Irregardless

Why you might get mad at the dictionary sometimes

Let’s conversate about why words like “irregardless” make your blood literally boil

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Recently, Merriam-Webster dictionary added “irregardless” to its collection.

This addition made quite a few people angry.

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However, “irregardless” has been used by English speakers for 200 years, according to Merriam-Webster, and including it in the dictionary is a sign that the word has become ubiquitous.

Some might be indignant because of the way we assume English works, Emily Brewster, Merriam-Webster’s senior lexicographer, tells Inverse.

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“Hatred of 'irregardless' has to do with the desire for logic in the language,” Brewester says. We assume the -irr prefix has a negative meaning, because that’s what we’ve encountered before, in words like “irrefutable.”

But English isn’t always logical.

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There are other words that have provoked public outcry.

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Take “conversate,” for example, which English speakers have also been using for about 200 years.

Because we have the word “converse,” some people would say “conversate” is redundant — even clunky, Brewster says. But it is a perfectly acceptable word.

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“Conversate” also appears in hip-hop and rap music, and is sometimes associated with African American Vernacular English, which gives the anger towards the word a more sinister tone, Brewster says.

The hyperbolic use of “literally” also boils some blood, Brewster says.

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Brewster says that writers especially hate this definition of “literally” because they think “the meaning is being robbed.”

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What those writers don’t realize, then, is that hyperbolic “literally” has been around since the 1700s. James Joyce, Charlotte Bronte, and Charles Dickens all employed this meaning.

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The word hatred might come down to a simple misunderstanding of a dictionary’s purpose. Dictionaries do no assign “correct” meanings — they record what people already use.

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Sometimes, words like “conversate” or “irregardless” become “established because speakers in the language find it useful,” Brewster said.

And once the word is established, it’s fair game for a dictionary entry.

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