Did you know that according to the Global Language Monitor there are nearing a million words in the English language?
When I first read this on BBC breakfast news subtitles this morning, my first reaction was, ‘Is that all?’ But it’s true – I went online and checked it and the word count stands at 999,205.
But still, a million seems like quite a small number to me. After all, a million pounds is totally imaginable. Look through the papers and a million is an everyday London currency.
Anyway, where was I? Ah yes, words. Well, as you know at the Beeb, viewers are encouraged to email in on the news stories of the morning and when Bill and Kate started reading out favourite words emailed in, the subtitles has a total meltdown. I still have absolutely no idea what the jumble of letters on the screen was meant to read! Although I was given an ‘ono’ a ‘mat’ and ‘oei’ so I would hazard a guess that some bright spark viewer’s favourite word is onomatopoeia.
Does everyone have favourite words? I do. Mine are envelope, said like the hug not the mail out, and regurgitate. I’m sure I’ve said it before, but both those words are quite simply the nicest words to say. They roll around in your mouth like a giant gobstopper and verbally taste quite delicious.
I am also confident that I can pronounce them, which is partly why Versailles and Cadogan will never be on my favourite words list... as apparently I don’t say them right!
Having had a think this morning about all the words I already know, that’s when a million seems like a lot. For an English graduate, I first discovered my vocabulary was shockingly small when I compared my A-level essays to those of my peers. This did not please me. I think at the time my crazy hearing therapist told me this was because I didn’t hear as many words as them. Whether she was just trying to make me feel better or if this is true I don’t know, but from that day on, I began to really read words. Not just paying attention to the sentence or point they made as a group, but what they meant individually. And gradually my vocab grew.
OK, I still get it wrong sometimes, I use peruse when there is nothing to read and profuse when it isn’t, but I’m confident that I’m a lot better than I used to be.
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