Social Question

john65pennington's avatar

My granddaughter tells me that irregardless is not a word. Yes or no?

Asked by john65pennington (29240points) September 13th, 2011

For years, my granddaughter has advised me that the word irregardless is not a word. I have used this word in many of my conversations and printed word. If irregardless is not a correct word, then I need a new word to take its place. Question: is my granddaughter correct? Is the word irregardless an irregular word?

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89 Answers

Mariah's avatar

Your granddaughter is right; the correct word is ‘regardless.’

Response moderated (Writing Standards)
JLeslie's avatar

It has become a word, but I find it ridiculous Webster allows it. Think about it. Regard-less. Without regard. Penniless, no money. Spineless, without a spine. If you add an ir prefix it is like a double negative. Irregardless should really mean with regard. Irregardless sounds uneducated, because it doesn’t make sense. Although, I certainly know people with college degrees who use it.

Regardless is the correct term.

robmandu's avatar

The Oatmeal covers this and many other pertinent misconceptions. Plus a list of other words not to misspell.

Haleth's avatar

Isn’t irregardless a Bush-ism?

JLeslie's avatar

@Haleth Did he really use it? His stuff was usually mispronunciations and tripping over words wasn’t it? The guy went to private schools and Harvard, I can’t believe he used irregardless.

CaptainHarley's avatar

Usage defines vocabulary, so both “regardless” and “irregardless” are most assuredly words! : )

JLeslie's avatar

@CaptainHarley Yeah, but it is still considered non-standard by Merriam-Webster I think. There are a whole bunch of words used that I would not advise putting into a formal document, or a speech if you want to keep people’s attention.

tom_g's avatar

Here in Massachusetts, the correct pronunciation of this “word” is eahhrigahdless.
cringe

wonderingwhy's avatar

I’d go along with “it’s a word because of such consistent use over time” though not much of one and certainly not a necessary one. Anyway from a better source than I on such matters…

from dictionary.com “Irregardless is considered nonstandard because of the two negative elements ir- and -less. It was probably formed on the analogy of such words as irrespective, irrelevant, and irreparable. Those who use it, including on occasion educated speakers, may do so from a desire to add emphasis. Irregardless first appeared in the early 20th century and was perhaps popularized by its use in a comic radio program of the 1930s”.

dappled_leaves's avatar

Well, if you are going to decide that anything is a word by virtue of use, then why even ask the question or be interested in the responses? Irregardless is not a word. @JLeslie is correct – it’s like a negation of the desired word, regardless. So, why not just use regardless, which you know is correct? It boggles the mind.

nikipedia's avatar

Technically it’s not a word, but I know what you mean when you say it, so I think it counts.

Nullo's avatar

English doesn’t employ double-negation in standard usage – though some will use it for effect. “Regardless” is already negative, so adding the “ir-” prefix is entirely unnecessary.

tom_g's avatar

Sometimes a “word” like this means a lot more than the speaker thinks it means. It appears to be only common within a certain socioeconomic class here. Where I live, you are only likely to hear this if visiting a local Dunkin’ Donuts: “I’ll have a lahhge reglah with extra sugah.” “Will that be all, hun?” “yeah” (turns back to his coworkers) ”...Eahhrigahdless. I seen him do that one time….”

Do not walk into an interview in an office and use that “word”.

plethora's avatar

Irregardless is not a word. Per @Nullo , it is a double negative.

Use “regardless:

amujinx's avatar

There are a few words like this. ‘Snuck’ is another example. It’s not actually the past tense of the word ‘sneak’ (the correct past tense is ‘sneaked’), but people use it as the past tense. Not as many people will call you out on using ‘snuck’ though, since not as many people realize it is not a real word. ‘Irregardless’ is a more commonly known non-word, so people are more likely to call you out on it.

My spell check has an issue with the word ‘snuck’ but not ‘irregardless’...

marinelife's avatar

No, no, no! Just say no to irregardless. Simply subtitute “regardless”. That is the correct word to use.

JLeslie's avatar

@amujinx Snuck is not a word? I think it is. I never heard this before. I am not saying I am correct, I have never heard the word be challenged before.

tom_g's avatar

I propose adding another “ir” to the word to negate the first (incorrect) negation.

irirregardless

Problem solved.

JLeslie's avatar

If anyone is interested there was a Q a while back with a bunch of these sort of things. Irregardless happens to be one of the pet peeves I pointed out.

