We Don’t Speak Much English

Oh, we all speak English.  Compulsive, competitive, conversationalists like me speak/write more than most – but, how many words are there in the English language?

Many people estimate that there are more than a million words in the English language. In fact, during a project looking at words in digitized books, researchers from Harvard University and Google in 2010 estimated a total of 1,022,000 words, and that the number would grow by several thousand each year. The Oxford English dictionary expands every year to keep up with new words that are invented to describe the world around us, or to include new meanings for words that already exist in English. A more useful number from the Oxford English Dictionary would be the 171,476 words that are in current use, and about 45,000 which are archaic, and are not used in modern English..

That’s still a lot of words, though, and doesn’t reflect the number of words that individual English speakers actually use. For that number, let’s look at a recent study by the people at testyourvocab.com who say that adult native-speakers of English have a vocabulary that ranges from the McJob-holder’s 5000-10,000, most people’s 20,000-35,000, and smarty-pants show-off word-jugglers like me, who keep 50,00 to 70,000 words in the air at all times.

Obviously, these are not the same words and everyone’s vocabulary will include different words, according to their career, education and interests.  Every line of work has its own specialized ‘Jargon.’  The language, especially the vocabulary, peculiar to a particular trade, profession, or group:  The word pneumothorax isn’t going to show up, except at a Reno convention of surgeons.

There are three key numbers to remember: more than a million total words, about 170,000 words in current use, and 20,000-30,000 words used by each individual person.  No matter how many each of us use – we don’t speak MUCH English.

Truth be told, there is no “English language.”  Other languages are cohesive and logical.  English is like the Lost and Found at an international airport.  It (kinda) started with Briton Celtic, then the Romans added Latin, and words they dragged in from Greek.  The Jutes, Angles, and Saxons moved in to rule the island, and brought lots of Germanic words, and more Latin from their Roman occupation.

The Vikings brought fire and sword, and Norse words with them.  Irish Gaelic, Scottish Gaelic and Welsh, had their way with the tongue, and then the French invaded, bringing lots more Latin-based terms.  The “English” language, and those who speak it, continue to drag back words everywhere, from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe – from Aleut to Zulu.

Many times the kidnapped words are not used as they were in the host language.  In English, we sing the little song, Frère Jacques as ‘Brother John,’ but ‘Jacques’ in French, does not mean Jack = John in English.  It means Jacob = James.  We should be singing about Brother Jim.

I started this post because I found the word, ”matutinal” – meaning: pertaining to or occurring in the morning; early in the day, From the French word, Matin = morning.  When the French have a matineé, it occurs in the morning.  When we have a matineé, it happens in the afternoon.

Words become part of the accepted English language, the same way immigrants become citizens of a country – by naturalization.  If it’s used often enough, and for long enough – it’s English.  Some words/phrases just aren’t used enough, or they remain trapped in some jargon, and never become naturalized.

Cri de Coeur and voir dire, are heard, but remain French.  Ad Populum, actus reus and mens rea, remain Latin.  Pizza and Pizzazz have become part of English, but the musical word, pizzicato, remains Italian.

Even though I might only employ 5% of the English vocabulary, I’m happy to have more than enough words to interest, entertain and amuse you.  There’ll be another random offering in a couple of days.  😀

I Have A Confession

confession-box

A sixteen year old girl goes to confession.
Father, I called a man a son-of-a-bitch
yesterday.

Why did you call him a son-of-a-bitch?? the
priest asked.

Because, Father, he touched me on my arm
without permission.

Do you mean like this?? He touches her arm.

Yes Father.

That’s no reason for calling him a son of a
bitch.

But Father, he also touched my breasts.

You mean like this?? He touches her breasts.

Yes Father.

That’s no reason to call him a son-of-a-bitch.

But Father, he took off my clothes.

Like this?? He takes off her clothes.

Yes Father.

That’s no reason to call him a son-of-a-bitch.

But Father he then put his you-know-what in
my you-know-where.

Like this?? He put his you-know-what in her
you-know-where.

Yes Father, she says sometime later, after
catching her breath.

But that’s no reason to call him a
son-of-a-bitch.

