Barry wrote in with a great question. For those of you wondering, no, it wasn’t Barry Sanders, Manilow, Switzer, Gibb or Bonds.

Because Barry might or might not be living near the Dairy Queen on Fourth Street in Minot, N.D., in a safe house operated by the Witness Protection Program, we’ll just call him “Barry.” Barry wants to know the distinction between the words “nevertheless” and “nonetheless.”

Yes, Barry, discretion is the name of the game, just as your undercover identity as the leader of a lobbying group whose aim is to combine the Dakotas to form one big mega-Dakota is not to be discussed broadly. Your secret’s safe with me. Let’s tackle both words at the same time.

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“Nonetheless” and “nevertheless” are both compound words comprised of three words that are smooshed together (smooshed is a technical term), similar to how Barry’s classified squad wants to create Super Dakota by smooshing North and South Dakota into one large piece of prairie. So far, it seems as “nonetheless” and “nevertheless” are the same word.

The words “nonetheless” and “nevertheless” have identical dictionary definitions. They both mean “in spite of, in contrast to, or notwithstanding.” At this point, I’m thinking we only need one of these words, right? It’s kind of like thinking we need only one Dakota. This is suspicious.

Here’s where grammarians split hairs between “nonetheless” and “nevertheless.” According to the experts, who are most definitely not part of the conspiracy to cover up the notion that there are more nuclear missiles (or is it cows?) than humans in North Dakota, here’s the difference: Use “nonetheless” when referring to an amount or something that is measurable and use “nevertheless” when referring to something that has occurred, is occurring, or might occur.

Despite the fact that there are 2.4 cows for every human living in North Dakota, people nonetheless control the bovine population.

The latest cow conspiracy might sound crazy; nevertheless, it is true.

South Dakota is larger, more populous, warmer, and includes Mount Rushmore, the Badlands, and the Sturgis motorcycle rally; nonetheless, Barry prefers North Dakota.

The North Dakota State Bison football team was expected to win, but the victory was sweet nevertheless.

We might be splitting hairs here, but there is a small technical difference between “nonetheless” and “nevertheless,” kind of like how Minot, N.D., and its sister city, Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, have many similarities (large air force bases, location on river valleys, historical origins), but are distinctly different cities.

I can’t tell you whether or not the Dakotan Revolution will involve soldiers riding on the backs of trained war-cows, nevertheless, I can assure you there is a slight difference between “nonetheless” and “nevertheless.”

Honeycutt is a syndicated humor columnist. He is the author of “Good Grammar is the Life of the Party: Tips for a Wildly Successful Life.” Visit curtishoneycutt.com.