Words > Is "irregardless" a word? (Supposably, it is.)

Is "irregardless" a word? (Supposably, it is.)

Irregardless. Supposably. Expresso. If you use these words—or cringe at the sound of them—find out once and for all if they are in fact considered proper English.

1. Is "irregardless" a word?

"Irregardless" is a word that many people mistakenly believe to be correct in formal style, when in fact it is used chiefly in nonstandard speech or casual writing. The word was coined in the United States in the early 1900s, presumably from a blend of "irrespective" and "regardless," and was perhaps popularized by its use in a comic radio program of the 1930s. Many critics have complained that it is a redundancy, the negative prefix ir- duplicating the negativity of the -less suffix. Perhaps its reputation as a blend of ill-fitting parts has caused some to insist that it is a "nonword."

Since people use "irregardless," it is undoubtedly a word in the broader sense of the language, but it has never been accepted in Standard English and is virtually always changed by copy editors to "regardless." The Usage Panel of the American Heritage Dictionary has roundly disapproved of its use since polling began; in 2012, 90 percent found the sentence "A scientist investigating a social issue should seek to find out the truth, irregardless of its political implications" to be unacceptable.

2. Is "ain't" a word?

"Ain't" has a long history of controversy. It first appeared in 1778, evolving from an earlier"“an't," which arose almost a century earlier as a contraction of "are not" and "am not." In fact, "ain't" arose at the tail end of an era that saw the introduction of a number of our most common contractions, including "don't" and "won't." But while "don't" and "won't" eventually became accepted at all levels of speech and writing, "ain't" was to receive a barrage of criticism in the 19th century for having no set sequence of words from which it can be contracted and for being a "vulgarism," that is, a term used by the lower classes, although "an't" had been originally used by the upper classes as well.

At the same time, its uses were multiplying to include "has not," "have not," and "is not," by influence of forms like "ha'n't" and "i'n't." It may be that these extended uses helped fuel the negative reaction. Whatever the case, criticism of "ain't" by usage commentators and teachers has not subsided, and the use of "ain't" is often regarded as a sign of ignorance. But despite all the attempts to ban it, "ain't" continues to enjoy extensive use in speech. Even educated and upper-class speakers see no substitute in folksy expressions such as "Say it ain't so" and "You ain't seen nothin' yet."

The stigmatization of "ain't" leaves us with no happy alternative for use in first-person questions. The widely used "aren't I?"—though irregular—was found acceptable for use in speech by a majority of the Usage Panel as long ago as 1964, but, in writing, there is no acceptable substitute for the stilted "am I not?"

3. Is "supposably" a word?

"Supposable" is actually a word, meaning "capable of being supposed or conjectured," as in, "a supposable outcome." The American Heritage Dictionary does list "supposably" as an acceptable adverb form of "supposable." In everyday speech, however, "supposably" is most often used in place of "supposedly."

4. Is it "expresso" or "espresso"?

An "espresso" is a strong coffee made by forcing steam or boiling water through ground coffee beans. "Expresso" is just a (largely unwelcome) variant.

5. Is "conversate" a word?

"Conversate" is a back-formation from "conversation." "Converse" is the more widely-accepted way to talk to another person.

6. Is "misunderestimate" a word?

For former US President George W. Bush, it was, in November 2000, when he explained how he became the Republican Presidential candidate by saying that his opponents simply "misunderestimated" him.

7. Could you "care less"?

Many people say "I could care less" when what they really mean is, "I couldn’t care less." As McGraw-Hill's Dictionary of American Slang and Colloquial Expression states, "The affirmative version does not make sense, but is widely used, nonetheless."

8. Is it "for all intensive purposes"?

No. This is an erroneous misconstruction of the phrase "for all intents and purposes," meaning "in every practical or functional sense.”

9. Can you "commentate" on the game?

The verb "commentate," derived from "commentator," is sometimes used as a synonym for "comment on” or "provide a commentary for." It is not yet fully accepted as standard, though it is widespread in sports reporting and journalism. It is occasionally criticized as journalistic jargon.

What "words" make you cringe?

Complete English Grammar Rules is available for purchase as Paperback and Kindle eBook.
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