Words of the Week

The Words of the Week - 7/3/20

Some of the words that defined the week ending July 3, 2020

Welcome to The Words of the Week, in which we look over some of the good, the bad, and the semantically imprecise words that tickled your curiosity this past week. Please note that bad is used here in a vague fashion; we do not really think of any words as bad (although sometimes they are a bit unruly).


Have a happy and safe holiday weekend!

'Independence Day'

Independence Day is upon us, and this means that there are certain certainties about to occur: people will have picnics, people will have fireworks, and people will spell independence as independance, an action that will annoy many. Here is your yearly reminder that English orthography is both tricky and inconstant; many people have difficulty spelling independence, and the word was once upon a time often spelled with an A.

I can only assure you then that I sincerely rejoice in the independance of your situation.

— Thomas Jefferson, Letter to Peyton Randolph, 23 Jul. 1770

While you are in it, I know you will execute it with Fidelity to your Master, but I think Independance more honourable than any Service....

— Benjamin Franklin, Letter to William Franklin, 7 May 1774

Our open and avowed Enemys, together with the Officers and Soldiers of their Army, were exasperated at it, from a conviction that our Aim, at the beginning, was Independance.

— George Washington, Letter to Lund Washington, 6 Oct. 1776

We define Independence Day as “a civil holiday for the celebration of the anniversary of the beginnings of national independence,” noting that it often specifically refers to “July 4 observed as a legal holiday in the U.S. in commemoration of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence in 1776.”


Reports that Russian agents had been offering cash to Afghan fighters for killing members of the U. S. armed forces sent lookups spiking for bounty.

The U.S. conclusion in 2019 that the Russians were sending bounty money to the Taliban came at a delicate time in the conflict, just as the United States was deep into negotiations with the insurgents over a deal to withdraw the remaining American troops from the country.
— Mujib Mashal, Eric Schmitt, Najim Rahim and Rukmini Callimachi, The New York Times, 1 Jul. 2020

Bounty has been in English since the 13th century (it can be traced to the Latin bonus, meaning “good”). The word has a large number of possible meanings, including “something that is given generously or liberally,” “yield, especially of a crop,” “liberality in bestowing gifts or favors,” and “a reward, premium, or subsidy especially when offered or given by a government.”

'Lone ranger'

President Trump’s assertion that wearing a protective mask made him look like the Lone Ranger greatly increased lookups for that noun.

Trump Says He's Coming Around on Wearing a Mask Because 'It Looked Like the Lone Ranger’
—(headline) People (people.com), 2 Jul. 2020

We define lone ranger as “one who acts alone and without consultation or the approval of others,” and “loner.” We typically do not enter titular words from television or radio shows (the Lone Ranger was the hero of an American radio and television western), but in this case we have due to the word having taken on a meaning that extends well beyond the character it originated with.


From time to time it is drawn to our attention that certain parties find it objectionable that we have included irregardless in our dictionary. The outrage presumably springs from our allowing this callow arriviste to rub elbows with other, nobler, words; the very presence of irregardless besmirches such entries as asshead, ninnyhammer, and schnook.


Irregardless is included in our dictionary because it has been in widespread and near-constant use since 1795. We must warn you, gentle readers, that there are some other words which appear for the first time this very same year that we define in our dictionary. Yes! We have allowed entry to such Johnnies-come-lately as bewhiskered, citizenry, and terrorism, all of which have their earliest written evidence the same year as irregardless.

We do not make the English language, we merely record it. If people use a word with consistent meaning, over a broad geographic range, and for an extended period of time chances are very high that it will go into our dictionary. As a way of showing why we included irregardless we have decided to show but a small portion of the citations that we have of this word’s use.

But death, irregardless of tenderest ties, Resolv’d the good Betty, at length, to bereave.
Charleston City Gazette (Charleston, GA), 23 Jun, 1795

He was quite willing to go forward as the corrector of those abuses which really did exist, and the removal of which wold be beneficial to the interests of the country, but he was decidedly opposed to those ill-advised and useless innovations, brought forward irregardless of the dangers and injuries they might inflict on the country.
The Morning Post (London, Eng.), 30 Jul. 1847

Or is it because the bloodhound spirit of an office-seeker will track any victim so that he can but secure the spoils irregardless of any incumbent, however faithful, honest, or competent he be?
The Washington Union (Washington, D.C.), 13 Jul. 1849

The well-regulated family forms the best prototype for a school, and we would not regard him to be an enlightened father, who prescribed a certain routine for his children—a routine in which they were to be instructed, irregardless of any discovery that might be made in the onward path of improvement—a routine which would cut them off, and deprive them from entering with generous emulation in the race of improvement—in the perpetual progress of man to perfection without the possibility of arriving at it.
The People’s Advocate (Sydney, Aus.), 8 Mar. 1851

On his way from London to his residence … he determined to drive home, irregardless of his family’s entreaties to stop for the night.
The Observer (London, Eng.), 18 Jul. 1853

