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Irregardless

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  • Irregardless is a century-old colloquial word that means the same as irrespective and regardless, and it may have come about by some fusion or confusion of those two words. The use of irregardless is a common peeve among people who question illogical new words and phrases in English, but the word is not as bad as many people think.

    The main gripe is that irregardless is an illogical word because it contains a double negative. The prefix ir- means not and the suffix –less mean without, so the word literally means not without regard, which is the opposite of its intended meaning. Plus, irregardless can be annoying because it often takes the place of the perfectly good regardless and irrespective, which don’t deserve to be pushed out of the language by a logic-flouting upstart like irregardless.

    But serious usage problems are those that create ambiguity or that erode the meaning of long-established, useful words. No English speaker who hears the word irregardless actually interprets it as meaning not without regard. We might find the word annoying, but we know exactly what the speaker means. And though irrespective and regardless have perhaps lost some ground since the arrival of irregardless, they are still widely used, and they prevail over irregardless by a large margin in edited publications.

    This is not to say that irregardless is a good word. It is probably best avoided by careful writers, especially in any type of formal writing, if only because so many people despise it. It certainly has no place in school papers or work documents. Still, there are better language peeves to have than this mostly harmless colloquialism.

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    Examples

    Just for fun, here are a few examples of irregardless apparently used in earnest:

    Perhaps, as has been suggested, patients get better irregardless of antibiotics, and not because of them. [Patch]

    Her instruction allows them to create a work of art irregardless of their ability. [Towanda Daily Review]

    [T]he underlying point is the dictation of one’s destiny for the benefit of another, irregardless of whether or not such exploitation results in a thriving new life in Georgia. [GlobalResearch.ca]

    There are compelling reasons why President Obama is the favorite in this fall’s election irregardless of which candidate gets the GOP nod. [East Valley Tribune]

    We tried to find examples in the edited publications that we usually check, but there are no instances of irregardless to be found in these sources, while there are many instances of irrespective and regardless. So the logical, established words are doing fine.

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    Comments

    1. reardensteel says:

      Nope, never going to accept this word.

    2. Using something incorrectly does not mean that with increased use, it becomes correct.

    3. Never ever. The word only subtracts from the language by its existence, it adds no new meaning or subtlety.

      • Gary Bisaga says:

        I cannot disagree more. The word “irregardless” absolutely does add new meaning. If I said I would do something regardless of what somebody else says: this means exactly what it says, I’m going to do it. However, change the word to irregardless, and (in normal conversation anyway) surely it takes on an additional shade of meaning: I know what that other person says, and I’m going to do it knowing full well that I am disregarding their advice. Perhaps I am even doing it in spite of their advice.

        I also have an issue with those who claim it’s a double negative. Now, I believe double negatives have a perfectly valid place in English or any other language – indeed, many languages essentially require them. But, who says “ir” is always a negating prefix? In Latin and derived languages, the prefix “in” (which “ir” is just a modified form of) has always played the double role of negating and intensifying. Witness the word “inflammable”: despite George Carlin’s protest to the contrary (it either flams or it doesn’t), “in” is intensifying, not negating. Same here: “irregardless” is intensifying the speakers feeling about the situation, not negating it.

        • You do realize that George Carlin was a satirical comedian, making fun of they way people conflate the social mores of the English language, don’t you? He used to come to my Alma Mater, Kent State, and study for his shows on how to best create his performances. My psycholinguistic professor and I were given the opportunity to be part of his studies and theories of proven and irrevocable misuse of the English idioms of the day. So my comment would be: What is it with people and the word “irregardless”? IT IS NOT A WORD! Properly, it would mean to be without WITHOUT regard. It must be a frightening proposition to be absent of regard for what you already don’t have regard… Such a sad existence.

          • Um, yes, I do understand about George Carlin. That was a parenthetical comment having nothing to do with my point. I’d be interested to hear your responses to my actual comments, namely that there’s nothing wrong with linguistic double negatives, and the undeniable fact that prefixes like “ir” have a long history (stretching back to the Roman Empire) of being used both for negation and intensification. Either way you choose to look at it, there’s nothing wrong with a word that’s been in use (and had complaints from prescriptive grammarians) for a hundred years.

    4. no. this is not a word. and everyone using it sounds like an uneducated tool.

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