A few days ago, a new member of Jose Carillo’s English Forum who goes by the username Solid9asked for my opinion about an English teacher’s suggestion on YouTube that to become a better English speaker, one has to stop learning grammar rules. My immediate response was that it was just an attention-getting generalization. Indeed, when I checked the video, I found out that it was an overstated sales pitch for a legitimate English speech-improvement program.
Of course it would be foolhardy for English-language learners to stop learning English grammar. To become fluent in both written and spoken English, there simply are too many things to learn about its proper usage – vocabulary, semantics, syntax, structure, pronunciation, idioms, figures of speech, and more. In fact, to master any language other than one’s mother tongue, no “stop this-stop that” approach would work.
Let me share with you some thoughts I wrote in this column many years ago about the danger of not having a good grounding in English grammar despite learning to speak English well:
There was a lovely Filipina guest on a local TV show who spoke English fluently and persuasively. Watching her made me wish that all Filipino TV talk-show hosts and newscasters could speak with such unaffected English diction! Midway through her spiel, however, I heard a word that shattered my admiration. “Irregardless of what happened during the awards night,” she said, “the members of the movie industry should forget their differences and close ranks so they can move forward.”
She enunciated “irregardless” with such grace and conviction, leaving no doubt that she didn’t misread the script and was speaking her own mind. I thought she’d know better because practically all dictionaries consider “irregardless” an abomination. As the double-negative for the adjective “regardless,” it has been roundly condemned for its logical absurdity. The two negatives that flank the word “regard” – the ir- prefix and the –less suffix – cancel each other out to yield a positive meaning. (Recall that the prefix ir- before an adjective whose first syllable is “r” means “not,” and the suffix –less after a word means “without” or “none.”) “Irregardless” is therefore not the same as “regardless,” which means “without regard or consideration for,” “in spite of,” or “despite.”
“Irregardless” is thought to have started in the United States as an improper blend of “irrespective” and “regardless,” and as The American Heritage Dictionary states, the word “has no legitimate antecedents in either standard or nonstandard varieties of English.” In short, it is a big bugaboo, a goblin of a word.
Which brings us to the question: Shall we tolerate “irregardless” even if we know that it’s nonstandard and unacceptable English? Shall we condone its usage simply because some people who speak English well use it without blushing?
My feeling is that if we do, we might as well admit into Standard English usage such grammatical bugaboos as “abolishment” for “abolition,” “recognizement” for “recognition,” and “supposively” for “supposedly.” And while we are at it, we might as well gracefully accept such widespread grammatical travesties as “taken cared of” for “taken care of,” “the reason is because” for “the reason is that,” “that is to your according” for “that is what you say,” and “presently” for “right now” and not for “soon,” “before long,” or “shortly.” Some broadcasters and not a few of our friends and associates commit these booboos with even more disturbing frequency, but at least we can be sure that they are far lesser grammatical crimes than “irregardless.”
So, everyone who aspires to achieve impeccable English will be one step nearer that goal by similarly banishing “irregardless” from their vocabulary for life, and I must add here that it’s a patently wrongheaded notion to stop learning its grammar rules just to be able to speak English better.
Visit Jose Carillo’s English Forum, http://josecarilloforum.com. Visit me on Facebook. Follow me at Twitter.com @J8Carillo. E-mail: email@example.com