English Explodes on the Web

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Playwright William Shakespeare added hundreds, perhaps even thousands, of words to the English language by devising new terms and using them in his works of literature. But Shakespeare was a piker when compared with the technology industry, which has added hundreds of thousands of words to our modern vernacular.

Paul Payack, who runs the Global Language Monitor, maintains that there are 988,974 words in the English language (as of last week). This amount is more than three times larger than the number of entries in the 20-volume Oxford English Dictionary, and about 10 times bigger than all of the words in French.

The culprit for this explosion? The Internet, of course. With the proliferation of communication facilitated by the Web, it only stands to reason that our vocabulary would be augmented as well.

And it’s increasing at a rate that’s really beyond anyone’s ability to keep up. However, according to Payack’s estimates, English should be adopting its millionth word sometime in late November. My prediction is the millionth addition will be Oscariffic, as in “That movie I saw last night was the height of pointy-headed tedium and overwrought acting. You know — Oscariffic.”

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