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'Reiterate' is your ticket to an endless cycle

If you run with grammar sticklers, you know that saying "irregardless" under any circumstances not considered ironic is a great way to get yourself thrown into exile.

While it's true that grammar enthusiasts die a little each time someone utters this persistent double-negative, other words of a similar nature don't seem to draw quite as much ire as "irregardless." 

For example, what about "reiterate"?

Think about the last time you used that one. It was probably to let someone know that you were going to repeat something; e.g., "I like to reiterate that the final paper is due tomorrow."

Did anyone correct you when you said it? Did someone give you a slap on the hand with a ruler? Or even just a haughty look? Probably not.

The true nature of "reiterate" seems to slip under the radar for most people. Here's a little nugget of truth, so you can be the one with the haughty look: "Reiterate" is redundant.

According to most standard dictionaries, to "iterate" means to utter or do again. In other words, "iterate" means the same thing as "reiterate." Merriam-Webster even includes a usage note that says  technically speaking, "reiterate" should really mean to say or do something again, and then again. 

However, it's pretty rare to hear someone actually use "iterate" and doing so may earn you some curious stares. That is, unless you're in the tech world.

"Iterate" and the "iterative process" are quite popular in tech and business speak to talk about processes in which there are rounds of analysis to get to a decision, or formulas where you substitute the answer the from the previous round into the new round. 

The word is used so often, some have mused that "iterate" has become a Silicon Valley cliche

Maybe that's what happens when we let perfectly good words slip under the radar. They become free agents until someone else grabs them and sticks them in a Power Point presentation next to "paradigm shift" and "synergy." 

Who knows, "regardless" may be the next to fall.

Anne Curzan is the Geneva Smitherman Collegiate Professor of English and an Arthur F. Thurnau Professor at the University of Michigan. She also holds faculty appointments in the Department of Linguistics and the School of Education.
Rebecca Kruth is the host of All Things Considered at Michigan Public. She also co-hosts Michigan Public's weekly language podcast That’s What They Say with English professor Anne Curzan.
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