By Joe Diorio
I like Jamie Lee Curtis. She was great in movies like Halloween and True Lies. But Ms. Curtis posted something on social media that has grammar grouches and aficionados in a huff and called my affection for her into question.
An internet meme started floating through the cyber thoroughfare in late October quoting Ms. Curtis from a July 6, 2020 tweet, “In case you thought 2020 couldn’t get any worse, Merriam-Webster just officially recognized ‘irregardless’ as a word.” The post was accompanied by a screaming face emoji, a truly fitting condiment for one of Hollywood’s renowned “scream queens.”
First, I find it curious that a three-month-old tweet is only now generating widespread attention. (Widespread is a relative term. Her July 6 tweet generated over 2,000 comments and more than 5,000 retweets. Meme generators are just a tad slow, I guess. I blame the pandemic.)
Second, Ms. Curtis is wrong. “Irregardless” is a word. It is a horrible word. But irregardless of my feelings, it is a word.
And, third, channeling my inner fourth grade English teacher, we have gone over this before, people.
For those readers who are hissing prove it at their computer or smart phone screens right now, crack open the dictionary. Merriam-Webster notes it is an adverb and is the nonstandard version of “regardless.” AND it has been in use since 1795. Dictionaries simply chronicle word usage; it’s why “doomscrolling” is under serious consideration for entry into the next edition of Merriam-Webster.
“The dictionary can kiss my wild Irish aspirations,” writes John Timpane, writer, author, and all-around grammatical expert.
“I don’t care what Merriam-Webster says, there are two kinds of people in the world: those who think that irregardless is a word and the rest of us who know better,” wrote Leslie Geary, another grammatical expert colleague of mine, on her Facebook feed.
I get it. Irregardless sounds like a double negative. It sounds like an overly engineered version of regardless. It’s clunky.
Merriam-Webster sympathizes. The dictionary staff spends a good deal of time apologizing for the word’s inclusion in the dictionary. Kory Stamper, a former Merriam-Webster editor and author of “Word by Word: The Secret Life of Dictionaries,” dedicates an entire chapter apologizing/explaining/dodging barbs for its presence in the dictionary. But for the time being (or at least since 1795), we are stuck with irregardless.
Good resource in these changing times
CISON PR Newswire recently posted a useful news story about AP Stylebook changes and updates related to Black Lives Matter (no hyphen is needed when referring to dual heritages: African American, Asian American, etc.), COVID-19 (saying “global pandemic” is redundant), climate change (Although climate change and global warming are used interchangeably, climate change is the more accurate term that describes the effects of increasing levels of greenhouse gases. It includes extreme weather events.), and more. Here is the link.
Still debating crowd sizes
A TV reporter tweeted about the size of the crowd waiting to say goodbye to President Trump as he left Nashville shortly after the October 22 presidential debate and wrote, “A member of the 118th Wing tells me there are at least 200 hundred people gathered here to bid [the President] farewell …” How many people? It’s either “200” (and it’s ok to use the Arabic numeral in this case), or “two-hundred.” Unless the reporter meant 200 times a hundred, meaning there were 20,000 people at the airport. Surely that would be the largest bidding adieu crowd ever … period.
TV does it right
I pick on the occasional fractured syntax and grammar on TV news. But please know that I know TV journalism is a tough job. You are working against impossibly short deadlines with precious few pieces of information at hand. So here is a positive shout out for a “lower third” (the text that appears at the bottom of the TV screen during a news story) that accompanied an October 27 story on ABC affiliate WKRN in Nashville about a charity clay pigeon shoot hosted by Mike Fisher.
Fisher is a former National Hockey League player who is married to Country Music superstar Carrie Underwood. The lower third that appeared during the portion of the story where Fisher is on camera talking about his charity read, “Mike Fisher. Still married to a famous person.” Well said, WKRN.
Let’s write carefully out there, people.
Joe Diorio is a writer living in Nashville, Tennessee.