Wednesday, 18 September 2013

People who write alright are all right

Now it's possible I've written a post on this before. I don't think I have though so I'm writing it now, albeit with the small chance of my repeating myself.

I'll be brief. Already doesn't mean all ready. Always doesn't mean all ways. Alone doesn't mean all one. In each case, the first word has developed from a combination of the other two words to ultimately express a new thought or idea. This is a highly useful feature of language development.

Alright doesn't mean all right.
If I say "they're all right", then I am only talking sense if the "they" in this instance have just all said something like "two times two is four". In that case, they are all right. If one of them says "two times two is twenty-two" then they're no longer all right, as one of them is wrong.

If I say "they're alright" then it is possible that they have all said "two times two is four" but this is an irrelevance. Of far more importance is whether the bus that has just threatened to flatten them has done so or not. If it hasn't, then "they're alright" is a sensible comment. If it has, even if it's only flattened some of them, then "they're alright" is ill-judged, regardless of whether or not they've just said that two times two is four or twenty-two.

This is pretty obvious, but nevertheless worth saying. I don't have any dictionaries to hand so I can't tell you if they all agree with me or, in other words, if they're all right or not. In any case, I'm not here to bag on dictionaries. Most are not perfect because they contain many errors resulting from the fact that they are constantly playing catch-up. But they're generally alright.

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