No shortage of words!

July 6th Linda’s blogDinkus pic

Words and numbers

I love finding new words. My latest is DINKUS. Yes, it’s a real word! I can’t find it in the OED (Oxford English Dictionary) but it is in plenty of others. If you want to know what it means and how it’s used, please click here to read this week’s article on Section Breaks.

Discovering that word made me start thinking about how many words there are in the English language and how many we as individuals actually know and use.  

  • According to a 2010 report by Harvard University and Google, there are more than 1 million words in the English language. These include derivatives (eg quick, quicker, quickest, quickly) and archaic words that are no longer in use.
  • The figure that is generally accepted, after an OED study in 1989, is there are more than 170,000 English words in current use, with new words being added every year.
  • And to dispel a major myth, men and women talk as much as each other, both using more than 16,000 words every day. And that’s out of a total vocabulary of between 20 and 35,000 per person.
  • One-year-olds, apparently, can recognise around 50 words. At three years old, they have a vocabulary of a thousand words, and between 4 and 8 years old, that increases to between 5 and 10,000.
  • Shakespeare is said to have invented between 25 and 30,000 unique words. But remember, many hadn’t been written down before he came along
  • Various organisations produce WORD OF THE YEAR lists. (The Germans invented this back in 1971). Collins English Dictionary named these their WOTY from 2013: geek, photobomb, binge-watch, Brexit, fake news, single-use and, in 2019, climate strike.
  • English is the most widely used language in the world with 1,132 million speakers; followed by Mandarin Chinese (1,117m), Hindi (615m) and Spanish (534m).

So, there are plenty of words there: all we have to do is find an entertaining way of putting them together. To misquote the wonderful Eric Morecambe, “I am using all the right words, but not necessarily in the right order!”

If you’d like to relive that brilliant sketch with Andre Preview, click here.

Happy writing.




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