But Father, he has AIDS.

That son of a bitch!

***

A newly ordained Catholic priest was nervous about hearing confessions, so he asked an older, more experienced priest to observe one of his sessions and give him some advice. After a few minutes of watching and listening, the older priest pulled the younger one aside to give him a few suggestions.

“Try folding your arms over your chest, and rubbing your chin with one hand. This gives the impression that you are listening thoughtfully. Then try saying things like: “I see.”, “I understand.” and “Yes, go on.”

The younger priest practiced these things for a minute. Then the older one asked, “Don’t you think that’s better than slapping your knee and saying, “No way! What happened next?”

***

If you’ve seen the above post before, it’s because unforeseen technical difficulties accidently deleted it from my list of posts.  I’ve been able to re-publish it, but I’m missing all those lovely likes and comments.   😯

Flash Fiction #126

 

lost-head

PHOTO PROMPT © Liz Young

Gone – And Forgotten

Johan was the most disorganized, forgetful person I’d ever met.  Instead of putting things where they belonged, and knowing where they were, he just dropped them….wherever, and spent his days saying things like;
“I wonder where I set my beer down.”
“Has anybody seen my smokes?”
“I have to leave soon.
  Somebody help me find my keys.”

After locating his glasses for him – 8 times, today – I suggested that he arrange his life a little more carefully.  He agreed that it was a good idea.  “Honestly, sometimes I think I’d forget my own head if it wasn’t screwed on tight.”

***

Go to Rochelle’s Addicted to Purple site and use her Wednesday photo as a prompt to write a complete 100 word story. 

 

Easy Money

American money

There was a mean boss in a factory.
The boss liked to watch the workers.
He wanted the workers to work hard.
One morning the boss came to the factory at nine o’clock. A man was drinking coffee.
The boss came back at nine thirty.
The man was still drinking coffee.
The boss was angry. “How much do you make a week?” he asked the man.
“Three hundred dollars.” the man said.
The boss gave the man three hundred dollars.
“Take the money and get out of here!” he said.
Then the boss asked another worker: “What was that man’s job?”
“He doesn’t work here”, the worker said, “He came to pick up a package.”

***

A Rabbi, a Hindu Monk, and a lawyer are driving down the road when their car breaks down in the middle of nowhere.
Spotting a farmhouse they walk over and tell the farmer they need a place to stay the night while they wait for a tow.
“I’ve got room in the house for two of you but someone’s gonna have to sleep in the barn.” says the farmer.
The Rabbi says, “I’ve no problem with that, I’ll go.” He leaves.
Five minutes later there’s a knock on the door. The farmer opens the door and the Rabbi is there.
He says, “Sir there is a pig in that barn; in my religion pigs are unclean, I cannot sleep under the same roof with a pig.”
The Monk speaks up and says, “I have no problem with pigs I’ll go sleep in the barn.” He leaves.
Five minutes later there’s a knock on the door. The farmer opens the door and the Monk is here.
“Sir there is a cow in that barn; in my religion cows are sacred, I cannot sleep under the same roof with a cow.
The lawyer responds, “I’ll go sleep in the barn, I’ve got no religion.” He leaves.
Five minutes later there’s a knock on the door. The farmer opens the door and the pig and the cow are standing there.

***

A: Why are you late?
B: There was a man who lost a hundred dollar bill.
A: That’s nice. Were you helping him look for it?
B: No, I was standing on it.

***

Becky: Simon, your father is a teacher but you can’t read and write.
Simon: So, your father is a dentist but your little brother Bill still has no teeth.

***

An art collector is walking through London looking for a Christmas present, when he notices a mangy cat lapping milk from a saucer in the doorway of a shop. He does a double take when he notices that the saucer is extremely old and very valuable, so he walks casually into the store and offers to buy the cat for two pounds.
The shop owner replies, “I’m sorry, but the cat isn’t for sale.” The collector says, “Please, I need a hungry cat around the house to catch mice. I’ll pay you twenty pounds for it.” And the owner says, “Sold,” and hands over the cat.
The collector continues, “For twenty quid, I wonder if you could throw in that old saucer. The cat’s used to it and it’ll save me having to get a dish.”
The owner says, “Sorry, but that’s my lucky saucer. So far this week I’ve sold sixty-eight cats.”

