“Never mind” is two words

Singer/guitarist Kurt Cobain had a profound and positive impact on rock music, but I blame his band’s second album for perpetuating a spelling error that is becoming increasingly common. That album was 1991’s “Nevermind,” a title Cobain chose in part because he knew it was incorrect. How so? “Nevermind” isn’t a word. The expression is actually two separate words, as in “I never mind long drum solos.”

There are many other examples of two-word phrases people mistakenly combine into nonexistent single words, perhaps none more so than “alot,” an incorrect condensation of “a lot.” (There’s also a separate word, allot, with an entirely different meaning.)

In addition, there are two-word phrases that are mistakenly combined into single words that have entirely different meanings. The most common example is “a part” and “apart,” which ironically have nearly opposite meanings. If something is a “a part” of something, it’s a component that’s connected in some way. You may be “a part” of an organization. But if something is “apart,” it’s separated from other things. When you stopped paying your dues, you were then apart from that organization.

Many terms we use in daily life also exist in both two-word and single-word forms. Generally, when they’re in two words, they’re being used as a verb, and when in their single-word form, they’re serving as a noun or an adjective. For example, you can “back up” the files (verb) and copy them to your “backup” disk (adjective) where they become the “backup” for your computer (noun).

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