Wednesday, October 7, 2009

I Hate "Alot" A Lot

I haven't done a language rant in awhile, so here goes.

The offense of the day is:


This spelling abomination is used by people to mean "a lot". It's a mistake I didn't see years ago, even by people with generally atrocious spelling and grammar. It apparently is a fairly "new" mistake, that I'm seeing more and more. And what makes "alot" different from other language errors, is that I'm seeing it used more often by people who generally don't make frequent spelling and grammar mistakes.

I've often wondered why people in increasing numbers have started to run the two words "a lot" together. First, let's look at the definition of the phrase "a lot".

A lot

Very many, a large number; also, very much. For example, A lot of people think the economy is declining, or Sad movies always made her cry a lot. It is sometimes put as a whole lot for greater emphasis, as in I learned a whole lot in his class. It may also emphasize a comparative indication of amount, as in We need a whole lot more pizza to feed everyone, or Mary had a lot less nerve than I expected. [Colloquial; early 1800s]

The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer.
Copyright © 1997. Published by Houghton Mifflin

Is it that they don't understand what a word "lot" means? Here's a couple of definitions of the word "lot" that relate to the phrase "a lot":


a piece of land having the use specified by the attributive noun or adjective: a parking lot; a used-car lot.

a distinct portion or parcel of anything, as of merchandise: The furniture was to be auctioned off in 20 lots.

a number of things or persons collectively: There's one more, and that's the lot.

Often, lots. a great many or a great deal: a lot of books; lots of money.

I'm guessing that they're confusing "a lot" with the bona fide word, "allot", which is a verb that has an entirely different meaning from "a lot":


to divide or distribute by share or portion; distribute or parcel out; apportion: to allot the available farmland among the settlers.

to appropriate for a special purpose: to allot money for a park.

to assign as a portion; set apart; dedicate.

Personally, I think the rise of "alot" has quite a bit to do with the fact that increasingly fewer people read regularly, so they are spelling "by ear", rather than imitating what they've seen in print.

So ends the spelling lesson of the day.

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