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English language gets its one millionth word, website says

By Matthew Shaer / June 10, 2009

As of this morning, the English language has one million words or phrases, a popular language site claims. But it may be a while before the phrase 'Web 2.0' hits the official Scrabble dictionary.

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The English language, which has more words than any other language in the history of the world, today added its one millionth word or phrase, according to the site Global Language Monitor. Several phrases were in the running, including "Jai Ho," "Slumdog," (terms popularized by the Oscar-winning movie "Slumdog Millionaire) and "N00b," a derogatory name for an amateur video-game player.

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But the winner was "Web 2.0," a phrase usually applied to social networking sites such as Facebook, and Twitter. (The Global Language Monitor, somewhat stiffly, calls "[Web 2.0] a technical term meaning the next generation of World Wide Web products and services. It has crossed from technical jargon into far wider circulation in the last six months.") Since 2008, the Global Language Monitor, which is based in Texas, has been counting down its "Million Word March."

According to the site, a new English word or phrase is created about every 98 minutes, for an average of 14.7 per day. The proliferation of blogs and social networks has no doubt increased the frequency of new words – the site UrbanDictionary.com, for instance, has become a barometer of web slang.

The Global Language Monitor uses a proprietary algorithm, called the Predictive Quantities Indicator, to scan "global print and electronic media, on the Internet, throughout the Blogosphere, in social media as well as accessing proprietary databases (Factiva, Lexis-Nexis, etc.)," reads a FAQ posted on the Global Language Monitor.

But many journalists and linguists have criticized the algorithm's rubric. "By what authority does the Global Language Monitor say a new coinage is a genuine new word?" The Economist asked last year:

None. Some countries, such as France and Spain, have academies that claim the right to regulate their national languages, and to repel invasive terms, usually from English. Neither England nor the United States attempts such an exercise in futility. English is a mongrel language that keeps its vitality by absorbing new words, uses and expressions. It promiscuously plunders other languages and delights in neologisms. It is the language of free traders and inventive entrepreneurs such as the staff of the Global Language Monitor.

In case you were wondering – and I'm picking randomly here – word number 999,989 was "Defriend," defined as "Social networking terminology for cutting the connection with a formal friend."

What about 999,988?

"Chengguan," defined as "Urban management officers, a cross between mayors, sheriff, and city managers."

On the other side of one million, phrase 1,000,001 is "Financial Tsunami," appropriate enough for these rocky economic times.

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