Why You Can’t Always Trust the Dictionary…

Victor Wishna

Staff Writer

Victor Wishna's work has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, the Baltimore Sun, the New York Post, NPR, KCMetropolis.org, and others. His writing and editing services firm, The Vital Word helps find the right words for nonprofit, corporate, and individual clients. Follow him on Twitter: @vwishna.

Caught an interesting bit on NPR’s “Talk of the Nation” this week (turns out it was a replay from July, but hey—why should romance novelists and reality TV producers be the only ones who get to rehash old material?). Neal Conan chatted with “Grammar Girl” Mignon Fogarty about her new book (well, new in July), 101 Misused Words You’ll Never Confuse Again.

One of my favorite parts was the discussion of “irregardless,” which has always annoyed me, and apparently it should, since I “care about language:”

“…and it’s in dictionaries, and it makes people crazy. It’s a double negative…the less is sort of a negative and then the ir is a negative, too. So irregardless means without without regard. You know, it’s one of those things—people go crazy when they say it qualifies as a word, but it does. It’s used enough that you know what people mean when they say it, and it’s in the dictionary. But just because it’s a word and just because it’s in the dictionary, it doesn’t mean you should use it. If you use it, you’re marking yourself as less educated. And it will hurt you among people who care about language. So don’t use irregardless even though it’s in the dictionary.

My other favorite part of the NPR segment: Several callers who dialed in to share their peeves about how language is misused mistakenly referred to Mignon (yes, like the filet) as “Marsha.” Oops.

My other other favorite part: Fogarty’s sign off… “Thank you. Words are fun!” You go, Grammar Girl.

What are some other non-word words that annoy you?