The Linguistic Treadmill

New words lead to new thoughts, stories, and things.

The Oxford English Dictionary is adding 840 new words (on average) every year! I was surprised to learn that we're creating new language this quickly. The chart above was created to double-check the feeling that, either I'm getting older, or things are changing faster. Turns out I'm probably just getting older.

How fast is language currently replacing itself? 

While the entire OED is 600 thousand words, I remember that an average working vocabulary is closer to 10 thousand words. If all new words were required working vocabulary, then the whole of language would be replaced in 12 years. If only 2% of new words were required, then it would still only take 580 years. My answer is that a lot can change in one lifetime.

Is the concise edition any indicator?

The OED Concise edition contains 240 thousand words, 40% of the entire dictionary. Surprisingly large. This subjective size limit is imposed by the limits of printing and distribution. The goal of a dictionary is to answer the most questions, and that means including words most frequently encountered. A subtle indicator of usage frequency, perhaps.

Will we run out of new words?

The permutations of 9 letter words is over 1 trillion,  26! / (26-9)! = 1,133,836,704,000. So if we create 840 new words a year, it would take over a billion years. So, no - alphabets will morph significantly over that span of time. We've only had written languages for a few thousand years.

The Ahiram epitaph in Phoenician

Watch The World Learn

Watch complications were the apps of a hundred years ago - and they were expensive. None of my complicated watches have an alarm, for example. That alarm complication costs as much as an Apple Watch - so it's clearly the economical choice.

Also I wanted a Kanji Solitaire watch complication, so I made one. It displays a different kanji character at a glance, every thirty minutes. Tap the complication to flip through a flashcard quiz. The large crown dial will also roll through a thousand quiz characters.

I own a fancy $80 box of analog flashcards, and it's impractical to hold a hundred of them. But the Watch has amazeballs tech, so thousands of digital cards is light work.

Part of my objection to smart watches has been the look - it's great to see Apple partner with outside design to create some style variations. I got the Nike Version with the perforated band, and this includes the Nike watch face which is also great looking.

The Ten Second Amendment

SANTA FE, NM - Ain't nobody looking out for nobody on the frontier - unless they're a pervert or a bandit. You're reading my scrapbook, then I got killed by one or both - a goddamn lawman. Figured it'd happen, ain't no surprise by now. Pine box coming full split.

Got my record at eleven years, 'cause some damn bugger askin' bout a bullet. Bag of nails since. Kicked outta schoolhouse on why I beefed a man. They don't take no account of a child's family ain't got no money.

Had to take low jobs, until word got back on the felony. Landlords ain't wanna hear heap about it neither. Learn't to hobble my lip an' make tracks to the next town.

Near ten years now an' down to the blanket. Cracked lawmen sneaking up 'cause they heard you shot a man once, an' they don't take no account of drifters. Ditched and bulldozed in alley court on no charge of livin' among the willows.

These tracks lead to the boot yard 'an nothing figures for changing.