The English language, by design, is full of words that don’t really exist but were forced into existence through popular use. Dictionaries take this into account and will include new words in their updates, or mark certain ones as non-standard but acceptable. However, the Internet has accelerated the rate in which non-existent words are adopted, resulting in a lot of people making use of words that sound like words but are not. And there are numerous cases of such words. Here are some of the more egregious examples:
The word ‘reiterate’ is commonly used by people who want to emphasize or stress something: ‘let me reiterate…’ The problem with the word is that the prefix ‘re’ is completely unnecessary because ‘iterate’ already means ‘to repeat.’ This means when you say ‘reiterate,’ you’re actually saying ‘re-repeat.’ It doesn’t make sense. However, this is an example of usage trumping rules, because the word is already included in the dictionary.
It’s easy to mistake this for a real word because it’s commonly used, and can even be seen on the labels of many chemicals, denoting that the content can easily catch fire. Unfortunately, it’s not a real word because the term itself is self-contradicting; flammable already means that it can easily burn. The prefix ‘in’ on the other hand means an opposite. Thus, inflammable actually should mean ‘does not easily burn,’ which runs completely counter to what the word is being used for. The term does have a logical origin, though – it was the original spelling of the word after being derived from the Latin for ‘inflame.’
This word is new but already widely used, thanks to rap music and Ebonics. People use this word in place of ‘asked,’ but nobody knows whether it was a stylistic choice/intentional or a result of people having trouble pronouncing the correct term. Many people likely assumed that it’s ‘axed’ being used as a slang for ‘throw.’ e.g. ‘he [axed | threw] you a question, please answer him.’
This word is widely used to denote a feeling of being unimpressed or unfazed, but you will find that many dictionaries don’t carry these definitions. The word doesn’t work at all with these definitions because there is no such word as ‘plussed,’ so there’s nothing for the prefix ‘non’ to define. The true origin of the word is that it’s a Latin word that means ‘no more.’ So, even if you take it within the context of the original term, the current usage still makes no sense.
Saving the best for last: ‘Irregardless’ is a pet peeve for many grammarians, but is still widely used. The main problem with the word is that it’s a double negative. The ‘less’ suffix in ‘regardless’ already makes the word a negative, so the prefix ‘ir’ is completely unnecessary and ruins the meaning. The term is so commonly used, even by people who should know better that some dictionaries have already added it, although it has been marked as non-standard.
Image credit: Procsilas Moscas on flickr and reproduced under Creative Commons 2.0[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]http://writingtipsoasis.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/hv1.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]Hiten Vyas is the Founder and Managing Editor of eBooks India. He is also a prolific eBook writer with over 25 titles to his name.[/author_info] [/author]