Monday, March 01, 2010

Bastard Words

The only bastard word I've found in the dictionary -- a word the dictionary defines and then says NOT to use because it's not legitimate -- is "irregardless". There must be more. "Ain't", maybe? No matter. Sooner or later, we will cave. We will eventually accept "irregardless" and its gross violation of grammar the way we have accepted split infinitives and words like "dang" which is a legitimate interjection, adjective, and noun, and "uh-oh", which is listed in the dictionaries --yes OUR dictionaries -- as an official interjection.

Go figure.

"Irregardless" is a double negative. It is redundant. Actually, saying that a double negative is redundant is also redundant. The "ir" cancels out "regardless" so a literal definition would be "not regardless" which would make its definition "worthy of regard". Or, the "less" cancels out "irregard" which would mean "without irregard" and since "irregard" can't stand alone, we're left with the "less" cancelling out the "ir" which would mean "without lack of regard" which again, means "with regard" so the whole word is a big fat mess.

Yet, "irregardless" is used as a synonym for "regardless" which, of course, is unacceptable to educated people. But the word "unacceptable" is acceptable because the "un" does not cancel out the "able".

Well, "redouble" is redundant and I don't hear people wailing about its crime against the English language. Is it because "redouble" doesn't offend itself with both prefix and a suffix? "Redouble" only offends the root word with its prefix. But if we "re" and "double", we are doubling twice which makes its literal meaning what? Quadruple?

Let's face it. In speech, there are no backspaces. But in writing? No excuses. And yeah, I could end this with some not-so-cutesy attempt at irony like "let's redouble our efforts irregardless of how many times we've proofed" but I've already done the irony thing with my split infininitive so no. We're writers. Come on.


Piers said...

That's a very inflammable post, if you ask me.

Anonymous said...

....or is it flammable?