…and, further, because they have urged that all who are now earnest and faithful endorsers and supporters of the national democratic platform are democrats worthy of the confidence and patronage od the party, irregardless of what they have heretofore been, provided only that their actions and professions correspond.
Daily Union (Washington, D.C.), 4 Nov. 1853

This is when, irregardless of circumstances, men have identified themselves with those systems of reform.
— Joseph B. Davis, A Sermon Preached at Manchester, NH, 1854

…not political tricksters and demagogues who pull the wires to suit themselves, but men of sterling integrity and moral worth who will do all in their power for the right irregardless of the whims of politicians.
Washington Reporter (Washington, PA), 24 Jun. 1857

He had endeavored to discharge his duty fearlessly in this case, irregardless of those who may consider this discourse discourteous to the “Plugs.”
The Baltimore Sun, 25 Jan. 1859

We have cried prematurely, we have legislated for them in every direction, irregardless of the facts of their being wanted, or their management when wanted.
Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper (New York, NY), 16 Jul. 1859

She thought of him as few would think of a discarded suitor; she knew him as a proud, haughty man of the world, who was sufficiently wealthy himself to have sought her, irregardless of her own.
Harper’s Weekly (New York, NY), 3 Sept. 1859

If, at a certain hour in the evening, say as the dusk is falling, she laid her infant to rest, irregardless of its open eyes and remonstrances and lung appeals, she would find her reward in a short time by seeing the little one at the certain hour drop carelessly away to slumber, and allow its possibly jaded nurse her evening for self-recreation.
New York Atlas (New York, NY), 19 Feb. 1860

…from the fact that tenants are unwilling to remain at the mercy of an unscrupulous ferry company, whose only desire appears to be to make money, irregardless of the wants of the public in both cities.
The New York Herald, 23 Apr. 1860

General Hall’s staff, with one or two exceptions were of very little service to him during the drill, as they appeared to be riding around the field irregardless of their position.
The New York Herald, 29 May 1860

To use a homely phrase, the Times knows “which side the bread is buttered;” and it distinguishes itself from many of its contemporaries by playing the winning game, irregardless of principle, and spices its sycophancy with sufficient censoriousness to make it palatable.
Isle of Wight Observer (Isle of Wight, Eng.), 9 Feb. 1861

The affair was gotten up irregardless of expense, and the large and respectable company of guests that participated in the affair attests the high respectability of the corps.
New York Daily Herald, 10 Feb. 1861

The Democrats are going into this campaign “irregardless” of party.
New Hampshire Statesman (Concord, NH), 16 Feb. 1861

He was the bearer of messages from commercial men in the South to English merchants in reference to opening a trade with the South irregardless of the federal blockade.
New York Daily Herald, 29 Jan. 1862

It has been stated that the Commissioner of the General Land Office, the Hon. J. M. Edmunds, irregardless of the wants and necessities of the manifest interest of the Pacific Railroad … has conceived it to be his official duty to cross fire with President Lincoln….
The Leavenworth Bulletin (Leavenworth, KS), 13 Dec. 1862

The Management has the honor of informing his numerous friends and patrons that during the close of the “Opera” the entire place has been renovated and fitted up in a style of elegance and beauty irregardless of expense, and it now ranks as the most magnificent Music Hall not only in the city but in the United States.
Sunday Dispatch (Philadelphia, PA), 15 Nov. 1863

The people in this city are beginning to awake from the lethargy superinduced by the long-winded bulletins of the War Department announcing victory, and they now discuss this case irregardless of what Secretary Stanton writes or says, and make their own conclusions.
Daily State Sentinel (Indianapolis, IN), 3 Jun. 1864

The farmers are permitted to come, irregardless of their political sentiments, to a place on the margin of the Shenandoah, near the town, where a market is held daily.
Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper (New York, NY), 8 Oct. 1864

But our Surgeon, irregardless alike of either privilege or regulation, in his desire to aid in beating the enemy, allowed his enthusiasm to get mastery over his prudence….
— Frederick E. Cushman, History of the 58th regt. Massachusetts, 1865

The next trial between the vessels will be in regard to the speed of the engines, both engines to run to learn which can make a greater number of revolutions within a given time, irregardless of limit of the supply of coal or the quantity of steam.
The New York Herald, 27 Sept. 1865

I agree to supply whatever amount they engage, without fail, irregardless of short crops or bad weather.
New England Farmer (Boston, MA), 1 Dec. 1866

But this man was in earnest, and he showed it by forgetting his bodily suffering, by pushing himself on the notice of Jesus Christ, and by pleading for nercy irregardless of those who heard him.
Cambridge Independent Press (Cambridge, Eng.), 13 Apr. 1867

Judge Noonan has applied to the Governor for permission to summon jurors irregardless of the test oath ordered to be administered by General Griffin, knowing that such a jury as required cannot be found in his upper counties.
Flake’s Bulletin (Galveston, TX), 3 Oct. 1867

