Have you ever heard any of these state­ments?

  • Ain’t isn’t a real word.”
  • Irre­gard­less isn’t a real word.”
  • Snuck isn’t a real word.”

The prob­lem with state­ments like these is that they’re wrong.

You see, my approach to Eng­lish lan­guage is that Eng­lish is in flux, always evolv­ing. For cen­turies, words that once meant one thing even­tu­al­ly end up mean­ing some­thing else, some­times even tak­ing on the oppo­site mean­ing. As well, new words have popped up and old words have dropped off.

Some take a more restric­tive stance to the Eng­lish lan­guage, adher­ing to strict and pedan­tic gram­mar rules, which also hap­pen to often be arbi­trary, and some­times noth­ing more than myths. They are the last to adopt trendy words, and they are the last to let dying words go.

The idea that pop­u­lar words aren’t actu­al words is, frankly, pre­pos­ter­ous. Of course, they’re real words. If they weren’t real words, no one would use them. An actu­al fake word would be some­thing like “hod­dle­munk­ing”, com­plete­ly fab­ri­cat­ed and absent from any writ­ten works.

If peo­ple are speak­ing them, then they are words. If they appear in a dic­tio­nary, then enough peo­ple use them to make them com­mon. And by that point, it’s futile to resist their inte­gra­tion into the Eng­lish lan­guage.

As for those three words at the start of the arti­cle, con­sid­er that “irre­gard­less” has been around since at least 1877, “ain’t” since at least the 17th cen­tu­ry, and  “snuck” since at least 1890. You’re free to oppose them, but that’s a styl­is­tic choice, not a moral one.

About Kim Siever

I am a copy­writer and copy­ed­i­tor. I blog on writ­ing tips most­ly, but I some­times throw in my thoughts about run­ning a small busi­ness.

Fol­low me on Twit­ter at @hotpepper.

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