Use Your Words Well

I learned a new word yesterday.

I was editing a document for a co-worker and in it, he used the word ‘demogrant’, meaning a grant based solely on demographic principles such as age and/or sex. (source)

I was curious. How many words are there in the English language? Which is what lead me to the realization that words, like population, continue to grow.

As of January 1, 2014, the Global Language Monitor estimate there are 1,025,109.8 in the English language. We surpassed the 1 million word mark in June 2009. The GLM website also states that, “Currently there is a new word created every 98 minutes or about 14.7 words per day.”

However, Oxford dictionaries suggests there’s really no way to tell how many words there are in the English (or any) language. So many words have more than one meaning. Do you count them more than once? What about derivatives? Do they count? The Second Edition of the 20-volume Oxford English Dictionary contains full entries for 171,476 words in current use, and 47,156 obsolete words.

It was my curiosity that lead me to the Twinword Blog, and the exam they offer to test your vocabulary. I was relieved to see that I score in the 99th percentile. I was also relieved it wasn’t a math test.

Some brains just don’t do math as well as language. I am one of them. I like words. I relate to them. They make sense. To me, words feel alive. Emotional. Contextual. Substantial. They are an easy and effective way for me to express my thoughts, feelings, ideas, question.

Numbers. They feel cold. Inanimate. Harsh and while they may have substance and context, I don’t get a lot of feelings from words. Unless of course it’s the rapidly declining number in my bank account or the number on my latest VISA bill. That probably will get an emotional response and it won’t be positive.

Years ago, I read somewhere (sorry — I can’t credit the author. I forget — maybe, as my daughters so often tell me, I’d be better off doing a memory test instead of a word  knowledge test) that there are 3 attributes to a leader:  1. Curiosity   2. Courage   3. Humility

I like to think my curiosity is an asset. That the journey of learning a new word yesterday sent me off on a voyage of discovery. And while I may not soon be using the word ‘demogrant’ in my daily conversation, my estimated 30,000 – 35,000 word vocabulary gets a good workout everyday. It keeps my brain supple and my mind alive.

I like using words. Doesn’t matter their size, how many consonants, how fat the vowels, I like to express myself through verbal and written use of words. From beginning here every morning using my words to express my thoughts and ideas, to using my words to connect and relate to everyone in my world, language is the tool of my trade. And I like it.

Today, I am grateful for words, the Internet which leads me to so many interesting discoveries right from the comfort of my desk and the ability to make sense of the words I see on the screen. I am grateful for the opportunity to learn new words, stretch my vocabulary and for the fact, I don’t have to use numbers every day. I’m pretty sure banker would prefer I use numbers more effectively, but I’m sure scientists are thankful for my penchant to use words, not numbers. I could really mess with their formulas and equations if I was in charge of the numbers.

With words, I know where I stand. Numbers. Not so much. They sound too much like Latin to me. And though I studied Latin in High School, I have long forgotten most of what I learned.

Dang. There’s that memory thing again.


Maybe my daughters are right! Maybe I’d better go take a memory test and forget about words! But wait! I remember. LUMOSITY, which is more than just the quality or state of being luminous, it’s also a website that has lots of tools to strengthen memory!

Have a great day. Use your words well.

(Thank you Nick Falvo for teaching me a new word and the impetus to take a wordy adventure!)

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