Friday, 19 June 2009
Millionth word my ????

Dot Wordsworth, worth her weight in words and dots, makes short shrift of this millionth word malarkey:

What do they mean by the millionth word?’ asked my husband as he turned away from Jeremy Paxman’s houndlike physiognomy and towards his whisky glass. What indeed?

It seems that an American company had got up a PR stunt that caught the imagination of the press. As that reliable old linguistician, Professor David Crystal remarked, ‘It is total nonsense. English reached a million words years ago.’ All the more disappointingly, the word chosen by the American publicity people was Web 2.0. This is a vague term for a new generation of phenomena on the World Wide Web. It is not a very new word, having been coined, it is generally acknowledged, in 2004 by Tim O’Reilly, a grand computer-book publisher.

I discovered this because I did not know how to pronounce Web 2.0. Mr O’Reilly favours the pronunciation ‘web two point zero’. The man who invented the World Wide Web, Sir Tim Berners Lee, prefers ‘web two dot oh’. Naturally I lean towards dot, and towards oh.

It is mere ignorance to suppose that zero is the only name for ‘nought’. The word O, meaning ‘zero’, has been in use since the 15th century and was used by Shakespeare (Lear I. iv. 174). The word zero is not recorded in English before 1604. The technical term previously was cipher.

Catherine Sangster, of the BBC Pronunciation Unit, says on her blog that she will probably recommend ‘two point oh’ as the pronunciation. I’m sorry to lose the dot, but I can see that point is more often used in numbering systems.

The use in print of the different forms O and 0 introduces new tangles for verbal denizens of the computer undergrowth. Another PR candidate for the millionth word was n00b. Here the pronunciation (‘noob’) is clear but the orthography dubious. The double zero seems merely decorative. N00b or noob means ‘neophyte’ in the computer world. It seems to come from newby, which itself first appeared in about 1970, deriving no doubt from schoolboy slang for ‘new boy’. Since Americans pronounce new as noo, the way was clear for the diminutive noob.

As a new girl (n00g) in the shallows of the web-footed fen I am glad to find that playfulness in language thrives there. Since educated people use about 50,000 different words, a million give space for splashing about.

I don't know about the millionth word, but I imagine the trillionth word has got to be cat.

What's the umpteenth word, though?

Posted on 06/19/2009 1:10 PM by Mary Jackson
19 Jun 2009


19 Jun 2009
Send an emailJohn M. J.

A long time ago a Professor of some arcane aspect of our language (I forget which one for it was a long time ago) at my University told me, and I have no reason to doubt him, that the total number of words available to English speakers numbers well over three million if one is prepared to accept all words since our language began to emerge from its root languages over a thousand years ago.

So, for me, all this fuss about about a millionth word - and it's not a word, anyway, but a phrase - is naught but some babbling baragouin (yes, that's an English word: no, I'm not going to define it - look it up for yourself).

Oh, alright! I will define it. 'Baragouin' means any unintelligible language or impenetrable and meaningless jargon; any self-important use of a meaningless form of words. Satisfied?

20 Jun 2009
Send an emailreactionry
By all means, let us fashion, not some tower of Babel, but an edifice to, not Barzun, but Baragouin, compleate with feet of clay pidgins.
Attempting to answer "wtf?" (it's not like shooting pigeons in a barrel of sapajous), I believe that Mary's title is intended to read something like, "Millionth word in my bloomin' arsenal in this war."
And in this war NER had earlier cited works standing in diametric opposition to Hugh's list of kiddee favorites:
1.  Millions of Cat Stevens
2.  I Like Madeleine "Countries of Concern" Albright
3.  Thidwick The Big-Hearted Muslim
4.  Goodnight Crescent Moon
5.  The Little Rocket Engine That Could Reach Tel Aviv
-left off for obvious reasons: from The Colour of Arab Oil Money series (hat tip to Artemis), by Barbara Fritchie, I Don't Like Green Flags & Islam.
While Iran's "Supreme Leader" is "sloughing off charges of vote-rigging" [ht RB] and ungrateful Afghans tell us that "We Must Pay And Keep On Paying – Or Else,"[ht JMJ], we can still treasure what's left of our civil liberties even if they allow dreadful English doggerel such as [apologies to Thornton Wilder] -
Come friendly bomb
Slumming in Slough
Please drop on Qom
Make waste enow
From hedge and heath
Aid's not enough
Make skin of teeth
Sizzle and slough
I suspect that Mary used "umpteenth" to needle Hugh given his rant over that word and I can only imagine what he might think of
I spent most of today snoozing and getting outside a bit, but it was a good day for that and what is so rare as Cornish hen's teeth, Dolly Pentreath or a day of Juneteenth?

20 Jun 2009
Send an emailreactionry
Of This Enow Or Enough
(Because, "This is stupid stuff")
Jeepers, forgot a title for the above post.  How about "Mixing Pathetic Fallacies"? And there should have been quotes around "not enough."

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