In an unusually Safire mood, Paul has decided to work it out over "alright" v. "all right." Which is right already? He's right to suggest I am showing my age by sticking with the fussy "all right." "Alright" is an illiterate corruption. I hold to the 1975 American Heritage Dictionary and the 2nd edition Fowler's Modern English Usage (1965), which tell us, as Paul noted, that "alright" is either a misspelling or it's vulgar.
Fowler's 3d ed. came out in 1996--a much revised version, Fowler being long gone. (He was gone for the 2nd ed. too, but the editing was lighter.) I remember John Updike's review in the New Yorker as being not generally positive. I'm wondering what that edition does with "all right" and if Updike had anything to say about it. But I need the complete New Yorker CD-ROM to find out.
Sure "the kids are alright." Kids are kids and need instruction, and so do their teen idols. Bob Dylan (writing during earlier days of this transitional time) seems to have been conflicted, but I find more uses of "all right" than "alright." Don't think twice: it's all right.