Teen follies

George Thompson george.thompson at NYU.EDU
Thu Dec 14 20:51:15 UTC 2006

> the crack staff at Language Log Plaza is at work on tracking down the
> source of the story.

"Archbishop Trent", I'm forgetting his first name, a prominent mid-19th
C English amateur philologist, wrote that the English rustic had a
vocabulary of X00 words -- I forget the count, but absurdly low, ca. 400
or so.  I saw this published as a fact when I was a boy -- not in the
Victorian era, neither.

English rustics must know X00/2 nouns for the animals they care for,
their body parts, the terms designating the males, females and young,
their colors, Ec.; plus the names of the tools they use and their parts.
 Cats have paws, horses hooves & pigs trotters, for instance.  Throw in
nouns for household furnishings, articles of clothing, &c., and a few
verbs, and they've already exceeded their quota.  Teenagers have fewer
things to talk about than rustics do, of course.  But no doubt many of
us, English rustics, teenagers, and others. often talk for hours using
100 words or so.

Pointing no fingers, of course.

So someone at the BBC reads books by mid-19th C amateur philologists and
makes them relevant to the modern world -- nothing wrong with that, surely?


George A. Thompson
Author of A Documentary History of "The African Theatre", Northwestern
Univ. Pr., 1998, but nothing much lately.

----- Original Message -----
From: "Arnold M. Zwicky" <zwicky at CSLI.STANFORD.EDU>
Date: Thursday, December 14, 2006 12:35 pm
Subject: Re: Teen follies

> On Dec 14, 2006, at 6:54 AM, Jon Lighter wrote:
> > BBC sez: "Teenagers use just 20 words for a third of their speech,
> > according to a new study by Lancaster University."
> >
> >   They're British teens. No telling about ours.
> >
> >   Two of the words may be "porn" and "dekeck."
> >
> >   Don't take my word for it; take the quiz instead:
> >
> >   http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/6179573.stm
> the crack staff at Language Log Plaza is at work on tracking down the
> source of the story.  BBC News will apparently believe anything (and
> will cheerfully re-work stories so as to make them more exciting and
> entertaining -- think cow dialects, for example).  we're thinking of
> giving them some kind of award for their reporting on language issues.
> so stay tuned.
> arnold
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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

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