Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Irregardless and nonwords

As a follow-up to the blog about NBC Nightly News, I offer this usage note from my Word A Day calendar on irregardless, which it says is probably a blend of irrespective and regardless.
Irregardless is a word that many mistakenly believe to be correct usage in formal style, when in fact it is used chiefly in nonstandard speech or casual writing. Coined in the United States in the early 20th century, it has met with a blizzard of condemnation for being an improper yoking of irrespective and regardless and for the logical absurdity of combining the negative ir- prefix and -less suffix in a single term. Although one might reasonably argue that it is no different from words with redundant affixes like debone and unravel, it has been considered a blunder for decades and will probably continue to be so.
See, it is a word.

But wait. Brian Garner says that "although this widely scorned nonword seems unlikely to spread much more than it already has, careful users of language must continually swat it when they encounter it."

Nonword? He has an entry for that, too:
H.W. Fowler's formidable American precursor, Richard Grant White, wrote incisively about words that aren't legitimate words:
As there are books that are not books, so there are words that are not words. ... Words that are not words sometimes die spontaneously; but many linger, living a precarious life on the outskirts of society, uncertain of their position, and cause great discomfort to all right thinking, straightforward people.
... Among the words that he labeled nonwords are three that might still be considered so: enthused, experimentalize, preventative. But with most of the others he mentioned, he proved anything but prophetic -- they're now standard: accountable, answerable, controversialist, conversationalist, donate, exponential, jeopardize, practitioner, presidential, reliable, tangential. The lesson is that in any age, stigmatizing words is a tough business -- no matter how good the arguments against them might be.
I really like that lesson; it's lost a lot among copy editors.

Some other words considered nonwords (with links to dictionary entries):

Have any to add?


At 11:26 AM, June 29, 2006, Anonymous J Cunningham said...


My favorite nonword is "integritous." It should mean "filled with integrity."

At 3:35 PM, September 03, 2006, Blogger Jonathan Erickson said...

Great posting! I just posted a piece with some overlap. You can read it at
Maybe we can put up links to each other's blogs?


At 10:50 AM, December 19, 2008, Anonymous Yellow SEO said...

A few moe too add



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