Grammar Guerrilla: Regardless v. Irregardless

Guerilla-GorillaAmericans love to add intensifiers to words. They do it to add force to existing words. Irregardless, an adjective and an adverb, is a good example of this tendency. The earliest citation in the Oxford English Dictionary is from 1912, but it occurs in a reference work of American slang, which implies that it was in use before then. The Oxford American Dictionary traces it to the nineteenth century. It is probably the product of the fusion of irrespective and regardless. This verbal mistake argues against the popular theory, that language is always changing and that, under that banner, we may do whatever we will. This addition to the language has never been accepted as a proper modifier. The Oxford American Dictionary says its use should be avoided by careful users of English. Why? We do not need it. We already have regardless. We do not need irregardless. It does not fill a need. We still know what regardless means: “without regard or consideration.” It can also signal, “nevertheless.” So, regardless of how often you hear others using the word irregardless, you now know not to use it because it is not a proper English word.

©R. Scott Clark. All Rights Reserved.

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10 comments

  1. Also, logically, two negatives can make a positive (though they don’t in Hebrews 13:5 PTL!)

  2. This error was always one of those that used to drive me crazy in the corporate world. I heard it misused all the time by supposedly well educated staff, even upper level executives.

    The only thing worse was when “infamous” was used in a report in reference to someone who accomplished great and reputable things. When I pointed out that the appropriate term should have been “famous” and that “infamous” is used in reference to someone who is well known, but for notoriously evil deeds, I was immediately accused of what is referred to as “mansplaining” nowadays.

  3. It is said we learn more from our mistakes than our failures. I will never forget the note written at the top of my high school essay on Beowulf — circled in red, underlined, and with several exclamation points: “Cast the word ‘irregardless’ from your vocabulary!!!’”

  4. Then there’s that odd group of people – of whom I am chief – who use such words and throw out mispronunciations just because it’s fun, and because those around us know that we know the rules. So, I regularly say “irregardless,” and I ask the speaker “Are you inferring . . .?” And, when talking about actors, I will refer to “EEE-wan McGregor” and “JOE-ah-quin Phoenix,” just to hear the groans from my family. Cause, you know, at certain age, we’re all easily amused.

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