent of the population was literate, we were firmly told never to use words of more than one syllable in headlines, and headlines could only be one column wide. Things have changed a lot since those days, with the advent of the internet and all. Irregardless of this, old habits die hard.

* “Irruption can also mean a sudden, violent invasion, like Hitler’s attack on Poland, or a sudden forceful entry, like the FBI’s arrest of Ghislaine Maxwell the other day. Irregardless of these definitions, to me, an irruption will always be a beautiful, sudden, dramatic increase in the numbers of birds.

• Sources: Merriam-Webster Dictionary (merriam-webster.com); “Her Majesty’s Spymaster,” by Stephen Budiansky.

Just Posted

The latest EKASS survey confirms a steady decline in substance use among EK youth over the years. (image compilation via Pixabay)
Latest survey shows steady decline in adolescent substance use over the years

Starting in 2002, the survey has been conducted every two years to monitor changes in substance use patterns, attitudes and behaviors amongst East Kootenay youth.

The Aquatic Centre at Western Financial Place.
Cranbrook Aquatic Center to close temporarily

The annual shutdown of the Aquatic Center at Western Financial Place will begin earlier than scheduled this year and does not have a defined end date at this time.

Residents line up outside the Vernon Recreation Complex for their COVID-19 vaccine Saturday, June 5. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
No appointments necessary for first dose COVID-19 vaccine: Interior Health

People can just show up at clinics, register on the spot and get the shot

Ryan McKenzie of the Kimberley Trails Society made an in-depth presentation to City Council describing the initial steps of the Electrify the Mountains eBike trails project. This is a look at the project one map.
Kimberley City Council hears details on Electrify the Mountain project

At the meeting of City Council on Tuesday, June 8 Ryan McKenzie… Continue reading

The Kimberley Public Library invites kids of all ages to join the 2021 BC Summer Reading Club. Kimberley Public Library file
Kimberley kids invited to join summer reading club at Public Library

The Kimberley Public Library invites kids of all ages to join the… Continue reading

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

Premier John Horgan speaks as provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, right, and health minister Adrian Dix look on during a press conference to update on the province’s fall pandemic preparedness plan during a press conference from the press theatre at Legislature in Victoria, Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. officials to provide details on Step 2 of COVID reopening plan Monday

Step 2 could allow for larger gatherings and a resumption of recreational travel

Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller is seen during a news conference, Wednesday May 19, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Indigenous child-welfare battle heads to court despite calls for Ottawa to drop cases

Feds are poised to argue against two Canadian Human Rights Tribunal rulings

The Great Ogopogo Bathtub Race has been held in Summerland as a fundraising event. Do you know which Canadian city introduced this sport? (Black Press file photo)
QUIZ: A summer’s day at the water

How much do you know about boats, lakes and water?

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod laughs while playing with Lucky the puppy outside their Chilliwack home on Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: B.C. family finds ‘perfect’ puppy with limb difference for 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy has special bond with Lucky the puppy who was also born with limb difference

A million-dollar ticket was sold to an individual in Vernon from the Lotto Max draw Friday, June 11, 2021. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Lottery ticket worth $1 million sold in Vernon

One lucky individual holds one of 20 tickets worth $1 million from Friday’s Lotto Max draw

“65 years, I’ve carried the stories in my mind and live it every day,” says Jack Kruger. (Athena Bonneau)
‘Maybe this time they will listen’: Survivor shares stories from B.C. residential school

Jack Kruger, living in Syilx territory, wasn’t surprised by news of 215 children’s remains found on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School

Most Read