Welcome to the website woven for wordaholics, logolepts, and verbivores. Carnivores eat meat; herbivores eat plants and vegetables; verbivores devour words. If you are heels over head (as well as head over heels) in love with words, tarry here a while to graze or, perhaps, feast on the English language. Ours is the only language in which you drive in a parkway and park in a driveway and your nose can run and your feet can smell.

Richard Lederer

 

Actress Jamie Lee Curtis recently turned to Twitter to express her outrage that Merriam-Webster dictionaries now include the word irregardless. “In case you thought 2020 couldn’t get any worse, Merriam-Webster just officially recognized irregardless as a word,” the actress tweeted, and her grammar fanatic fans howled: “I don’t want to live on this planet anymore,” one replied. Another lamented, “Ugh! It cannot be. It goes against literally everything. A double negative-hate mob mentality.”

Irrespective of what Jamie Lee Curtis claims, irregardless is actually a word, one that millions of people use. I passionately caution against legislating those millions of people out of existence. Dictionaries instruct people, but they also reflect people.

Irregardless is a nonstandard blending of irrespective and regardless, but it is a word. I strongly recommend that you use regardless and avoid irregardless, but (do I repeat myself?) irregardless, like ain’t, is a word.

Moreover, disirregardless of what Jamie Lee asserts, irregardless did not skulk into the dictionary just this year. The word began life at the start of the 20th century and appeared in the Webster’s New International Dictionary: Second Edition Unabridged in 1934.

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Norm Crosby, the populist comedian who mangled words with great extinction, drawing standing ovulations for more than four decades with his anguished English, scrambled syntax and maniacal malapropisms, died November 7 in Los Angeles at age 93. For all intensive porpoises, the very pineapple of creative word play and hexagon of humor, his work will live on for posteriority.

His schtick included many classic one-liners, such as:

  • When you go into court you are putting your fate into the hands of 12 people who weren’t smart enough to get out of jury duty.
  • My school was so tough the school newspaper had an obituary section.
  • The mind is an incredible thing. It starts working the minute you’re born, and it doesn’t stop until you have to stand up in front of an audience.

But Norm was best known as The Master of the Malaprop. When people misuse words in a pretentious but humorous manner, we call the result a malapropism. The word echoes the name of Mrs. Malaprop (from the French mal a propos, “not appropriate”), a character who first strode the stage in 1775 in Richard Brinsley Sheridan’s comedy The Rivals. Mrs. Malaprop was a garrulous “old weather-beaten she dragon” who took special pride in her use of the King’s English but who, all the same, unfailingly mangled big words: “Sure, if I reprehend anything in this world it is the use of my oracular tongue, and a nice derangement of epitaphs!” She meant, of course, that if she comprehended anything, it was a nice arrangement of epithets.

Among Norm Crosby’s many mangled malapropisms, these celebrity statements gleam out:

  • on Barry Goldwater: A man of depth, a man of perversion. His rise to fame was vitriolic.
  • on Kirk Douglas: A serious equestrian performer. He should be raised to a pinochle.
  •  on Dean Martin: A certain inner flux that excretes from this man. There’s an aura of marination that radiates out of him. 

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DEAR RICHARD: To me, the verb try demands an infinitive verb form following it, but I almost never see it this way in anything I read or hear. Instead of “let’s try to do something,” I see “Let’s try and do something.” –Bob Hall, La Jolla

The use of try and for try to has become an established idiom in everyday speech and, increasingly, in writing. This substitution of the conjunction and for the to that is part of an infinitive verb happens almost exclusively with the verb try.

But, in this context, and doesn’t actually join two actions. If I say or (gasp!) write “I’ll try and help you,” I don’t mean to describe two separate occurrences: “First, I’ll try, and then I’ll help you.” Rather, the and in this construction supplants the more logical to, which is supposed to kick off an infinitive phrase that acts as a noun and tells what will be tried. I recommended that you try to stick with the infinitive construction.