1.04.2009

Millionth word on its way

The Economist is skeptical about calculations that English is about to become the first million-word language, because nobody agrees on the criteria. But there seems to be little doubt that it is the world's biggest language, partly due to its complete lack of regulation. So be sure to use it for Good, not Evil.

(Aside: Having the Oxford American College Dictionary and American Thesaurus of Current English ($14.99) on the iPhone is, to this word-worker, itself worth the ridiculous toy's price. No more being all eh, fuck it, I don't really need to know what cunctation and prognathous mean because I can't be arsed to haul out one of the many cumbersome dead-pressed-tree volumes that clutter house and weigh down backpack. Takes me five seconds to look up a word, anywhere I am, and it's totally speeding up my trip through Infinite Jest. (The complete OED is not yet available as an app. Emphasis on yet.))

1 comment:

Pete said...

I spent yesterday living the "eh, fuck it" effect over and over as I read "The Road." Pretty good book. I don't think it was fantastic or anything, but pretty good. But I bring it up because McCarthy's vocabulary seemed to be at its most vocabulous in this one. It's always the nouns, and they almost always have to do with architecture or plants (excepting "catamites"!). I picture the guy sitting down to write with a field guide and a Time-Life home repair manual, flipping through each for every page written and not moving on until he has a list of at least three lovely obscurities to work into the text.

The structure of the book only encourages this of course: the man and the boy sleep under some sort of plant, try to eat another, and then come across a house (or a boat!) to search. Throw in some menace with every third encounter, some biblical poetry with every seventh, and repeat for 300 pages.

I'm not bringing this up as a point against the book. It's a brilliant simplicity. I recently also read Hugo's "The Triggering Town"--on an EG recommendation, so thanks--and that got me thinking about Hugo's point about the truth conforming to the music. Starting from a list of awesome words and a powerfully simple structure really wouldn't be such a bad way to write a book.