Languages
Page last updated at 11:14 GMT, Wednesday, 10 June 2009 12:14 UK

'Millionth English word' declared

Dictionaries

A US web monitoring firm has declared the millionth English word to be Web 2.0, a term for the latest generation of web products and services.

Global Language Monitor (GLM) searches the internet for newly coined terms, and once a word or phrase has been used 25,000 times, it recognises it.

GLM said Web 2.0 beat out the terms Jai ho, N00b and slumdog to take top spot.

However, traditional dictionary makers are casting doubt on the claim and the methods behind it.

GLM, based in Texas, makes its money telling organisations how often they are mentioned in new media, such as the internet, but it can also track new words and expressions.

Once a word has been used 25,000 times on social networking and other sites, GLM declares it be a new word.

The terms Jai ho and slumdog originate from the hit movie Slumdog Millionaire, about India's slum dwellers.

But N00b comes from the gaming community, the company said, explaining that it is used as a disparaging term to describe a neophyte in a particular game.

It is also the "only mainstream English word that contains within itself two numerals", GLM said in a statement posted on its website.

Landmark doubted

However lexicographers doubt GLM's claim, says BBC arts correspondent Lawrence Pollard.

FROM THE TODAY PROGRAMME

Dictionaries have tighter criteria about what constitutes a new word. For example, it has to be used over a certain period of time.

Lexicographers say the exact size of the English vocabulary is impossible to quantify, but if every technical term or obscure specialist word is accepted then we are already beyond one million, according to our correspondent.

And if the inclusion of specialist slang is restricted, then there are possibly three quarters of a million words in English.

All of which is way beyond the 20-40,000 words a fluent speaker would use, or the few thousand you could get by with in English.

But with 1.5 billion people speaking some version of English, it is small wonder it is the fastest growing language in the world, our correspondent adds.



Print Sponsor


SEE ALSO
'Oldest English words' identified
26 Feb 09 |  Science & Environment
Cornish language extinct, says UN
20 Feb 09 |  Cornwall
The man who reads dictionaries
07 Oct 08 |  Magazine
Are indigenous languages dead?
06 Jan 06 |  Africa
Gordon Bennett! Who was he?
03 Jan 07 |  Magazine
Bones point to origins of speech
25 Jun 04 |  Europe

RELATED INTERNET LINKS
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


FEATURES, VIEWS, ANALYSIS
Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit

BBC navigation

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific