Irregardless of Neologisms ...

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Well, I confess ... I shocked myself the other day. Shocked myself to the very core of my being, even! I was writing a comment on The RiotACT (something I am rather wont to do, I might add) and followed a particular example with the words "Irregardless of this fact ...". I hardly even noticed I was doing it. Naturally, my first instinct was to go back and adjust the word and I forget now whether I ended up choosing "regardless" or "irrespective" but it did make me think. As a neologism, "irregardless" has - for better or worse - well and truly entered the language. From my quick bit of research, it was originally coined in the early 20th century in the United States, and is considered a blend of the two words "irrespective" and "regardless" - both of which mean something very similar to the same thing.

Why on earth, when faced with two words that can be used more or less interchangeably with one another, do we choose to create a third word to mean the same thing? It's all part of the progression of the language of course, and as such I'm rather in favour of it (despite the feeling of shock that came over me to find that I used this word in a sentence without even thinking about it!). I wonder if it comes about simply through confusion? You know that feeling you get when you know exactly what to say - you know the sound it starts with, and how the word feels in your mouth when you speak it - but you can't quite recall the word itself? Perhaps this is how irregardless has come about - people knowing the word they want (either "irrespective" or "regardless"), coming out with "irr-" and then just filling it in as best seems fit?

Perhaps it's a question to pose to the World Wide Words gurus ...


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