The average English-language speaker knows between 25,000 and 40,000 words, according to Oxford English Dictionary (OED) Chief Editor Michael Proffitt, who recently appeared on CNN’s Amanpour interview show, hosted by Christiane Amanpour. The Oxford English Dictionary bills itself as the “definitive record of the English language.” To date, they have recorded 800,000 words and counting. This extremely interesting information came from CNN’s article “Thought you had a big vocabulary? Think again.”

“Even people who are doing 40,000, at the highest end, it’s about five percent of what we’ve got in the OED,” he said. “And that’s not all the words in the language.”

Proffitt is new to the OED and faces the challenges that comes with texting, tweeting, and other social media workarounds. You have to wonder how they plan to stay relevant. Proffitt doesn’t seem to be worried.

“It was one of the first reference works available on CD-ROM,” he said. “And then it was also one of the first reference works available online, in 2000.”

Words or terms you think are new or new-ish can be dated back to another century. For example, “omg” – an acronym-ish we think dates all the way back to the 80’s and valley girls – really had its first known usage in a 1917 letter written by a British admiral to none other than Winston Churchill.

Melody K. Smith

Sponsored by Access Innovations, the world leader in thesaurus, ontology, and taxonomy creation and metadata application.