JLeslie's avatar

@amujinx That one, snuck, is in the dictionary. Doesn’t say nonstandard.

dappled_leaves's avatar

lol. “Snuck” is not the past tense of “to sneak”, and “drug” is not the past tense of “to drag”. While we’re at it, the past tense of “to lead” is “led”, not “lead”, as I keep seeing everywhere lately.

amujinx's avatar

@JLeslie
snuck (snʌk)

— vb
not standard chiefly ( US ), ( Canadian ) a past tense and past participle of sneak

It depends on the dictionary you use. American dictionaries are more likely to not say that it is non-standard. English dictionaries will say it is. It is an accepted non-standard word in American English, but that is a recent thing (as in last 50 years or so).

dappled_leaves's avatar

I love this “non-standard” status for words. Essentially, it means that the word is wrong, but that most people will not throw rocks at you for using it?

amujinx's avatar

@dappled_leaves More like most people won’t notice that isn’t actually a word, but yes.

JLeslie's avatar

@amujinx Interesting. I was trying to figure out what I use. I use both sneaked and snuck I think. I certainly hear both. It’s like the word got, my grandmother wanted to outlaw the word I think. But, we are getting off track from the main question, sorry for the tangent.

@dappled_leaves I think the nonstandard is useful because if someone needs to look up a word that is used commonly, they can at least get the definition, even if it isn’t real English. LOL. I guess they could leave those words for the urban dictionary, and not put them in Websters at all.

dappled_leaves's avatar

@JLeslie Indeed, though I’m willing to bet that Websters would consider the whole concept of Urban Dictionary “non-standard”. ;)

JLeslie's avatar

@dappled_leaves Haha. I think your right. But, it has it’s place. Communication and being understood is important. I kind of think of it as a dialect of the Engish language. I actually wish we classified language like that, rather than cramming nonstandard words into “proper” English. We don’t really think in terms of dialect in America I would say. Just accents, and judging the way some people speak as less then; well, standard.

amujinx's avatar

@JLeslie Though it’s wrong, I use the word ‘snuck’ almost exclusively to see which of my very grammar conscious friends will call me out for using a non-standard word. None of them ever notice. Even my mother, who is British, doesn’t notice since she has lived in the US so long. Which is surprising, since she every once in a while still tries to get me to pronounce words like ‘aluminum’ as ‘al-u-min-ee-um’ and ‘herb’ as ‘herb’ instead of ‘erb’.

Back on topic, ‘irregardless’ breaks down to ‘without without regard’, so it is a double negative. Regardless of this, people still use it, and it is accepted to some level, much like a non-standard word such as “ain’t”.

JLeslie's avatar

@amujinx I think ain’t is different. Nobody thinks ain’t is ok. People who use irregardless really think it is the proper word, many of them are not even aware regardless exists. There are teachers all over America not allowing their young students to use ain’t, but still giving out a’s to those who use irregradless I bet. I hope I am wrong, but that is my guess.

zensky's avatar

You betcha it isn’t.

The origin of irregardless is not known for certain, but the speculation among references is that it may be a blend, or portmanteau word, of irrespective and regardless, both of which are commonly accepted standard English words. By blending these words, an illogical word is created. Since the prefix ir- means “not” (as it does with irrespective), and the suffix -less means “without”, irregardless is a double negative[1] and therefore would have the meaning “in regards to” when that is not the intent. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, Irregardless was first acknowledged in 1912 by the Wentworth American Dialect Dictionary as originating from western Indiana. Barely a decade later, the usage dispute over irregardless was such that, in 1923, Literary Digest published an article titled “Is There Such a Word as Irregardless in the English Language?”[2]

From someone who wrote well for a change in wikipedia.

amujinx's avatar

@JLeslie My point was more about it being accepted to some level. Yes, everyone knows “ain’t” isn’t a word, but people will not always call someone out for using it because they understand what they mean. “Irregardless” is similar in the fact that people will not always call someone out for using it even if they know that it is wrong just on the fact that they still understand what that person means. So they both are accepted to a certain degree. Whether the person knows that “irregardless” is a word or not was immaterial to the point I was trying to make.

I probably should have thought of a better example than “ain’t” though. Sorry.

