In this installment of Grammar Snacks, we’re going to play a fun and educational game called “Word or Not a Word?” Actually, you, the reader, will be playing; I’ll just be narrator in your head who also laughs at you when you answer incorrectly. I kid. Fear not; this exercise is easy: All you have to do is read. And if you’re feeling smart, go ahead and blurt out the answers. Regardless, enjoy this nutritious gobbet of grammatical goodness.  

Irregardless: Word or not a word?

Not a word! The angry red squiggly underline that accompanies this word anytime you type it into Microsoft Word is your clue that all is not right with “irregardless.” It gets flagged as a spelling error for a reason: because it’s not a word—no matter how many times you’ve heard it uttered. People who say “irregardless” actually mean “regardless.” Example sentence: Regardless of your interest in English grammar you should have some regard for using it correctly.

Reoccurring: Word or not a word?

Word! However, many writers and orators use “reoccur” or “reoccurring” to mean “recur” or “recurring.” Here’s how to tell the difference. Use “recur” if you’re talking about something that happens again “after an interval” or in a predictable pattern (thanks, Merriam Webster!), such as, for example, a recurring charge on a bill or recurring nightmare about flunking high school. Use “reoccur” if you’re dealing with something “that happens again, but not necessarily repeatedly or at regular intervals” (thanks, Grammarist!). Example sentence: A reoccurrence of his puppet’s stage fright kept the ventriloquist from performing at the Planet Hollywood company picnic.

Commentate: Word or not a word?

Not a word! It’s simply “comment,” as in “A commenter comments on the global shortage of beard combs.”

Ginormous: Word or not a word?

Word! Lately, “ginormous” has been the go-to adjective for describing something so big that the words “gigantic” and “enormous” just aren’t up to the task of adequately conveying its size. (Like my collection of sand, for instance.) No, “gigantic” and “enormous” need to combine their powers to form one omnipotent adjective: “ginormous.” So ubiquitous is this word’s use now you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s another fake adjectival hybrid foisted upon the English language by some shameless marketer of truck-stop burritos, 12-pack tube socks, or liquid-gushing fruit snacks. But “ginormous” is not a new invention; it made its first recorded appearance in the lexicon way back in 1948, according to Merriam-Webster.

So how well did you do? If you got all four right, I’m afraid we don’t have any prizes for you except for a heartfelt “Way to go, word nerd!” and the knowledge that when it comes to the English language, you may not know all things, but you know at least four things.

Joe Ehrbar is a senior editor at SMITH.


Tags: grammar