I’ll Be Al(l ?)right Without You

by Dave


Alright, all ready! Eat your ice cream!


All right, already! Eat your ice cream!


The expression “All right, already” should be enough to convince any prescriptivist that most everything they believe is nonsense. Both “all right” and “already” have the same history (i.e. the word “all” plus either “right” or “ready”), but, for no good reason at all, they’re spelled differently. Supposedly, the fact that “already” is spelled “already” and not “all ready” is to show the difference between the two expressions shown below:

We already ate. (We ate some time in the past.)
We are all ready to eat. (We’re prepared to eat.)

You can’t use the two the same, so, supposedly, we need two different spellings. If you follow that logic, then we should have two different spellings for “all right”, as shown below:

  • Did you get the answers all right? (Were each of your answers correct?)
  • Did you get the answers alright? (Did you have trouble getting the answers?)

There is, indeed, a difference between the two variants, but, unfortunately, the spelling doesn’t reflect it. Journey attempted to remedy the situation with their “smash” hit “I’ll Be Alright without You”, but sticklers across the English-speaking world so far remain intransigent. Chances are, they probably don’t even realize there are two different variants. So it goes.

So, what are you to do? Well, until the revolution comes, you should probably continue to spell “all right” and “alright” as “all right”. It’ll take you a second longer, but no one will look at you askance. Nevertheless, feel free to admonish the prescriptivists who hold fast to their irregular spellings for being foolish.

Incidentally, if, for example, in dialog, you ever wanted to use the emerging variant of “all right” “aight”, there are two ways to spell it (in my opinion). If the word really does sound monosyllabic, I’d spell it “aight”, but often if you listen to someone pronounce it, the first vowel is quite a bit longer than an ordinary “a” to compensate for the loss of the liquids (the “ll” and the “r”). In that case, I would indicate that the word is being pronounced as if something has been lost, like this: “a’ight”.

[Note: For another discussion of the al(l )right controversy, go here.]