Decline and Fall of My Talk ThingyPosted: July 30, 2008
“Your vocabulary is somewhat lessened of late…” -Gandalf, LOTR/TTT (sort of)
Michel Thomas, one of my favorite autobots, er, polyglots… says that the ‘active vocabulary’ of anyone, in most major languages, is between 500 and 1500 words. 500 being the rough estimate for a 5th grader and 1500 for a reasonably developed speaker of the language. In NY, a major newspaper determined that they use only 600 words in a given sunday edition of their paper.
That’s handy if you want to learn a new language- you’ve only got to learn about 600 words and you should be all set. These seem like really low numbers. Maybe because the Merriam-Webster dictionary has just under a half million entries. It seems as though doing more (communication) with less (pointless words) works. It does make me wonder about all the other words, though. What are they for? I have a hard time believing that all those other words are specialized, industry specific words.
I try not to use fad words for more than about 4 weeks. But ive been using “nice” as an exclamation of approval for several years now. Yeah, it got old after about four weeks. I don’t even need big words or fancy words- just the excellent use of words. But if i keep using “nice” then i’m not really making good use of my active vocabulario. GAP rotates its offerings about every 6 weeks (3-4?), which is interesting, since khakis and polo’s are pretty much all they do. They have less variety and change things up more than any other place i know of. Less, apparently, is interchangeable and seems to be working.
So in comparison, my vocabulary looks like a Goodwill store. Scattered items, mainly utilitarian, bargain prices, reasonably accessible… and things can sit on shelf for a long, long time.