JLeslie's avatar

@amujinx I’m still going to disagree a little. My girlfriend who uses irregardless consistently, regularly, is college educated as a teacher! She only taught for a few years, she wound up not liking it, and went for a different career. Anyway, if she uses ain’t I would never correct her, because I know for sure without asking that she uses it in lazy speech, she knows it is not correct, I would bet on it. I have corrected her irregardless a couple of time, because I know for sure she has no clue it is wrong. See the difference? I don’t continue to correct her because it would be rude of me, but I did a couple of times, because I would want to know if it were me making the mistake. Most people do not go around correcting everyone in normal every day conversation. We all make errors while talking especially, even if we know how to say or write it correctly if need be.

morphail's avatar

Of course it’s a word. It’s not a very well-liked word, but it’s clearly a word.

This is not the first time English has used two negative prefixes. In the 17th century words like “unboundless”, “undauntless”, “uncomfortless” were common.

It’s also not the only word in current usage with a redundant negative prefix. Look at “debone”, “unravel”, “unthaw”.

@JLeslie You’re talking about register.

plethora's avatar

@JLeslie “Irregardless” is certainly a pet peeve of mine.

amujinx's avatar

@JLeslie I understood your point. Like I said, I should have chose a better example than “ain’t”, but I was being lazy and just chose a non-standard word that I knew everyone knew was wrong. I was just trying to flesh out what my point was, but I understand why you would say it was a poor example.

gailcalled's avatar

Some usages fall into the common parlance but don’t belong in standard written English.

viz: I couldn’t care less.

Inflammable and flammable as interchangeable

And don’t get me started on lie, lay, lain vs. lay, laid, laid and drink, drank, drunk, and bring, brang, brung.

(@Jleslie…psst—you’re)

morphail's avatar

@gailcalled inflammable and flammable meaning “able to be set on fire” are both standard English

JLeslie's avatar

@morphail Explain register.

@gailcalled Hahaha, I do it all the time, I usually catch it when I go back to edit. I have your all over the place when it should you’re. :) Mistakes galore. Most I blame on my iPad.

morphail's avatar

@JLeslie http://ccat.sas.upenn.edu/~haroldfs/messeas/regrep/node2.html
We use different language in different social contexts. English has a formal and informal register, among others. It might be acceptable to use “irregardless” in informal conversation, but not in formal written English. I think most people are fluent in more than one register.

amujinx's avatar

@morphail I don’t think that the negative prefix on “debone” makes it redundant. Yes, bone can be a verb, but I’ve always interpreted “debone” as describing the “bone” part to be describing the actual bone, not the act of boning. I’ll admit it’s a superfluous word, but I don’t believe it’s wrong. My spell check doesn’t like it though.

Since “ravel” can both mean “to tangle” and “to disentangle”, “unravel” probably came about to differentiate what a person meant. I’ll agree it’s wrong, but wrong in an effort to make a statement clearer.

I have never heard of “unthaw” until today. It’s in the dictionary, but I would stare down anyone who would actually used it in my presence.

@gailcalled People seem to have an issue with tenses, period. Another example would be hanged vs. hung (when talking about those who have been hanged by a noose, hung may be correct in its other uses, I’ve never really checked).

JLeslie's avatar

@morphail. Ah, I agree about the register, but I still don’t feel irregardless fits. I think most people who use irregardless use it in their formal writing.

I have never heard unthaw.

morphail's avatar

@amujinx I’m not saying that “debone” “unravel” and “unthaw” are wrong. I’m saying that the prefixes are redundant. “Redundant” doesn’t mean “wrong”. Redundancy can be useful.

gailcalled's avatar

I would use “unthaw” as a synonym for “freeze,” but only if someone forced me to.

There is also the sense that dived and dove are interchangeable.

dappled_leaves's avatar

Unthaw is another pet peeve for me… it just tells me that people are not thinking when they speak. If you un-thaw something, clearly you must be freezing it.

@gailcalled, did you mention “I couldn’t care less” because of the common tendency to say “I could care less” instead? That one kills me! If someone could care less, then it must be at least somewhat important to them, right? ;)

amujinx's avatar

@morphail Sorry, I filled the redundant and wrong idea in my head since the “ir-” in “irregardless” makes it wrong due to the double negative in the word.

