What’s the one millionth word, Noob?

According to the Global Language Monitor, an association of academics that tracks the use of new words, the English language will celebrate its one millionth word next month. Just what that word might be is obviously the subject of much speculation. With the rapid growth of language recently, it could be something very weird. The massive influx of various social media and other online activities has given rise to numerous new words. In the running for the coveted one millionth spot are “defriend”, “defollow”, “greenwashing” (what companies do to appear environmentally friendly), “noob” and “chiconomics” (recession fashion).

With the huge popularity of English as a second language in Asia, recent years have been the most fertile period of word generation since William Shakespeare’s time, according to Global Language Monitor, with new terms coined on average every 98 minutes. A new word is acknowledged after it has been used 25,000 times by media outlets, on social networking websites and elsewhere. This raises two things for me – one, who counts the number of uses and two, where can I get started.

Of course, very few of us will ever use all one million words in our language. As Paul Payack, chief analyst at the Global Language Monitor, says, “The average person’s vocabulary is fewer than 14,000 words out of these million that are available. A person who is linguistically gifted would only use 70,000 words.”

As a writer, I wonder if it’s possible for me to calculate how many words I’ve used? It would be interesting if there was some way to pool all of my writing into one document and then calculate the number of different words used. Anyone know how to do this with MS Word?

Of course, there are detractors. Other liguists have expressed scepticism about the methods of the Global Language Monitor claiming, understandably really, that there is no real agreement on how to classify a word. The Language Monitor website even has a clock counting down to the one millionth word – apparently there are still 323 words to go before we hit one million.

Personally, I think it’s all bollocks. Of those one million words, there would be thousands that people just don’t use any more and new ones cropping up all the time that even the Global Language Monitor don’t notice. There are words used here in Australia that are never used elsewhere, even though we’re all speaking English. And so on.

So here’s a challenge. Let’s see if we can get a word used 25,000 times in social media before the June 10 deadline and maybe we can steal that arbitrary 1,000,000th word spot.

The word is demedia

Definition: The act of denouncing a subject that is rapidly growing purely through the media coverage of that subject.

Example: If only we could demedia Paris Hilton!

So there you go – have at it. Get that word into usage, use it on your blogs, tweet it on Twitter, use it family conversations and act like it’s a word that’s been around for ages. If it scores the one millionth word in the English language title, then it’s virtual beers all round on me.

EDIT: Check the comments. I was right – it’s all a load of bollocks (but let’s persist with this demedia idea anyway!)

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8 thoughts on “What’s the one millionth word, Noob?

  1. Ah, thanks Michael. I was right about it all being bollocks then.

    Still, let’s not let that distract us from the course of stealing the 1,000,000th word with demedia. What we really should do is demedia this whole story, but that would be no fun. 🙂

  2. Someone told me Indonesian is so lax in admitting words to the “official” dictionary that it’s basically a bunch of people going through newspapers and if it appears SIX times it’s included (Alan — it was Nathan).

    JM — that’s a classic TED talk, and interestingly the best-regarded dictionary (OED) takes an approach similar to the one she’s describing, by trying to include as many things as they can AND trace it back, account for its importance etc. Also her geekiness level in that talk is an impressive 12/10!

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