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Linguists Question Millionth Word Announcement

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Do you think that English has reached the one million word & phase mark?

Poll ended at Wed Jul 01, 2009 9:33 am

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Total votes : 4

Linguists Question Millionth Word Announcement

Postby eberntson » Wed Jun 17, 2009 9:33 am

So I was wondering what y'all thought about Paul JJ Payack little stunt. it certainly has cause a lot of furrow & discussion. Since linguistics is not my field and only a casual dalliance, I thought I would ask you folks about some constructive criticism and thoughtful discussion. It seem that linguists only communicate in the news in sound bits, so I can't get a good sense of what the real issues are about.

I will say the following though:

1) The field of linguistics doesn't have a definition of what a word is? Is this true? In this modern day you would think there would be a "working" definition you could all agree upon. Payack's definition which includes 25K references on the internet seems a reasonable criteria. We used a similar criterion to validate "irregardless" as a word in these forums.

2) I think Payack cheated us with say that "Web 2.0" is the 1 millionth word. It has 94M references on the web already so even by his own criteria it was a word/phrase long ago. I would think he would have 100 words that were approaching the 25K mark and would have just tracked though, do you agree? What would that word have been then. I always thought English had about 150K words and was growing from there.

3) Payack said that there are about 5K plus words added to English every year, actually 14.7words/day. I thought from other things I have read even in the 1980's this was more like 10K words a year. Why the discrepancy?

4) Yes, I understand that Payack was pulling "stunt" but isn't it great that he is shining a light on the disunity the field of English Linguistics has? And that the field of linguistics is in the news and people are talking about it?

So I would be interested in your opinions.

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Postby Slava » Wed Jun 17, 2009 10:10 am

For those like me who didn't know about this, here's a link to the site:

I have to quibble over the acceptance of some words as English, however. If, as the CSM points out, word number 999,988 is "chennguan," we've got a problem. ... site-says/
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Paul Payack

Postby Dr. Goodword » Thu Jun 18, 2009 12:22 am

Paul Payack is my former student at Bucknell, my former business partner at, and the reason I am now at alphaDictionary. He is an astute marketer who understands the US media's total disinterest in truth in favor of their on-going coverup of corporate corruption (which produces their ad revenue) by deflecting attention to the government and crap like this. My response was published in the Austin and Houston newspapers but CNN ran the story without comment or attirbution.

My response is reported here: ... -down.html

Paul published a book last year called "A Million Words and Counting"; a year later he says we haven't reached a million yet. He makes everything up, told me several times that so long as you quote an odd number, people will believe you (the month, day, year, hour, minute on which the millionth word will be uttered). He knows how to pump out stories that US media love so much that, even knowing it is fradulent, can't resist publishing.

CNN ran the story without comment or attribution.
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Re: Paul Payack

Postby Stargzer » Thu Jun 18, 2009 8:03 am

Dr. Goodword wrote: ... the US media's total disinterest in truth ... .

Which is why I, a hard-line moderate, watch Fox News. No, I can't stand Hannity, but admire O'Reilly, find Huckabee sometimes interesting, and can't decide if Beck should be on Ritalin or is on speed. :wink:

CNN = Cable (K)Nows Nothing.

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Counting English words

Postby Audiendus » Fri Feb 03, 2012 4:58 pm

I wonder how many English words come from the field of chemistry. It must be a large proportion, considering the vast number of chemical compounds and the (often very long) composite words that name them. I wonder what criteria lexicographers use to decide how many of these to include in their calculated total.

I can think of no other field with such a potential for creating new words.
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Postby Perry Lassiter » Sat Feb 04, 2012 1:31 pm

Audiendus, thanx for resurrecting this thread! I checked the postd URL's and bookmarked the Payack site for reference. Also interesting to pick up more info about Dr G.
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Linguists Question Millionth Word Announcement

Postby Philip Hudson » Mon Feb 13, 2012 2:58 am

It is not possible to count the words in the English language. I can create a perfectly good word with ease. If I use it enough and others begin to use it, then it becomes a recognized word. If no one likes it or no one sees the need for it, then it doesn't. Recently a TV newscaster said, “We are efforting to get more information about the event.” Is “efforting” a word? Well, I don't really like it, but if enough people use it, it will be a word. Recently many people have come to say "unbelievable" as a synonym for "astonishing". Some people use "incredible" to mean the same thing. Are they killing perfectly good words by redefining them? Are they just messing up the language? Before we go further, Bryan Williams, the personable, famous and ubiquitous newsperson, frequently uses "unbelievable" in this sense.

As an old geezer, I don't like “efforting”, nor do I like “unbelievable” in place of “astonishing” or “amazing”. But old geezers do not control the English language. It is controlled by usage.

I created a word a few years ago. There is a word “antidisestablishmentarianism”. Since this word now seems to have little use, I say we are all “postantidisestablishmentarianists”. Is that a real word? It certainly follows the rules of prefixes and suffixes. I have offered it to several English classes I have taught. I got no applause or acclaim. I got only groans. Will it ever become widely used? Certainly not! Still, it is in my perverse personal vocabulary. So there!
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Postby Perry Lassiter » Mon Feb 13, 2012 12:41 pm

Well, Mr Geezer, I could spell your post- word, but will forego typing it. You brought to mind Nero Wolfe's aversion to using "contact" as a verb. Possibly prescient as the current fad is to verbalize many nouns. Are these considered new words or extensions of the existing word?
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Postby Philip Hudson » Wed Feb 15, 2012 1:59 am

Perry Lassiter:

I am shy about using contact as a verb. My English teacher (sixty years ago) told me it was not a verb. But I suppose it is, no matter what Nero Wolfe and I prefer. I don’t object to all verbs that have been created from nouns. There are gobs of them. I couldn’t resist putting in gob, one of my “old timy” words.

In my opinion, a new use of a word creates a new word. As an example, “gnarly” is a very old word I have known from childhood. When the Valley Girls defined it as a slang word similar to "swell" or "keen" of another generation, they created a new word. The etymology of this creation is interesting. It comes from surfer talk about waves that sweep over the surfer to form a gnarly cylinder of air in which the surfer rides. Fortunately, in my opinion, “gnarly” defined as “swell” or “keen” has now died, as does most slang. A slang word that survives becomes a legitimate word. Consider the word jazz.
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