Early appearances of "irregardless"

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Fri May 4 15:51:11 UTC 2007

At 10:04 AM -0400 5/4/07, Mark A. Mandel wrote:
>  <<<<<
>I seem to remember some discussion of this usage by Whorf (?). Can anyone
>pin that down?
Yes, that was the reference to Whorf and "cryptotype" I gave in my
earlier message.  Here's the passage (from _Language, Thought, and
Reality_).  My problem is that his examples aren't uniformly bad,
because they represent crucially different semantic classes.  Note,
for example, the Toni Braxton hit song "Un-Break My Heart".  (That's
the normal reversative, not the redundant one.)

Another English crypotype is that of the transitive verbs of a
covering, enclosing, surface-attaching meaning, the reactance of
which is that UN- may be prefixed to denote the opposite. Hence we
say 'uncover, uncoil, undress, unfasten, unfold, unlock, unroll,
untangle, untie, unwind,' but not 'unbreak, undry, unhang, unheat,
unlift, unmelt, unopen, unpress, unspill.'  With the exception of a
few words mostly semi-archaic, e.g. 'unsay, unthink, unmake,' the use
of UN- as a reversative prefix in true verbs coincides with the
centripetal enclosing and attaching meaning.

I can imagine a newly coined verb flimmick.  If flimmick means, let
us say, 'tie a tin can to,' then it falls into the cryptotype and I
can say, e.g. 'he unflimmicked the dog.'  But, if it means 'to take
apart,' there will be no tendency for anyone to make a form
unflimmick meaning 'put together'; e.g. 'he unflimmicked the set of
radio parts.'

(Whorf 1956: 71)

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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