WUOMFM

Alot alert: They're everywhere

Jul 26, 2015

We have alot to talk about today!

Wait...is it alot or a lot? My auto correct is saying a lot, but my heart is saying alot. What is going on here?!  

A lot, as one word instead of two, has a bit of a history to it, going back to Old English, says University of Michigan English Professor Ann Curzan.

It goes back to the Old English word hlot – a word you really got to gather a lot of air to say. 

“That combination hl was possible in Old English; a loaf of bread was a hlaf,” says Curzan. 

Hlot was an object that was used in ancient times to decide disagreements. Everyone had a hlot that was marked, usually a piece of wood, and the hlots would put them all together in a helmet or bin. Whoever's hlot was pulled won the disagreement.

“And that’s where we get expressions like, ‘what falls to a person by lot,’ by inheritance, or distribution,” says Curzan.

That’s where lot originated, but it did some hiking before becoming today’s a lot.

"By the 17th century it refers to a plot of land,” explains Curzan. “And we can still do that, that’s my lot where my house is.”

But we didn't just use it to talk about land, it also meant a multitude of people or things of the same kind like, "Clowns are a frightening lot." Or when we buy something in a large group. 

But the evolution didn't stop there.

“It’s not until the 19th century that lot starts to mean just a great deal of something," explains Curzan. "And that’s when we get lots and lots, as well as a lot.”

And that brings us to today, where the misuse of a lot causes some to create fictional monsters named ALot and write blog posts called The ALot is Better Than You and Everything.

What still tends to boggle the mind is that despite of a persistent autocorrect in most word-processing programs, the mistake of turning a lot into alot is still a frequently seen. 

But don't be too bummed out if your autocorrect doesn't catch it. After all, plenty of words get smooshed together over time like awhile, forever, and somewhat. And however you spell it, we will still like you a whole lot.

– Cheyna Roth, Michigan Radio Newsroom