@gailcalled The dictionary says that unthaw means to thaw. I would argue more about it, but I have heard people often say dethaw to mean thaw as well.

dappled_leaves's avatar

Frankly, if my dictionary defined “unthaw” as “thaw”, I would throw it out and buy another dictionary.

snowberry's avatar

My pet peeve is a genuine word, but I think it’s stupid. There’s inhibited, and I think the opposite should be hibited instead of uninhibited.

morphail's avatar

The flood of life, Loos’d at its source‥, Flows like some frozen silver stream unthaw’d, At a warm Zephyr of the genial Spring.
– John G. Cooper, The Power of Harmony, 1745

But death, irregardless of tenderest ties,
Resolv’d the good Betty, at length, to bereave:
He strikes — the poor fav’rite reluctantly dies!
Breaks her mistress’s heart — both descend to the grave.
The Old Woman and Her Tabby, 1795

CWOTUS's avatar

Regardless of whether it’s a word or not, it’s used and seems to have become an accepted word. In other words, it snuck into the dictionary (like “snuck” itself).

We also transpose transitive and intransitive verb forms irregardless of their actual intended usage, such as when we talk about “the submarine sunk the ship with a torpedo” instead of “sank the ship with a torpedo” and other examples of that ilk.

I’m trying to get over it; I could care less.

JLeslie's avatar

English is a mess.

gailcalled's avatar

@CWOTUS: I still could care more.

morphail's avatar

@snowberry The “in-” of “inhibit” isn’t negative. There are several “in-” prefixes. One means “in” or is used as an intensifier, as in “inhibit”, “irradiate”, “impel”, “imbue”. One means negative as in “illiterate”, “inimical”.

dappled_leaves's avatar

@morphail So… if it has ever appeared written down, anywhere, ever… then it’s a word, and can be used in proper English? I’m going to disagree on that one.

picante's avatar

Were I editing a written passage that contained “irregardless,” I’d correct it. If you spoke the word aloud to me, I’d consider you careless or daft. The fact that it is accepted saddens me. Our very maleable language has become a bit too flexible for my standards. I used to care—I think I still do—but other cares are rapidly overtaking me.

morphail's avatar

@dappled_leaves Wait, what? Where did I say that?

dappled_leaves's avatar

What I’m really wondering is whether @john65pennington is going to continue to say “irregardless”, once he has finished laughing at all of us for quibbling our way through this entire thread.

dappled_leaves's avatar

@morphail, I just thought that was why you dug up the 18th century references to “unthaw” and “irregardless”. If not, then what was the purpose?

morphail's avatar

@dappled_leaves I thought it was interesting. Also, I get the impression that people think these words are new; they’re not.

Nullo's avatar

AFAIK “flammable” and “inflammable” are approaching the same concept from different angles, departing from the Latin and ending up in Webster, having the same meaning. In this case, the in- suffix wouldn’t serve as a negation.

JLeslie's avatar

@john65pennington I am wondering along with @dappled_leaves, do you think you will try to change over to regardless after seeing the answers here?

Lightlyseared's avatar

Given that LOL is now a recognised word and has made it into the OED i don’t see why irregardless can’t be a word too.

JLeslie's avatar

@Lightlyseared I see it as different, because irregardless logically means the opposite of regardless. The opposite.

picante's avatar

Can we start using TWTMR for the word that means “regardless” so “irregardless” becomes irrelevant or at least less irritating?

ragingloli's avatar

Oxford Online Dictionary states that “irregardless” is incorrect.
That is all one needs to know.

morphail's avatar

@JLeslie 1. Lots of words have opposite meanings, “irregardless” isn’t special. Trim, dust, cleave, ravel. 2. Language isn’t logic.

@ragingloli Do you mean this dictionary? It says “informal”, not “incorrect”.

Lightlyseared's avatar

@JLeslie If someone says irregardless to you you know exactly what they mean. Just like if someone says the red bike you know exactly what they mean. Language is in the use….A word becomes a word when the majority of people speaking the word would recognise and understand what it means and there are more natural usages of irregardless as an alternative to regardless or irrespective than there are pointing it out to be incorrect. It’s majority rule I’m afraid, words change their meaning, they come in and out of favour, they are born and they die. Language is a living thing and it the people using the language that make it. People writing dictionarys just record what others are already doing.

