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One in a Million

By Jess D'Amico in Arts & Entertainment on Feb 20, 2008 9:37PM

2008_02_word.jpgThey say Shakespeare wrote over 30,000 unique words in his complete works and his vocabulary is estimated to be about twice that. The average person today knows roughly 12,000 to 20,000 and only uses a tenth of that.

Thanks in part to the Internet, those numbers are fast becoming outdated. English has always been composed of a mish-mash of different languages and other words, and now Paul Payack, who runs Global Language Monitor (GLM), estimates we are nearing the one millionth word in the English language. Apparently Payack checks words that are "printed" by traditional and online media outlets against common usage by blogs and somehow comes up with whether a word is a word. His example: "smirting" (the act of flirting whilst smoking) is a word, but "nakation" (a vacation where clothes are optional) is not.

Not everyone is prepared to take Payack's word for it, however, including Jesse Sheidlower, the editor at large for the Oxford Dictionary, who said in the Tribune piece, "I think it's nonsense . . . People don't agree on what a word is."

Except, you know, the people who work on the Oxford Dictionary.

The GLM recently added "Obama" to their wordcount. Usages include:

* Obamamentum,
* Obamacize,
* Obamarama,
* ObamaNation,
* Obamanomics,
* Obamican,
* Obamafy,
* Obamamania,
* Obamacam

Got any others?

Image via Derekb