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Arment Dietrich

For the Love of Language

By: Arment Dietrich | September 19, 2012 | 
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Today’s guest post is written by Lisa Gerber.

It’s my last post as chief content officer for Spin Sucks today. I’m feeling a little nostalgic, so I hope you’ll indulge me in a story.

Ever since I was six years old, I have had a love affair with language.

Then, my love was mostly for foreign languages. I loved the idea that people used different words to speak in different cultures. In fact, do you remember Steve Martin’s warning to potential visitors to France?

“Oeuf means egg. Chapeau means hat. It’s like, those French have a different word for everything.”

I used to imagine I could speak a different language. My nutty little self would speak in a foreign tongue with my dollies. Then, as I got older, I took French as soon as I could – in the fifth grade. I also started reading books voraciously. 

When I got to high school, I was speaking French pretty well, and my English teacher (the really tough one) told a class, one that I was not in, that I had the best vocabulary. I’ll never forget when my friend told me he said that. I was very proud. I guess I still am.

One day, sitting in the back seat of the car on our way to a day of skiing, I was practicing my upcoming French skit out loud. I was speaking a real foreign language! And my Dad said, “Why don’t you go to France?” Huh? It didn’t ever occur to me to go to France. I was taking French because I loved the words; not so I could go to France. But now that you mention it, I’d love to, thank you.

I never imagined I’d actually write for a living. To be clear, I don’t consider myself a writer, but I am fortunate to write for a living.

All these thoughts came to mind as I was driving the other day, listening to NPR and I heard the term “indisputable.” I made a mental note to add that word to my word file.

What Percentage of the English Language Do We Use?

I keep a word file in an attempt to continually expand my vocabulary. When I hear a word I rarely use, I make a note and add it. The average person uses a small percentage of the entire English language. The second edition of the Oxford English Dictionary (1989) has 615,000 entries. I’ve read varying accounts that we use anywhere from 3,000 to 20,000 of those words. That’s a lot of neglected words.  This makes me almost as sad as the pets in need of a home at the shelter.

Each individual has his or her own lexicon. It would be interesting to do a blind blogger taste test and circulate blog posts without the author attribution to guess who wrote it. I bet we could figure it out.

And that’s a good thing. It means we each have a voice, distinct from the others. But at the same time, we should work to constantly expand it, which is why I have that word file.

British publisher Harper Collins Dictionary is crowdsourcing the evolution of the English language. I’m not sure how I feel about it yet. On the one hand, it’s important to adapt our language to stay current with the times, just like we all adapt our businesses. But for the purists out there, I wouldn’t be surprised if you became aghast (another word in my word file.)

Words like cyberbullytweetup, and livestream make sense to me. They even added bridezilla! These words represent part of a changing world. The additions of amazeballs and impactful make me wonder where you draw the line.

Regardless, the publishers’ intent is to gain greater insight into usage by opening up the process to the public. Words are screened based on usage and frequency. The full list of words is here. You can submit your word here.

Enough of my stories. If you had a word file, what words would you include? What are some words you love?

Au revoir mes amis! But never fear: I’ll still be hanging out in the comments. And I’ll be working to improve my diction, so hopefully Lindsay Bell will have me back as a guest blogger.

64 comments
lisagerber
lisagerber

@OhioDanielle thanks for sharing my post a few days ago. :)

TedRubin
TedRubin

I love the words:

 

Serendipity... what it stands for and where it takes us.

 

Appreciation... so much value is just one word. Use it early and often.

 

Collaboration... because that is what this new socially scaleable world is all about. 

 

Great post Lisa :-)

lisagerber
lisagerber

@econwriter5 Thanks for the share!

lisagerber
lisagerber

@voxoptima Aww, I won't be far. I'll still be right here. Do you know @belllindsay? she's taking over the content. for @SpinSucks

Hajra
Hajra

English is my second language. And I learnt it when I was small, and I remember our English teacher in school told us "English can be funny, because it have the same words for many things (genes and jeans) but they mean different and spell different".

 

So four languages later, I have a lot of words.... but my favorite remains Shawarmas! :) Many reasons...

ShakirahDawud
ShakirahDawud

Nodding along. I was exposed to a second language pretty early on in life as well, and it opened me to learn to speak and read two others as well. But it's strange, and I've blogged about it, how these new words like the ones you mentioned do make sense--they're not brand new coinages, they're usually mashups of old words to imply something new. It's fun and sometimes horrifying (PRketing, @soulati ?) to watch. 

belllindsay
belllindsay

What a fantastic post @Lisa Gerber - sorry I missed it yesterday - I was a bit *ahem* busy! LOL Words are one of my very favourite things in the whole world. I get made fun of all the time because of some of the words I use. Though you wouldn't know by the lameness of this comment - cut me some slack, I'm still waking up. :D xoxox

geoffliving
geoffliving

You'll be missed, Lisa.  Thanks for being a great content curator, and a bien amie. Tu est magnifique, a bientot, et merci!

allenmireles
allenmireles

Well, you already know where I stand on this one: I wish we could hold onto you and I am all about milking every last moment I have with you. But on the word front? In our family we create the words that truly express the moment and one of my favorites (that I invented) is "perflusticate". Sort of intended to convey that moment when you are so flummoxed that you are unsure of where or how to move next but you are anxiously flapping around trying to do something right. ;).And then, I so love the graceful and poetic Spanish response to a compliment. When someone compliments you, you respond by saying, "en sus reflejos." Meaning literally, in your reflection. Lovely. Gracious.

