English Language Nears 1M Words

Foreign words help language reach milestone
By Wesley Oliver,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 2, 2009 4:58 PM CST

(Newser) – If your New Year’s resolution is never to use the words “change,” “bailout,” and “Phelpsian” again, you’ll get some help on or about April 29, when the English language will acquire its millionth word—or so says a Texas-based group that tracks such things. But, as Ruth Walker notes in the Christian Science Monitor, deciding what constitutes a word can be controversial.

Should plural forms, for example, count as separate words? And if English once lacked a word for a particular thing, "does that mean that perhaps the English-speaking peoples did not have the thing itself?" Walker wonders. "Short answer: yes." Meanwhile, if a million words seems excessive, consider that there are 1.35 billion English speakers. That's only one word for every 1,350 of us.