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I read a sentence in Word by Word by Kory Stamper which was:

The trustee suggests that it would probably be inuseless to suggest anything for these unrestless scholars who are so irregardless of their conduct.

No dictionary has any entry of "inuseless"; but considering that the book is written by a lexicographer, I am still not sure if it really is a mistake or even a typo.

  • To start with, I don't think that's a word so you may struggle to get an answer to this. Also, please can you add a source? – Gamora Aug 1 '19 at 16:25
  • The source: books.google.co.in/books?id=HFxxDAAAQBAJ&pg=PA59 – kelvin Aug 1 '19 at 16:29
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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because the OP is reading this exceptionally difficult book (It's about lexicography and word-craft itself, and is written in a complex style), and repeatedly asking questions along the way. The answers often involve people searching for the text in the question, reading prior to it, then expounding quite a bit of interpretation. All in all, I don't think this matches the purpose of the site. – Jim Reynolds Aug 1 '19 at 18:10
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    If the OP continues in this way, they are asking a great deal of the site users, and by the end of the book, the answers could almost be collected and published as "An Annotated Guide to Reading Stamper's Word By Word". This question in particular appears to demonstrate that the OP was unaware of the general concept that the author was developing. Without intending insult, I think it's fair to say that the OP didn't even know what they were asking. – Jim Reynolds Aug 1 '19 at 18:21
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    @JimR - This isn't the first time an ELLer has asked several questions as they trudged through an advanced book. Still, it's important to point out: it's not just the repetitive questions that become taxing on the community, it's the lack of context in this barrage of questions. Until I read your comment just now, I had no idea if "Word by Word" was a romance novel or a treatise on lexicography. Moreover, in this particular instance, the passage in question was taken from a 19th-century quote within the book. I agree that it's not fair to omit such critical details from the question itself. – J.R. Aug 1 '19 at 21:28
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I am going to provide additional context from the ebook version of Word by Word that I have (and to which I can't provide a link).

Prior to that sentence she says this:

The Atchison Daily Globe shares this bit of breaking news with its readers in 1882: “Parson Twine has a new word—irregardless.”

What’s remarkable about all this is that the word’s earliest uses in print, from the late eighteenth century to the mid-nineteenth century, are unremarkable. There are no scare quotes, no italics, no [sic]s—just the word appearing in print as if it were any other word. But by the end of the nineteenth century, it’s suddenly become evidence of an undernourished mind:

She then quotes three paragraphs of text, the final one being the one given in the question.

In short, it's not her who uses the so-called word inuseless; it's a word that's been used in an 1882 article in The Atchison Daily Globe.

Additionally, she's making it clear in her commentary that some so-called words were not actually defined words at the time, and that there was no stylistic context given to make it clear to readers that they weren't actual words.

In conclusion, inuseless is not a word. It's just something that the author has made up—but also not indicated it's been made up by using scare quotes, italics, or [sic]s "as if it were any other word."

What it's actually supposed to mean is speculative. but it certainly seems likely that it's being used sarcastically and rhetorically in order to make a point about the (then) ungrammatical nature of irregardless.

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Do any dictionaries have entries for unrestless or irregardless?

It's a joke.

The writer is making fun of someone for having used the common non-word irregardless. He teases this person, by making up other words: inuseless and unrestless.


Here's the context, for anyone who's curious:

The reporter has been given a copy of the following actual report submitted to his trustee by a Jefferson township teacher a few days since:

"I have been trying to bend all into some regular years work. The school formerly not being graded at all, and allowed to run at random in their books. I found many obstacles and difficulties to overcome. Keep the scholars in regular year's work irregardless of their desire, is my best judgment. Strive to make good citizens of the scholars in school I have. But had poor citizens to begin with. Therefore, they are not ideal citizens in a school yet by any means."

The trustee suggests that it would probably be innuesless to suggest anything for these unrestless scholars who are so irregardless of their conduct.

"Word by Word: The Secret Life of Dictionaries"

  • Merriam-Webster has a dictionary definition of irregardless. (Although there wasn't one back when the quoted article was written.) – Jason Bassford Aug 1 '19 at 16:39

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