How many words are there in English? How many words should a person know in order to communicate effectively in the language? How important is it for a speaker of English to be familiar with new words? These are some of the queries that I received from readers of this column recently.
I have always been curious to know the exact number of words in English but I have never succeeded in finding out the exact number. According to the Global Language Monitor (GLM), English is the richest language with over a million words. On June 10, 2009 ‘Web 2.0’, a term for the next generation of internet applications, was declared the millionth word in the English language by GLM. It has been calculated by GLM that a new word is created on average every 98 minutes. During the period between 10 June 2009 and 10 July 2017 a few more thousand neologisms must have been created and added to the English language.
To communicate in a language effectively, it is not necessary that one should know all or most words in the language. Some English language learners know over 10,000 words but they struggle to communicate their ideas effectively. On the other hand, there are many learners who know between 6,000 and 8,000 words but they are able to speak fluently and communicate effectively. Effective communication in a particular language is a result of practice in using the language and not just building one’s vocabulary.
Yes, it is good to be familiar with new words. It helps develop one’s proficiency in the language.
Effective communication in a particular language is a result of practice in using the language and not just building one’s vocabulary. Yes, it is good to be familiar with new words. It helps develop one’s proficiency in the language.
Many new words are born and almost equal number of words becomes obsolete every day. For example, the word ‘covfefe’ has been validated as an English-language word. What is ‘covfefe’? On 31 May 2017, President Donald Trump tweeted: “Despite the constant negative press covfefe…” The tweet puzzled not only Mr Trump’s 31 million followers but also others across the globe. This Trumpian typo has made it to the list of top trending words in 2017. No one could figure out what exactly the President might have meant but there is a slew of possible meanings and definitions of the term on the internet. Could the term ‘covfefe’ be a misspelling of the word ‘coverage’? President Trump has not provided any explanation but has deleted the tweet. Dismissing it as late-night error, Senator Al Franken joked: “A covfefe is a Yiddish term for ‘I got to go to bed now’.” The Russian word ‘covfefe’ means ‘I quit’ or ‘I leave’ or ‘I resign’. The Trump effect has been so great that the word ‘covfefe’ has become an English word now. We may expect Oxford English Dictionary (OED) to add the word to its dictionary soon.
A reader has sent in a query seeking an explanation of the term ‘bug-eyed’. What is the meaning of ‘bug-eyed’? A bug-eyed person’s eyes bulge when they express certain emotions. It is an expression that refers to the surprised expression in one’s eyes when they have seen something amazing.
When he saw his favourite cricketer hit a massive six, his eyes were bug-eyed. I can never forget that expression