Little Editorial – “Never Mind The Quantity Feel The Wit.”
According to the Global Language Monitor – and who am I to argue? – there are 1,025,109.8 words in the English Language, as at 1 January 2014, with the millionth word being Web 2.0 (which looks like a word and two numbers to me, but as I said earlier, what do I know?), which was coined on 10 June, 2009 at 10:22am (GMT). Sadly, despite the ludicrous accuracy of these numbers, the person who first used the word and the room in which he was standing, alone, abandoned by his family and friend, with only his copy of Motherboards Quarterly for company, are not recorded.
Of course, these figures are absurd and meaningless, and even the GLM itself declares there to be a margin for error in the total of around 250,00 words. Any language, especially English it seems, evolves daily: increasing with the addition of slang terms, dialectal influences and contributions from foreign shores, all of which imbue a native tongue with rich, fabulously nuanced accents that provide the means to describe any object, emotion or situation perfectly. So, when you hear someone say there are no words to describe their feelings, you can be sure there are, it’s just that they don’t know them. In fact, with regard to English, most people know around 50,000 words, someone with a university education around 75,000 and a Scrabble enthusiast upwards of 100,000, though we all use roughly a third of those numbers in everyday speech.
Given those figures then, why does a significant proportion of today’s youth insist on reducing their vocabulary intentionally by such a degree that it becomes devoid of all descriptive nuance and decorative flourish? Even for those without a complex lexicon, access to the million or so words they don’t know is readily available, so to approach every conversation, whether by text, email or face-to-face, and irrespective of the recipient’s educational background, prepared and determined to use the same forty or so words every time seems lazy in the extreme and a disappointing waste of a beautiful and diverse language. It’s as if they have to be somewhere and can’t spare the time.
To make matters worse, this unthinking approach to communication appears to be permeating up the familial hierarchy and rooting itself in the parents’ speech patterns. Recently, I was speaking to a friend who has the occasionally unenviable pleasure of being the mother of teenage girls. Exposure to Reduced Vocabulary Syndrome is, therefore, unavoidable and succumbing to it inevitable, apparently. On more than one occasion, she was heard to describe her lunch, a Christmas card, her new Christmas outfit, her lipstick, and the prospect of the Christmas party, all as mint. Two of these were later referred to as lush, but mint was the predominant adjective. The obvious confusion over her lunch being mint was quickly dispelled when the tenor of her descriptive powers was ascertained. Fearing that using the same two words to express her level of satisfaction might be a little restrictive, I felt compelled to ask my friend what would she do if one of the listed items turned out to be minter, or indeed lusher, than the others. “If that were the case,” she replied, “I would say they were class, or in exceptional circumstances, boss,” (from the verb, boss, as in to boss a situation, or have complete control over it). I did get the impression, however, that mint and lush covered a sufficiently wide range of emotions that class and boss would not be required that often. The fact that my friend is intelligent and still made absolutely no effort to dredge more suitable adjectives from her silted river of knowledge is especially disheartening, as is the prevalence of such an attitude, but she’ll understand my playful prodding when she next has to describe the relevant merits of Trebors and Polos.
Here at your dipthong-twisting, Inconsequential, dear reader, you can read on assured in the knowledge that as many of those 1,025,109.8 (especially the point 8) words as we can legitimately utilise will be crammed into every sentence. If you haven’t had to refer to at least three volumes of the twenty-volume Oxford Dictionary when reading our articles then we have failed.
I must now take my leave, but I do so trusting that you have enjoyed our humble offerings during 2015 and found them suitably enlightening, entertaining and above all, thought-provoking. It only remains for all of us here at The Inconsequential to wish you a very Mint Christmas and a Lush New Year.