A million English words, or only 600,000? Either way, it's a language packed with more words than you'll ever need

Joel S. Berson Berson at ATT.NET
Wed Jul 9 12:43:39 UTC 2008

Dennis, please check your computation for the 1590s. 10,000 words per
year is about 27 per hour, so there was a neologism more frequently
than every 60 minutes.  You apparently computed words per hour, and
then multiplied by minutes per hour, giving a meaningless scale of
words X minutes / hours squared, when you wanted minutes / words.

For minutes per word, divide a year's minutes by 10,000: 365 X 24 X
60 / 10,000 = 52.56, or for the precision with which the 10,000 is
measured, 56 minutes per word.

And one could point out how much more linguistic the 1590s were by
dividing the times per word by the number of English speakers in the
two periods.


At 7/8/2008 10:53 PM, Dennis Baron wrote:
>Paul Payack, professional word-counter and the founder of
>YourDictionary.com, claims that someone coins an English word every 98
>minutes, which seems pretty fast until we consider that during the
>word-coining frenzy of the 1590s, when the pace of life was slower,
>about 10,000 new words popped up every year.  If Shakespeare and his
>contemporaries never slept, that comes to a neologism every 68 minutes
>(neologism, a word, coined in France in the 1730s and borrowed by
>English in the 1770s, meaning 'a new word').

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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