What’s in a word? Plenty!
Words. We use them to define, explain, express, and describe to name some of their many benefits. Dictionaries and elements of style books tell us how to use words and countless tomes are composed of them. For most occasions, words come easy. Sometimes, though, we are “at a loss for words.” Words are found on paper and in digital transmission. They are broadcast, sung, and can even be heard in the depths of our thoughts. So what’s with my fascination about words? Very simply: Where would we be without them? Scrabble players sure wouldn’t be happy.
This column is too short for such a huge topic. Still, there’s room enough for a few fun facts and figures that fascinated me when I found them.
The stats vary about the average number of words we speak a day ranging from 5,000 to 20,000. No surprise that women say more than men. In a lifetime, the average number of words uttered is approximately 900 million. I came up short trying to find out the daily average number of words spoken worldwide. Suppose it could be estimated by multiplying the earth’s population by the average number of verbalized words. Suffice it to say, the amount would be colossal.
The longest single-syllable word in the dictionary is “screeched” and the seven-letter word, “therein” is the only word in the English language that contains ten words without rearranging any of its letters–the, there, he, in, rein, her, here, ere, therein, herein. The combination “ough” can be pronounced in nine different ways. The following sentence contains them all: “A rough-coated, dough-faced, thoughtful ploughman strode through the streets of Scarborough; after falling into a slough, he coughed and hiccoughed.” The only 15-letter word spelled without repeating a letter is uncopyrightable even though spell check tried to tell me it wasn’t a word.
The longest book was written in the 17th century by Georges de Scudery. Cyrus the Great contains 2.1 million words on 13,095 pages. While I haven’t read it, I can recommend The Right Words at the Right Time by Marlo Thomas. Motivated by what her famous father, Danny told her at a critical time, she compiled an anthology of 100 stories written by remarkable men and women who share an experience when choice words changed their lives. Mark my words, the inspirations are timeless and there could be a timely message for you or one you can share at an opportune moment with someone else. For now, that’s my final word on this topic.
Originally published in the OC Register, Laguna Woods Edition, August 11, 2016