Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Irregardless of the silliness of it all. . .

Irregardless of my love of apostrophes, today I want to talk about non-words, such as irregardless. (Ah, if only I were at school teaching right this second. Gosh, the fun we would have.)

I have just had a ‘script filled for antibiotics because it is school holidays and as per standard operating procedures during school  holidays I have gone and fallen prey to a lurgy (surely that’s a non-word too?) and cosseted it along until it has turned into a lung infection. Yay me.

Anyway (or should I say irregardless?) the pharmacist’s directions state:
"Irregardless of food intake take one capsule. . ."

Oh wait, just checked the actual pack, it says “irrespective” - darn, that sheds a different light on things. Huh, why let the truth get in the way of a ‘good’ story.

Irregardless of the actual instructions I have forged ahead and investigated the use of this word. According to that well known, authoritative source Wikipedia  irregardless was first known to have appeared in print as early as 1795.


And most dictionaries treat it as a nonstandard or incorrect. Phew, that’s what I thought too. It is of course a blend of regardless and irrespective. Furthermore it is in the lucky position of being a portmanteau word. What fun!

If one follows up on the cited references and checks the New International Webster Dictionary, or at least its on-line version, they lay the blame squarely on America: “Irregardless originated in dialectal American speech in the early 20th century.” 

So it’s kind of fitting that if you click on the speaker and listen to the pronunciation it has a definite American flavour to it as well.

The irony, of course - should anyone still be reading - is that despite its official status as a non-word, it still has an entry in the dictionary.

Score one for irregardless.

And then an Australian linguist, Pam Peters (I mean come on really, with alliteration like that she had to become a linguist) points out “ that irregardless has become fetishized because natural examples of this word in corpora of written and spoken English are greatly outnumbered by examples where it is in fact only cited as an incorrect term.”  (Is it me, or are there simpler ways to say that?)
To sum up:
a/ It’s school holidays and I am sick.
b/ Irregardless is a non-word that still appears in the dictionary.
c/ Irregardless is described as a portmanteau word that has been fetishized.
d/ I have a blog and therefore don’t have to bore my friends silly with these things.


  1. I'm reading. Haha. Only an English teacher would care. Thus I found your blog curiously fascinating.

  2. I figure it's like "inflammable."