Mr. Dicks said he should be very happy to hand over the duties and salary of collecting to these or any other gentlemen who did not mind going, as he had gone, eight, and even sixteen times, to get 2s., irregardless of distance, say to Sumertown or Littlemore.
Jackson’s Oxford Journal (Oxford, Eng.), 25 Jan. 1868

By request of a number of Union Republican voters of East Liberty and vicinity, irregardless of ward lines, the Union Republican voters of East Liberty and vicinity, will please meet at Beitler’s School House.
Pittsburgh Weekly Gazette, 14 Aug. 1868

Mollie, do you agree to take Jim, and live with him, and go to Cheyenne with him, and stay with him irregardless of law and consequence?
The Chicago Tribune, 12 Jan. 1869

The forty-third section, providing that all children (irregardless of color) shall be received into the public schools on pain of fine and imprisonment, was adopted.
The Times-Picayune (New Orleans, LA), 11 Feb. 1870

They become irregardless of consequences, reckless, miserable—not on account of high wages, but from a false education.
Bellows Falls Times (Bellows Falls, VT), 18 Feb. 1870

Let us give exact justice to all, irregardless of color or sex.
The Philadelphia Inquirer, 10 Jun. 1870

The experience of past years should teach sticklers for the old principle of quantity irregardless of quality, that it is an unprofitable principle—one which, in tho long run, will bring its followers to grief.
Australian Town and Country Journal (Sydney, Aus.), 11 Feb. 1871

There are other Companies doing business in the State that will probably share the same fate, if they continue to do business irregardless of the State law on the subject.
Perrysburg Journal (Perrysburg, OH), 17 Feb. 1871

…But he felt he was the servant of the people, and irregardless of any party or personal relations, he accommodated all.
Leavenworth Daily Commercial (Leavenworth, KS), 5 Nov. 1871

The argument is, the state is powerless—the federal government must interfere—Brown cannot act irregardless of law, Grant may—and this is sufficient reason for flooding the state with federal military….
The Kansas City Times (Kansas City, MO), 1 May 1872

Pupils should be well classified, and so kept, irregardless of the particular desires of partial relatives.
The Placer Herald (Rocklin, CA), 1 Jun. 1872

…But for the ambitious cliques who have badgered Supervisors and bored Legislatures to secure the location for “our beautiful village,” irregardless of the convenience of the masses.
The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 30 Jul. 1872

He was not discovered until he had begun his work, when, upon being perceived, one of the aforesaid guard, irregardless of consequences, and with unequaled bravery, demanded by what right he (the owner) dared remove a piece of property which, by the “Squatter Sovereignty Law,” had long since passed out of his hands.
St. Landry Democrat (Opelousas, LA), 8 Mar. 1873

The hight (sic) of his ambition seems to be to procure the best artists in the profession irregardless of expense, in order to present an entertainment which will command public approval, and in this he never fails.
Austin American Statesman (Austin, TX), 19 Jun. 1873

Party lines will be almost entirely ignored this coming canvass, and the people will vote for the best men, irregardless of party.
San Francisco Chronicle, 13 Jul. 1873

Perhaps I had better not, for politics in this town are so much mixed up with religious and temperance affairs, hard money and paper money, tariff and anti-tariff, irregardless of party predilections, that it would puzzle a smarter man than myself to tell which is which.
The Rock Island Argus (Rock Island, IL), 15 Jul. 1875

For Sale Cheap. Several second hand sewing machines of popular Manufacturer warranted in good order, and will be sold irregardless of cost as I am closing up business preparatory to a change of territory.
The Oxford Leader (Oxford NC), 28 Sept. 1875

In the Prussian service all hygienic responsibility ended when a warm hospital building was secured, irregardless of bad air.
Medical and Surgical Reporter, 14 Aug. 1875

We shall place our exchanges on file in the room, and cordially invite all persons, irregardless of party, to drop in and post up on political matters.
Columbus Courier (Columbus, KS), 13 Ju. 1876

Individually, at least, I am in favor of the education of the whole country, irregardless of race, color, or previous condition.
Report of the sub-committee of the Committee on Privileges and Elections of the United States Senate, 1877

To be sold irregardless of cost the splendid collection of Chinese and Japanese goods, at no. 604 Washington avenue.
St.Louis Dispatch (St. Louis, MO), 27 Dec. 1877

If they succeed, we will guarantee them an unanimous re-election, if desired, “irregardless” of party lines.
Helena Weekly Herald (Helena, MT), 14 Mar. 1878

Every mother’s son of us, Sir, from me down to the humblest individooal in the village, and irregardless of everything else, must jist turn to and experience infidelity, by thunder, and dedycate ourselves anew to its service with all our mights, minds, strengths, and gizzrds, by thunder!
The New York Times, 7 Mar. 1886

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