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This is kind of a follow up to "in regard to" or "in regards to".

I have always considered that regards to means sending well wishes, while regard to means "concerning". Hence with regards to or in regards to, meaning "concerning", are erroneous and should be with regard to or in regard to.

Yet just looking at the recent Presidential debates, we have the following quotes from Governor Romney:

And then, of course, with regards to standing for our principles, when -- when the students took to the streets in Tehran and the people there protested, the Green Revolution occurred, for the president to be silent I thought was an enormous mistake.

 

The — the greatest failure we've had with regards to — to gun violence in some respects is what — what is known as Fast and Furious.

 

Number two, with regards to Iraq, you and I agreed, I believe, that there should have been a status of forces agreement.

 

And finally, with regards to that tax cut, look, I'm not looking to cut massive taxes and to reduce the -- the revenues going to the government.

 

Well, President, you're -- Mr. President, you're absolutely right, which is that, with regards to 97 percent of the businesses are not -- not taxed at the 35 percent tax rate, they're taxed at a lower rate.

In all these cases, he means concerning and is not sending well wishes. Is this a Romney disfluency? Is this a regional variation? Is my intuition just completely wrong and this is generally accepted as standard?

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2 Answers

"Is this a Romney disfluency? Is this a regional variation?"

No, it's neither. It's a typical error that becomes pervasive and eventually mainstream with repetition.

Such usages may become 'acceptable' in speech in course of time, though will never be correct in formal writing.

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will never be correct in formal writing. I'm sure the prescriptivists say that about all changes in the language. –  GEdgar Oct 23 '12 at 17:22
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It's a poor usage and had better be avoided. Here is what the American English Thesaurus has to say:

As a noun in with regard to and in regard to, the singular noun is correct. The plural form (as in with regards to and in regards to) is, to put it charitably, poor usage—e.g.: “Single men and women are overwhelmed and confused by a barrage of information and advice on what to do and what not to do in regards to [read in regard to ] finding Mr. Right and Ms. Girl-of-My-Dreams.” ( Ebony; Dec. 1997) or “He became furious at the mere mention of ... the columnist who accused him recently of ‘judicial exhibitionism’ with regards to [read with regard to ] his trade-agreement ruling.” ( New York Times; Sept. 17, 1993.) The acceptable forms are best used as introductory phrases, but even these may be advantageously replaced by a single word such as concerning, regarding, or considering, or even in, about, or for. Regards is acceptable as a verb in the phrase as regards, a traditional literary idiom (though now a little old-fashioned), and the past participle regarded commonly appears in two combinations: one, highly regarded, is a vague expression of praise; the other, widely regarded as, usually leads to words of praise—though it would certainly be possible to say that someone is “widely regarded as beneath contempt.” It is a mistake, however, to say widely regarded without as: “Crotty has published four novels since leaving the newspaper, and he's widely regarded [read highly regarded ] by both fiction writers and journalists.”.

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Why the down vote? Before you click on that little arrow, please leave a comment. –  Noah Oct 23 '12 at 5:23
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