Friday, June 19, 2009

The English Language’s 1,000,000th Word

Believe it or not, our current English language already has one million words. Is the end of additional words in sight?

By: Vanessa Uy

By June 12, 2009, the number of words in the English language has finally reached one million words. Which is kind of surprising – at least from my perspective. Given that this still living offspring of Latin, the language of top bards and storytellers William Shakespeare and Mark Twain, has been growing at a fever pitch since the Golden Age of Queen Elizabeth I would have reached a million words long ago. Despite tenured linguists and academics official stance on the matter is that a new word is “officially” added to the English language roster every 98 minutes or so. The question now is what is the one-millionth word to be officially enlisted in our official English language roster?

Sadly it wasn’t one of those four-letter expletives uttered by the now infamous ethically embattled former governor of Illinois Rod Blagojevic. Which can be a relief if you are a parent of a very verbose teenager. Surprisingly, the one-millionth-word entry in the English language is Web 2.0. Which for all intents and purposes is America's contribution to the already burgeoning roster of the official list of English words.

Web 2.0? I too was surprised. I thought that Web 2.0 was already an “official” entry into the English language roster – make that the Queen’s English – sometime between You Tube’s Lonely Girl 15 became a household name to every Internet savvy citizen or “Nettizen” around the world. Or was it when the number of people who earned more than 1,000 US dollars a month just by surfing on the Internet reached 1 million. Even in the UK – the home bastion of the Queen’s English – has been very enthusiastic over Web 2.0 becoming an official one-millionth-word entry into the roster of the English language, despite of Web 2.0 sounding too American from the vantagepoint of the Francophone world.

Too bad noob – which means a computer gaming novice – didn’t become the English language’s one-millionth word. Which – in the 21st Century – those words will most likely be computer or Internet related. Although from my perspective Web 2.0 is a lot better than sexting – i.e. sending “naughty” electronic messages. Or octomom (another newly recognized english word of American origin) – which has since become a news item since this California mom gave birth to octuplets. Serving as a rather cognitive dissonant contrast to the logic of the state of California’s Proposition 8 in our current Web 2.0 world. Let's just hope that if William Shakespeare or Mark Twain is currently exploring the web - especially on overtly-opinionated English language blogs - they won't have any trouble understanding the 21st Century incarnation of their "Mother Tongue".

America not Francophone: Ungrateful?

Given that it was France who was instrumental in helping America gain her independence from Britain, why isn’t America Francophone or French speaking?

By: Vanessa Uy

“Pouvez-vous me traduire ceci?” I wonder how many Americans would answer “oui” or “non” when asked? Although this mystery of mysteries has been nagging me ever since I became thoroughly versed on American history, especially about the part of the American War of Independence. But why didn’t America chose to be a French speaking or Francophone nation given that it was France who helped her gain independence from the tyrannical rule of Great Britain?

Although I’m still rifling through our public library about the works of Gore Vidal and James A. Michener whether these notable historians offered any explanation on why America didn’t chose French as her national language after gaining independence from England. Given that English is the “Mother Tongue” of America’s former tyrannical overlords, shouldn’t adopting French – as opposed to English – as America’s official language would have shown a semblance of gratefulness to the French? After all without Marquis De Lafayette urging King Louis XVI to help the American colonies gain their independence from England, Americans will probably never know the joys of getting inebriated and having indigestion every Fourth of July.

Maybe it all boils down to intellectual or linguistic incumbency. After all an overwhelming majority of Anglo-Saxons – i.e. White Europeans – who first settled in America to established a colony after fleeing from their original “Mother Land” after being persecuted for their religious beliefs came from merry old England. Which the last time I checked still speak English.

But it can also be argued that why do Malaysians and Indonesians today don’t choose to speak Dütch. After all it wasn’t that long ago – compared to America – that these two former Dutch colonies gained their independence. The same can be argued in Vietnam. I mean most Francophone Vietnamese are over 60 years of age and the younger generation who chose to learn to speak French are as rare as hen’s teeth.

Though it might be over 200 years too late for America to show their gratitude to France by doing a concerted campaign to become Francophone. The US educational system should at least provide more French language course opportunities. It is the least America can do to make France grateful. After fixing the nation’s ailing economy of course.