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By now you've probably seen the vitriol against "irregardless" being considered a "real word". I wanted to discuss the actual science (linguistics) behind words like this because quite frankly, it's beautiful and a little surprising. ๐Ÿงต Screenshot of a tweet by Jamie Lee Curtis that says "In
Before I begin, you should know that linguists (who love all their words equally, of course) will tell you that dictionaries are not the arbiters of language, people are. A word's only a word because people use it.
For a wonderful discussion of how languages are neither predictable nor controllable and that dictionaries merely catalog usage, not define it, I recommend you read @KoryStamper's book โ€œWord by Word: The Secret Life of Dictionariesโ€โ€ฆ
The core thing to know is that Irregardless isnโ€™t some sort of freakish monstrosity, standing hideously apart from all the other beautiful, perfectly formed words of English. All it is is morphologically irregular, which means that itโ€™s not a strict combination of its parts.
There are *plenty* of morphologically irregular words in English. For example, there are approximately 200 verbs with irregular past tense forms. Yet no one is up in arms that we say ๐˜€๐—ฎ๐—ป๐—ด, ๐˜„๐—ฟ๐—ผ๐˜๐—ฒ, and ๐˜„๐—ฎ๐˜€ instead of ๐˜€๐—ถ๐—ป๐—ด+๐—ฒ๐—ฑ, ๐˜„๐—ฟ๐—ถ๐˜๐—ฒ+๐—ฒ๐—ฑ, and ๐—ฏ๐—ฒ+๐—ฒ๐—ฑ.
While those words are all missing a suffix (the regular past tense -๐—ฒ๐—ฑ), irregularity pops up even in words that contain the expected suffixes. Consider: ๐—ฟ๐—ฎ๐—ฏ๐—ฏ๐—ถ๐—ป๐—ถ๐—ฐ. The root is clearly ๐—ฟ๐—ฎ๐—ฏ๐—ฏ๐—ถ & the suffix is -๐—ถ๐—ฐ, which forms adjectives. What is the ๐—ก doing there?
Other similar words are:

๐—ฝ๐—ฟ๐—ผ๐—ฏ๐—น๐—ฒ๐—บ+๐—ถ๐—ฐ โ†’ problem๐—”๐—งic
๐—ต๐—ฎ๐—ฏ๐—ถ๐˜+๐—ฎ๐—น โ†’ habit๐—จal
๐—ต๐—ผ๐—ฟ๐—ถ๐˜‡๐—ผ๐—ป+๐—ฎ๐—น โ†’ horizon๐—งal
๐—ฝ๐—ฒ๐—ฟ๐˜€๐—ผ๐—ป๐—ถ๐—ณ๐˜†+๐—ฎ๐˜๐—ถ๐—ผ๐—ป โ†’ personifi๐—–ation
๐—ฐ๐—ผ๐—บ๐—ฝ๐—ฒ๐—น+๐—ถ๐˜ƒ๐—ฒ โ†’ comp๐—จ๐—Ÿ๐—ฆive

(examples from Burzio, 2002)
Butโ€”you may be thinkingโ€”none of the words I've listed so far are like Irregardless. All the words I mentioned have irregular *forms* (๐—ฟ๐—ฎ๐—ฏ๐—ฏ๐—ถ+๐—ถ๐—ฐ = rabbi๐—กic) while Irregardless has an irregular *meaning*.
That is, regardless means "without consideration for". The suffix ๐—ถ๐—ฟ- negates meanings (e.g., "irregular" means โ€œnot regular"), yet Irregardless means the same thing as Regardless. Surely that makes Irregardless different from other words, right? Wrong.
Recall that -๐—ถ๐—ฐ makes words into adjectives (iconโ†’iconic). The suffix -๐—ฎ๐—น also makes words into adjectives (tideโ†’tidal).

Note that -๐—ฎ๐—น specifically does not combine with words that are already adjectives (sadโ†’*sadal, strongโ†’*strongal).
It turns out that there are a whole bunch of words that contain -ic and -al that seemingly shouldn't.

Historical shouldn't exist because Historic is already an adjective. Cyclical shouldn't exist because Cyclic is already an adjective. And so on: Classical, Comical, Symmetrical
Words like Historical shouldn't exist because you shouldn't be able to add -al to words that are already adjectives, but here we are. They exist. And not only is nobody complaining about them, they are part of educated, formal language (not the "ignorant" speech of Irregardless).
In fact, one pleasant side effect of having both -ic and -ical words is that they express different shades of meaning. Historic means 'notable in history'; Historical means 'relating to history or past events'.

We gain expressivity at the small cost of morphological irregularity
But wait, there's more. There are in fact other words in English (and the dictionary!) that are EXACTLY like Irregardless, yet nobody complains about them or bemoans the downfall of English through ignorance.

Unloosen - to loosen
Unthaw - to thaw
Unravel - to ravel
In case you are unfamiliar with it, "ravel" literally means literally to. So Unravel and Ravel mean exactly the same thing.
Lest you think there's been a sudden onslaught of insanity, each of these words has been around for hundred of years. David Hume even said them. Screenshot of historical examples of the usage of "unloScreenshot of historical examples of the usage of "unthScreenshot of historical examples of the usage of "unra
So to sum up, Irregardless is not unique or even that unusual. There are plenty of words where the form and meaning of the whole is not the strict sum of its parts. And we just use them everyday without even noticing.

One day no one will notice Irregardless as unusual, either.
Coda: when you take a descriptive view of language as linguists do, you start to see its beauty. As this M-W page describes, unloosen, unthaw, & unravel all have roots that seemingly have negation as part of their meaning (loosen means "make not tight").โ€ฆ
Interestingly Regardless also has a negative meaning! This suggests to me that there is something special about negation that makes it easy to combine multiple instances w/o changing the meaning (see also the widespread use of double negative syntactic constructions in languages)
So when one stops peeving and actually looks at the science of language, Irregardless is part of a particular systematicity in linguistic cognition rather than being some grotesque outlier. And personally, I think thatโ€™s beautiful.
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