Dictionary publisher Merriam-Webster drew the internet’s ire earlier last week when it included the word “irregardless” in its “Words of the Week” newsletter and explained that, despite the objections of literally thousands across the world wide web, “irregardless” is, in fact, a word and therefore deserves to be in the dictionary. “We do not make the English language, we merely record it,” the newsletter read in part. “If people use a word with consistent meaning, over a broad geographic range, and for an extended period of time chances are very high that it will go into our dictionary.”
The issue many have with the word is that it’s illogical. The word “regardless” already means “without regard,” so therefore irregardless would technically mean “without without regard.” This is where many grammarians and others for whom the word is like nails on a chalkboard tend to cringe. But in reality, the word has been in Merriam-Webster dictionaries since 1934, and its use dates back even farther than that.
Today on AirTalk, we’ll talk with the editor-at-large for Merriam-Webster about why “irregardless” is a word and why the discussion surrounding it sheds light on a larger question of what the role of the dictionary in determining whether and how it’s appropriate to use certain words in conversation.
Peter Sokolowski, editor-at-large for Merriam-Webster; he tweets @PeterSokolowski