More Global Language Monitor silliness

Wilson Gray hwgray at GMAIL.COM
Sun Feb 5 07:59:29 UTC 2006

"French, which was the language of diplomacy in the 19th century but
went into decline in the 20th, is said to contain just 100,000 words."

All of them for "snow."


On 2/4/06, Benjamin Zimmer <bgzimmer at> wrote:
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
> -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Benjamin Zimmer <bgzimmer at BABEL.LING.UPENN.EDU>
> Subject:      Re: More Global Language Monitor silliness
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> On 1/29/06, Benjamin Zimmer <bgzimmer at> wrote:
> > As if their inane annual word lists weren't bad enough, now the Global
> > Language Monitor has hoodwinked a New York Times reporter into buying
> > a whole truckload of nonsense...
> >
> > -----
> >
> [snip]
> And now Mr. Payack has pulled his snow job on the Times of London...
> -----
> The Sunday Times        February 05, 2006
> Chinglish – it's a word in a million
> John Harlow, in Los Angeles
> CHAMPIONS of the English language are about to mark a momentous point
> in its 1,500-year history — the creation of its one millionth word.
> The growing use of Chinglish (Chinese-English) and dozens of other
> ethnic hybrids has pushed the number of words in the language to
> 986,120, according to Paul Payack, a Harvard-educated linguist
> monitoring its growth.
> Chinglish terms include "drinktea", meaning closed, derived from the
> Mandarin Chinese for resting; and its opposite, "torunbusiness",
> meaning open, from the Mandarin word for operating.
> While some are amusing to the British ear, others are abrasive. Public
> toilets for disabled people in Beijing are marked "deformedman" and in
> Hong Kong "kweerboy" denotes a homosexual.
> The Chinese government has vowed to sweep Chinglish from road and shop
> signs before the 2008 Beijing Olympics, but is fighting an uphill
> battle.
> Payack, who works for Global Language Monitor, a San Diego-based
> consultancy, said 20,000 new English words were registered on the
> company's databases last year — twice as many as a few years ago. Up
> to 20% were in Chinglish.
> According to Payack, the one millionth word is likely to be formed
> this summer, confirming the domination of English in the global
> linguistic order.
> French, which was the language of diplomacy in the 19th century but
> went into decline in the 20th, is said to contain just 100,000 words.
> "Global English is no longer just dominated by either British English
> or American, but is running free and developing uniquely regional
> forms," said Payack.
> Chinglish and up to 60 cousins such as Spanglish (Spanish-English),
> Japlish (Japanese-English) and Hinglish (Hindi-English) owe their rise
> largely to the internet.
> Thanks to its influence a language that evolved in Anglo-Saxon England
> now reaches billions of homes in the developing world, where it is
> radically transformed for local taste while remaining recognisably
> English.
> New words are also spread — although rarely created — by celebrity
> "transmitters" such as Madonna and Snoop Dogg, who is credited with a
> form of rap-speak known as "shizzle".
> "The creators of new words usually remain anonymous, except for
> President George Bush's Bushisms such as 'misunderestimate'," said
> Payack. "Those are special."
> Payack's databases are compiled by computers combing through sources
> such as newspapers, television programmes and internet blogs.
> Shakespeare is also scrutinised.
> Payack claims to have identifed a "tipping point" in 1994, when the
> trickle of new English words became a flood. Mosaic, the first
> user-friendly web browser, was invented around the same time.
> Although it excludes proper names, Payack's database includes
> text-message words, which are evolving as consumers start buying
> reading matter over their mobile phones. "This is changing their
> language too," said Payack.
> He believes that English has triumphed because it is open to change.
> French is less so: its purity is watched over by the Académie
> Française, a literary body that defines the French language. Between
> 1997 and 2002 there was a 24% drop in the use of French in European
> Union documents. English increased by 32%.
> Professor David Crystal, the author of the Cambridge Encyclopedia of
> the English Language, said the statistics spoke for themselves. "In
> the 1960s, 250m people spoke English, but now it's closer to 2
> billion, or one in three people in the world.
> "That English became the first truly global language in the 1990s is
> beyond dispute, but there is debate about where it goes from here.
> "Does it splinter into a loosely connected family of English
> languages, which become mutually incomprehensible again, like old
> Latin, or do we develop a standard global English that can be
> understood by all? We don't know what will happen."
> In his latest book, Words, Words, Words, Crystal, who is honorary
> professor of linguistics at the University of Wales, Bangor, argues
> that the British routinely underestimate their own linguistic
> abilities. "I computer-analysed The Sun newspaper and discovered it
> used about 5,000 different words," he said. "People underestimate its
> sophistication because of its slangy headlines. And a British
> broadsheet uses about 8,000 different words — about the same as the
> original King James Bible.
> "The average Briton uses about 40,000 words, although not all every
> day, and can understand another 20,000. The richness and flexibility
> of English ensures we shall never be at a loss for words."
> -----
> --Ben Zimmer
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society -

More information about the Ads-l mailing list