And the Millionth English Word is…Web 2.0?

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The English language may not be the most common language on Earth—Mandarin Chinese and Spanish beat it out, for instance—but English has always been willing to expand its boundaries and adopt (and co-opt) new words and phrases to expand its lexicon. The Global Language Monitor estimates that almost 15 words a day get added to the English language, and today the organization announced what it claims to be the one-millionth word or phrase in English: Web 2.0. The phrase beat out “cloud computing,” “slumdog,” “noob” (no word on whether “n00b” was considered), and “Jai Ho!,” which landed in the 999,996th, 999,997th, 999,998th, and 999,999th slots, respectively.

“As expected, English crossed the 1,000,000 word threshold on June 10, 2009 at 10:22 am GMT,” said Global Language Monitor’s president and “chief word analyst” Paul JJ Payack, in a statement. “However, some 400 years after the death of the Bard, the words and phrases were coined far from Stratford-Upon-Avon, emerging instead from Silicon Valley, India, China, and Poland, as well as Australia, Canada, the US and the UK.”

Of course, there is no official listing of English words and phrases, or a canonical order in which they are deemed to have entered the English lexicon—or when they have fallen into such disuse as to be obsolete. The Global Language Monitor tracks new words by attempting to measure the extent and dept of their usage, including the number of times the terms appear in online and print media as well as and the geographic distribution of their usage. Some linguists and language experts belittle efforts like these as unscientific publicity stunts or even outright fraud, but they do highlight the ever-shifting nature of written and spoken language…which is, after all, the basis of almost all human communication.

According to the Global Language Monitor, “Web 2.0” seems to be rather unique in the English lexicon in that it’s the only mainstream English word or phrase that contains two numerals. Oh, and what’s the most widely-recognized English word on Earth? “O.K.”

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