Wednesday, June 10, 2009

1,000,000 Words

A typical first grade student knows about 1,000 words, slightly more than a dog is capable of recognizing.

Typically, an unabridged dictionary contains about 450,000 words. The average adult knows between 5,000 and 6,000. University professors typically know about three times as many words, but spelling bee winners tend to know twice as many as that. Shakespeare’s works contain 60,000 different words, most of them misspelled by modern standards.

According to the Global Language Monitor, the English language, of all languages the one with the most number of words, increases by at least fourteen words a day, and at 10:22 this morning, according to the GLM’s calculations, English acquired its one-millionth word.

What that word was, nobody knows—in such matters, precision is impossible. We can only hope it was a dirty one.

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