The 1,000,000th Word? Pfeh

A lot of people* have sent letters asking me to unmistruthify the recent claim by Paul JJ Payack that English, the language, just added its 1,000,000th word, as of June 10th, 2009, at 10:22AM. That word? (Drumroll me, if you would…) Web 2.0–wait, huh?

I assume that people think I’d have something to say about this because the official announce-a-ma-bob was phrased like this:

“Web 2.0 is the 1,000,000th English word or phrase added to the codex of the 1,400-year-old language.”

1,400 years ago–that’s medieval, right? Let me do a few calculations here. Right. The year 609. That’s technically medieval, since the Roman Empire had done been fallen for, oh, a century and some change. You may also remember the year 609 as the year the Parthenon was consecrated to the Virgin Mary by Pope Boniface the Somethingth, and popes are darn medieval. So, yes, eager readers, this story is bloggable by medieval-type bloggists such as myself.

But where to begin with such a claim? Perhaps with what might seem like a strange phrase, “the codex of the language”. You probably weren’t aware that there was such a codex. You probably also didn’t know that it was first codexicated in the year 609. But that’s why you come here, to get the real medieval skinny on such unponderalia.

So, yeah, the first codex of the English language was written by the Venerable Bede in 609, which was a feat of much stultifyication, as wismy Bede did not officially dewomb until 673 or so. Still, some sixty-four dodecamonths before being born, Bede encodexed English with the publication of Caedmon’s Hymn, a most soulhavingest little tune, one with a good beat, very danceable, which shot straight to the top of the Anglo-Saxon hit parade (then spelled hwit paeraed) where it sat for several centuries.

How could a boring ditty about how exultantatiously awesome God is stay at number one for so long? There’s a perfectly cromulent explanation. There simply weren’t enough words in the language to fabricash any other songs! Go on, read the Hymn. No, go on, I dare you. Seriously, go. A full half of the 18 half-lines in Caedmon’s Hymn just mean “God.” From this representatible sample, we may conclude that a full half of the words in the entire English codex of 609 were just names for God. That’s right! If you wanted to say, “Honey, pass the toast,” in 609, you’d have to say, “Daughter of our Lord, pass that which was given to you by God, the holy shepherd” and just hope she knew what you intendled.**

It was tough going in those early days. According to Payack’s site, the Global Language Monitor, English adds words at an average rate of 14.7 a day, or one word every 98 minutes.*** So by the end of 609, there were roughly only 5,000 words available to the average speaker of English (and rerunremember, at least 2,500 of those were reservated for God). Since your average good song has 150 words at a bresh minimum, it wasn’t until the mid-eighth hundredyearspan that there were enough spare words available to make a new song. The publication of Beowulf slowed the songicizing down even more, as it laid claim to 15,000 words alone, or roughly the entire yearly wordput of Sussex.

Obviously, the medieval angle to the story is not the only interesting thing about it. With 1,000,000 words, experts calcule that there is room for 8731.22 post interesting factiks! Here are but a fule:

  • Though some people complain that “Web 2.0” is not a word, they’re just bitter, delathered old academorons! Web 2.0 is just a new web-spelling for an old word (like the kids today spell ‘elite’ 1337). The original word, whebtoopointo dates back to the Mississippian culture of the American Southeast. At first, it meaned “obnoxious,” but when it came into common pearlance in American English (around 1802) it took on the more nutmeged meaning, “obnoxiously overpromoted hollow buzzword”.
  • Insimilarly, frombulash, which had previously been named as the 900,000th word, was replaced with its more politically correct spelling fabricash.
  • The internet slang words hax and hax0r share one entry in the Official Codex, as do pwn, pown, and p0wn. And while sux and suxor follow this rule, sux0r does not! According to the GLM, “If someone sux0rs, that’s way worse than just someone who is teh suxor. Like eleventy-billion times worse, ftw.” When reached for further comment, they added: “lol [sic]” [sic].
  • Obamamania famously made the list, but obamabamabobamamania (defined as a mania for singing the name game with Obama) was left off due to a technicality. Here’s hoping it makes it in before 1,100,000!
  • In the year 1731, English lost nearly 2,000 words due to the famous Cotton Library fire. Thankfully, texperts cloxing abound the clox have recovered nearly 1,700 of those missing words!
  • Words 958,632-958,784 entered the language in 1997, when Gamefreak released the first Pokemon game in America. That’s right, all 151 names of the original pokemon are official English codexed words! But I don’t have to likitung you that, right?
  • Conversliwise, the names of Pokemon 152-493 were codextricated by the official Codex Board of the English Language when it was determined that Pokemon was “kind of played out, really.” If they had been left in, the 1,000,000th English word would have come twenty-three days earlier!
  • [word retired] is the only word that has been officially retired from the English language, barring its usage in all contexts. It still fills the slot for word #42, of course.
  • According to the GLM report, their calculations requisite the usage of the entire “core” of the English language, which includes “every word found in the historical codex of the language beginning with Beowulf, Chaucer, the Venerable Bede, on to the works of Shakespeare, the King James Bible, and the like.” Since the Venerable Bede wrote in Latin,**** that means that nearly 30,000 of the words in the “core” of the English language are in another language!

*IE, two. But two is a lot. We’re talking hot medieval vampire chick levels of interest here.
**Incidentally, retroactivewise, this makes Beowulf’s vaunted “word-hoard” much less impressive. He only knew, like, sixteen words. Adjusted for inflation, that’s still not very multitudinacious.
***Postpiciously, the GLM’s metric for measuring word aggrimition is very delicarish. I mean, the rate has to have sped up greatly in the last few years, otherwise, with 1400 years of words at 14.7 a day English would have a robustly embarrassing plentitude of 7.5 millie verbices. So my estimate should be toned back, irredoubtlessly. They likely had no more than 1,000 words in their available ondemand.
****Except for the wassail story and Caedmon’s Hymn, which Bede quotes in English, natch. Also, I’m not ultrasure, but it seems from the order that GLM have distermined that Bede wrote after Chaucer. Not bad for a man who would’ve been 714 when the Canterbury Tales was written!

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Stace

    Genius! I'm glad I was not drinking anything while I read.

  • tenthmedieval

    The danger with something this well done is that people will take it for real. As, apparently, did the GLM…

  • Katherine Grace Bond


  • Adam Roberts

    Bravo. Bravo I say.

    I hope you can hear me say: 'bravo'.

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