JLeslie's avatar

@morphail but are those examples used the same way within a sentence? I have to think about it. Dust. It can mean there is dust, or to dust, is to remove dust, is that what you mean? One is a noun and the other a verb I think? Correct me if I am wrong. Trim the same thing.

tom_g's avatar

Apparently there is a “People against the term ‘irregardless’” Facebook group

picante's avatar

@tom_g, finally! A reason for Facebook ;-)

JLeslie's avatar

@Lightlyseared Yes, I understand what they mean, the same way I understand the person who says, “I don’t got nothing,” means he does not have anything. So?

JLeslie's avatar

Honestly, if they are just using it in casual speech I don’t care, as long as they know what is right for formal speech and documents. Just like I am fine with people using Ebonics and Spanish and slang when talking to friends and family. I just hope they know English well when, as someone said way above near the top, they need to go on an interview.

morphail's avatar

@JLeslie the verb “trim” can mean “decorate” or “prune”: trim the Xmas tree, trim a cake. Dust can mean “spread dust” or “wipe away dust”: dust for fingerprints, dust the mantlepiece. Cleave can mean “adhere” or “separate”.

picante's avatar

For me, the fact that a word is in a dictionary does not speak sufficiently to its proper usage. Our dictionaires expand all the time as our language changes, but the additions of idioms, slang, local variations, and now acronyms does nothing to speak to the “correctness” of the terms in context.

I grew up saying “fixing” to mean “about to”—I’m fixin’ to make dinner. My Texas ears are quite accustomed to the sound and feel of it. But I would NEVER use the term in delivering a serious message to colleagues, nor would I write the term except to provide local humor.

I feel much the same around the discussion here. While JohnPennington can continue to say “irregardless” regardless of our opinions, I would urge him to consider a better term in a more formal setting.

SpatzieLover's avatar

@morphail I don’t know where you read informal in your link to the Oxford dictionary. It says it is incorrect in standard english…it also states it is duplicating the suffix and is unnecessary.

My opinion stands with @ragingloli.‘s

morphail's avatar

@SpatzieLover It says “informal” in the dictionary entry itself. Which is interesting, because “informal” isn’t the same as “incorrect in standard English”. I suspect that the usage note is drawn from a different source than the entry itself.

MWDEU on irregardless

picante's avatar

@morphail, the MWDEU reference you cite, though it does call out that the word has been used by educated people, explicitly states to use “regardless” instead.

JLeslie's avatar

@morphail Great examples. Thanks. So those are one word meaning two things that can be opposite. Irregardless and regardless are two words that should mean the opposite that mean the same thing. English is crazy LOL.

Jeruba's avatar

@john65pennington, the word “regardless” means “without regard to.” “Regard” in this sense means “to consider.” So when we say “without regard to,” we mean “paying no attention to” or “not considering.”

EXAMPLE: Regardless of the weather, we are going shopping.

That means that no matter what the weather is (without regard to it—not considering it—disregarding it), we are going shopping.

And this is what people mean when they say “irregardless.” They think they are adding the sense of “not” or “without” with the negating “ir-” prefix, but they’re not because it’s already there with the “less.” So in effect it’s reversed: breaking it down logically, it would have to mean the opposite of the intent.

However, no one would ever say “irregardless” if they meant “WITH regard to”; it does not really function as a canceled negative. Instead it just sounds ignorant, like “orientate” for “orient” or “analysization” for “analysis.”

Is it a word? Yes, in that people write it and utter it. You said it well when you asked if it’s an irregular word (there’s that negating “ir-” again). Yes, it’s irregular in a similar sort of way to “possum” (which is really “opossum”): people know what you mean, but educated speakers of the language won’t regard it as proper English.

The word you need in its place is “regardless.” Be warned, however, that if you faithfully use correct English, a lot of people are going to look at you funny.

morphail's avatar

@Jeruba‘s answer is good. This is a minor point, but there’s nothing wrong with orientate (which doesn’t mean it might not sound ignorant to some)

JLeslie's avatar

Orientate bothers me too.

Jeruba's avatar

The entry you cited, @morphail, does point to controversy, implying that there’s something wrong with “orientate” in many people’s estimation. In any case, that’s another subject. Thanks for your comment.

flo's avatar

I say “regardless”. The ”-less” part takes care of it I think.

zensky's avatar

I just say irregard – and fuck it.

gailcalled's avatar

@zensky: That is a feckless answer, or defectless, if you will.

robmandu's avatar

I think that’s irrefeckless, right?

zensky's avatar

Aww, feck it.

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