Each week, we chat about the quirks and anomalies of the English language. And this week, we have a lot to say…
Q: Hi AWC, could we maybe allot a few minutes this week to a pet peeve of mine?
A: Sure. We have a lot of time to spare today.
Q: It’s about the word “alot”. It’s not real, is it?
A: A lot of people seem to think it is. But those people are usually leaving unsavoury comments on YouTube and don’t know about apostrophes either. “Alot” is not a word.
Q: So WHY oh WHY does it continually follow me everywhere I go?
A: It’s a fair question. The correct version (“a lot”) has a few things going on that could give us clues. First up, we have “a lot” – an article followed by a noun, much like you’d say “a pencil” or “a unicorn”.
Q: Imagine a unicorn with a pencil for a horn. That would be great!
A: Um, yes, sure. So, the trouble probably stems from the fact that the word “lot” could be a noun like above, a pronoun as in “AWC has a lot of courses” or even an adverb in “she is a lot better than him…” It wears many hats.
Q: Something a unicorn cannot do…
A: People tend to want to differentiate them. It’s that indefinite adjective form of “a lot” (“we have a lot of courses”) that tends to be incorrectly switched to “alot” as one word.
Q: Any other reasons?
A: The existence of the legit word “allot” – meaning to distribute something (such as time) might play a part. You used it in your first sentence today. As a result, people may get a bit mixed up and think “alot” is also acceptable – but it isn’t. Ever.
Q: I just thought of another reason people might incorrectly use “alot” instead of “a lot”.
A: What’s that?
Q: Because they’re idiots.
A: Now that’s a bit harsh. But if you do believe in imaginary creatures such as unicorns, you may as well believe that an “alot” exists too – as seen here.