Upscale Insults

More high-class ways to put down friends, family, and fellow workers, who really need it.  Are there ever too many??

*****

Have you taken your ugly pills this morning?

Someone must have really hit you hard with an ugly stick.

You must have been a beautiful baby – what happened?

Body by Nautilus – Brain by Fisher-Price

I’m sorry I made you cry – but your face is cleaner now.

I’d love to take you home – but I forgot the leash.

You ought to be on the stage.  There’s one leaving in 15 minutes.

I live near the cliff.  Drop over some time.

Stop smiling; don’t you have work to do?

Get lost!  We have no “found” department.

As an outsider, what do you think of the human race?

Why, I don’t think you’re two-faced at all.  If you had two, you wouldn’t always wear the ugly one.

You’re making a fool of yourself, and I’ve never seen finer craftsmanship.

I love your new hairdo.  I never realized steel wool could look so becoming.

Fly away with me….we’ll use your broomstick.

Your heart’s in the right place.  It’s your head that worries me!

Darling, you’re my whole world – fat and round.

Some are born beautiful; some are born smart, I’m sorry you’re a two-time loser.

You have a truly timeless beauty – your face would stop a clock.

You sure are outstanding in your field, and that’s where you should be, out, standing in your field.

Let’s tie the knot – around your neck.

Have you ever considered acting—like a human being?

You’re one in a million – and the other 999,999 are sure happy.

I don’t know what makes you tick.  I think it’s a time-bomb.

Darling, you came to me out of nowhere…Go back!

Is that really your head, or is your neck blowing bubblegum?

I hate human beings.  You, I like.

Aren’t you Tina Turner’s sister, Stomach Turner?

Or perhaps you’re related to Bob Hope, No Hope?

Lorna Doone’s granddaughter – Nothin’ Doone?

What a cute skirt.  What did you make with the rest of the tablecloth?

I love you.  But then, I have horrible taste.

I’d like to take you home to dear old Dad….who hasn’t had a good laugh in years.

Is it true your brother’s an only child?

You’ve got a photographic mind – Too bad it never developed.

Shut your mouth—You’ll lose your candy.

You have that certain nothing.

As long as you have a minute to spare, tell me all you know.

If there’s nothing to be said, I’m sure you’ll say it.

I’d like to help you out.  Which way did you come in?

It’s good to see you’re back, especially after seeing your face.

Go gargle with peanut butter.

When I want your opinion, I’ll rattle your cage.

Gee, you look good….have you been sick?

Why don’t you stop in for dinner sometime, if you don’t mind imposing?

Why don’t you go sit on a tack, and offer lap-dances?

Why don’t you go over to police headquarters and volunteer as a missing person?

*****

And now for something a little more cerebral

THE SEX LIFE OF AN ELECTRON

One night, when his charge was high, Micro Farad decided to try and find a cute little coil to discharge into.  He picked up Milli Amp, and took her for a ride on his megacycle.  They rode across the Wheatstone Bridge, and parked in a magnetic field, near a flowing current.

Micro Farad soon became attracted to Milli Amp’s characteristics curves, and finally had her resistance at a minimum.  With his field fully charged, he laid her on the ground potential, raised her frequency, lowered her capacitance, and pulled out his high-voltage probe.  He inserted it into her socket, connecting them in parallel, and began to short circuit her shunt.

Fully excited, Milli Amp cried, MHO, MHO, give me MHO!  With his tube operating at a maximum peak, and her coil vibrating from the current flows, she quickly reached her maximum.

The excess current flow had got him hot, and Micro Farad was rapidly discharging, and drained of every electron.

They fluxed all night, trying various connections and sockets, until his bar magnet lost all of its field strength.

Afterwards, Milli Amp tried self-induction, and damaged her solenoid.  With his battery fully discharged, Micro Farad was unable to excite his generator, so they ended up by reversing polarities and started to blow each other’s fuses.