Irregardless of the rules

Published 9:58 pm Wednesday, April 12, 2017

By Holly Taylor

If the title of today’s column made you cringe, you’ve probably been called a “grammar snob” at least a few times in your life. If you didn’t find anything wrong with my column’s title, then it might surprise you that “irregardless” is not considered proper English.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary does actually have a definition for irregardless, despite the naysayers who claim it’s not a real word. The definition simply says “nonstandard: regardless.” Below that is a blurb explaining the word is mainly used as slang, is not widely accepted as a proper word and that you should just use “regardless” instead.

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Essentially, the two words are interchangeable. Merriam-Webster’s entry for the standard regardless is “heedless, careless.” It’s the opposite of regard, which means to give thought to something.

So what’s all the fuss?

Well mainly there’s the grammatical problem of suffixes and prefixes and good old double negatives. We all know what it means to add less to a word. “Regard” plus “less” means “without regard.” But the prefix ir means “not,” so technically the meaning of irregardless should be “not without regard.”

That’s a double negative, which cancels out the intended meaning, and so we come back to the original meaning of “regard,” even though no one seriously uses irregardless to mean regard.

English is a terribly confusing language, isn’t it?

This is why grammar snobs like to correct people when they say things improperly.

I had an English professor in college who absolutely hated to hear people use “irregardless” and would rant about this topic at least a couple times each semester I had a class with her. In her eyes, it was an unnecessary word, and no one should muddle the English language further by spreading it around.

But the thing that makes English very confusing is also the thing that makes it really fun. The language is always changing, twisting, mutating and developing into something different than what people were speaking hundreds of years ago.

Additionally, Standard English isn’t the only form we use. There are different dialects spread throughout the United States and also by English speakers around the world.

Irregardless isn’t acceptable in writing — while I type this, Microsoft Word keeps marking it as regardless misspelled — but you can get a pass using it in spoken English. People are going to understand what you mean, whether they like the word or not.

But use the word at your own risk! Grammar snobs are going to be secretly side-eyeing you if you say it.

The word has been around for decades, so it’s doubtful that it’s going away any time soon. A quick Google search of irregardless will turn up pages and pages of results, mostly articles arguing over the controversial word.

It’s surprising where the word will pop up. There’s even a restaurant in Raleigh called Irregardless Café.

My English professor vowed that she would never eat at that restaurant because of the name.

As for me, I wouldn’t mind checking it out.

Holly Taylor is a staff writer for Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Email her at