June 10, 2009

Web 2.0 Named One-Millionth English Word

Web 2.0 became the one-millionth word or phrase in the English language on Wednesday, Reuters reported.

Although some linguists slammed it as nonsense and a stunt, a U.S.-based language monitoring group saw fit to add it to the English lexicon.

The Global Language Monitor said Web 2.0 appeared over 25,000 times in searches and was widely accepted, making it the legitimate, one-millionth word.

The group uses a math formula to track the frequency of words and phrases in print and electronic media.

While it started out as a technical term meaning the next generation of World Wide Web products and services, the group said Web 2.0 had crossed into far wider circulation in the last six months.

However, other linguists have called the list unscientific and nothing more than pure publicity, arguing it was impossible to count English words in use or to agree on how many times a word must be used before it is officially accepted.

Most linguists agree that the number of compound words, verbs and obsolete terms, complicates attempts to classify the language and there are no set rules for such a count as there is no certified arbiter of what constitutes a legitimate English word.

Geoffrey Nunberg, a linguistics professor at the University of California at Berkeley, called the classification pure fraud.

"... It's not bad science. It's nonsense," he told reporters.

But the president of the Global Language Monitor, Paul JJ Payack, argued that his method was technically sound.

"If you want to count the stars in the sky, you have to define what a star is first and then count," said Payack.

He said his criteria is quite plain and when followed it can be used to count words.

Payack has calculated that about 14.7 new English words or phrases are generated daily and the five words leading up to the millionth highlighted how English was changing along with current social trends.

This list included several words that became popular with the Oscar-winning movie "Slumdog Millionaire," including "Jai Ho!" an Indian exclamation signifying victory or accomplishment, and "slumdog," a derisive term for children living in the slums of India.

The term "cloud computing," meaning services delivered via the cloud or Internet, "carbon neutral," a widely used term in the climate change debate, and "N00b," a derogatory term from the gaming community for a newcomer, were also added to the list.

The Texas-based Payack noted that these new words and phrases originated from Silicon Valley, India, China, and Poland, as well as Australia, Canada, the U.S. and the UK.

"Most academics say what we are doing is very valuable," said Payack.


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