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A few more words about words

I get it: We all enjoy complaining about other people’s word usage. But Renée Loth (”Losing battles with the language,” Opinion, June 4) is asking dictionaries to be language police, which is not their role. Indeed, she says she doesn’t want language police, like the French Academy, to rule on proper usage. Yet she’s horrified that “irregardless” is in Merriam-Webster’s dictionaries at all.

But a dictionary is not a “canon”; it’s a record of words we the people are actually using, disliked or not. And not only does M-W not endorse “irregardless,” it labels it “nonstandard” — that is, outside the norm for educated native speakers. And its usage note concludes with the advice: “It is best to use regardless.”


As for the “corruption” of English, well, people have bemoaned it for centuries. Yet we have higher literacy rates than ever, and plenty of good writing. The truth is, we dislike changes to current language. Some of our grandparents were scandalized by “contact” as a verb, but nobody notices it today.

I could go on, but I won’t. I only wish that people with questions about language change would show more interest in the answers. They are far more interesting than our tired old peeves, repeated over and over.

Jan Freeman


The author is a former Globe editor and language columnist.

This retired old teacher and logophile agrees that it’s increasingly difficult to overlook the twisting and torturing of our beloved English language. Nonetheless, one must admit that it is all, in fact, a ”mute point” when one considers that any fool can be published online these days, and editing is most often done by the application in which we write rather than by an actual English-speaking human. Irregardless of your fulsome complaints, I fear we’ll soon find ourselves wondering what we’re gonna do when we are outnumbered by the texting crowd. Maybe we’ll just have to give up the goat and go along.


Karen Shiebler