KDillabough
KDillabough

Vous souhaitant tout le meilleur Lisa:) Cheers! Kaarina

magriebler
magriebler

Avez-vous en France? Je l'espère! Et Paris est magique.

 

Traveling mercies to you in all your new endeavors. It's a big world out there; knock it dead.

coffeewithjulie
coffeewithjulie

Oh! This is news ... I didn't realize you were leaving and handing the reigns over. You've done an awesomesauce job here and we'll miss you! I too hope to meet you one day "IRL" as they say. Until then .... 

SMSJOE
SMSJOE

@MartinaMcGowan Hi Martina hope you are doing well

lisagerber
lisagerber

@margieclayman Thanks, Margie. :)

barrettrossie
barrettrossie

The iPad lets me look up the definition of just about any word, with just a touch. I don't know how I got by before that. I'm probably one of those 3,000-word people. You'll never have to look up anything on my blog, unless I misspelled something beyond recognition.

 

Since I'm going to meet you IN PERSON in a couple weeks (aren't the rest of you guys jealous!), I'll save all the corny stuff for later. 

razoo
razoo

@lisagerber We don't like goodbyes. How about... See you later, Lisa! cc @ginidietrich @SpinSucks

bdorman264
bdorman264

Comme vous vous embarquez sur votre nouveau voyage, je vais certainement vous souhaite la meilleure des chances. Il a été un réel plaisir de faire votre connaissance et de me laisser jouer dans votre bac à sable.

 

Huh? What was that? I must have been speaking in tongue..........

 

In fact, huh is probably the word I use the most; especially since I only use about 17 words in the English dictionary. I have used indisputable before....or maybe read it somewhere.......

 

I also had the opportunity to go to Monaco, Nice & Geneva Switzerland for a couple of weeks and I was speaking like a native by the time I left....ok, maybe they asked me to leave but that's splitting hairs.........

 

Good luck and look forward to seeing you on our side of the fence. 

VoxOptima
VoxOptima

@lisagerber @belllindsay @SpinSucks We DO follow Lindsay's work & she's awesome, if anyone can fill your shoes, it's her.

Lisa Gerber
Lisa Gerber

 @ShakirahDawud  Hard to draw the line between words that might be a passing fad and words that just need to be added to our lexicon. Thanks, Shakirah!

Lisa Gerber
Lisa Gerber

 @belllindsay no commenting before lots of coffee.LOL. You taught me a great word this morning. I'm so bagged! 

Lisa Gerber
Lisa Gerber

 @allenmireles I did not know this about the Spanish language and I LOVE that. Amazingly gracious. Now I want to do a post on foreign languages, and some things we could learn from them. I'm perflusitcating at the idea. 

Lisa Gerber
Lisa Gerber

 @magriebler Yes! Many times. Just love France, and I had the awesome opportunity to live in Paris fo a year. It is indeed magical, isn't it? Sigh. What about you? Have you been in the countryside too? 

MartinaMcGowan
MartinaMcGowan

@SMSJOE Doing well Joe. I trust the same for you.

Lisa Gerber
Lisa Gerber

 @Frank_Strong Hi Frank! I'm handing the content reins over to @belllindsay and I'll be lurking in the comments from now on just like the rest of the riff raff here. And I'll be re-launching my business in November. :)

Lisa Gerber
Lisa Gerber

 @barrettrossie No corny stuff in person either!! ewww!!! :) 

It will be very cool to see you in person! WOOHOO. Please be sure and start a standing ovation for me when I'm done!! OR wait..... start the WAVE!!!!!! I'll give you ten bucks. 

SpinSucks
SpinSucks

@razoo Did you like my blank tweet? Got distracted by my pup, but I totally agree!! See you later Lisa :'(

lisagerber
lisagerber

@razoo or... LATES!!! @GiniDietrich

Lisa Gerber
Lisa Gerber

 @bdorman264 I've used inarguably, and without debate... but indisputable... I thought - hey, I never use that word!!! 

Thanks for the wishes, Bdorman!! Maybe I can be inducted into the Crazies now. 

belllindsay
belllindsay

@VoxOptima **blush** ;) @lisagerber @SpinSucks

belllindsay
belllindsay

 @Lisa Gerber Hey! Almost three weeks coffee-free! ;) I gave you another word today also - vernacular!! hahaha I'm bagged too!! 

magriebler
magriebler

 @Lisa Gerber Oh good for you. I've been to Paris multiple times (I have friends who used to live off Rue Cler) but the farthest out of the city I've gotten is Versailles. (Ha, ha.) Getting into the countryside is on my bucket list. Some day ....

SMSJOE
SMSJOE

@martinamcgowan yep going well here Martina

razoo
razoo

@lisagerber @ginidietrich Yes! Much better. :)

lisagerber
lisagerber

@belllindsay hahaha - no joke about the massive shoes? :)