“Words Do Inspire”

It should come as not surprise that these were the words spoken by a great public speaker: “Words Do Inspire.” Words, as I mentioned in a previous post, are an inexhaustible resource.  They can be used and reused countless times in countless many ways and never get old from overuse.  Words like “I”, “the”, “as”, and the like are even less like inexhaustible and more like eternal.  Yet, the question today regards what exactly it is that makes a word truly inspiring.  Is it the context or can a word on its own, regardless of context, be innately inspiring?    Similarly, if a phrase is inspiring then where does the inspiration lie within that phrase?  I hope we can look at some of the greatest orators of our time and procure our own answers to these questions.

Can You Pick the Single Point of Inspiration?
Can You Pick the Single Point of Inspiration?

By this point, surely you, the reader, have already begun to form words in your head that are inspiring to you in particular.  These words may include but not be limited to examples such as “Glory”, “Endurance”, “Champion”, “Best”, “Teamwork”, or “Victory” which all invoke a sports-like feeling, recalling images of the Olympics or the World Cup.  Others of you may conjure up words such as “Positivity”, “Patience”, “Honesty”, “Happiness”, or “Smile”, of which all concern your own personality rather than a distant goal.  Still other readers may be thinking now of words like “God”, “Heaven”, or “Blessed” which are clearly more spiritual in nature and thus draw inspiration from beyond—rather than from within—oneself.  Each person is unique. Continue reading

Words: An Inexhaustable Resource

450,000 unique words.  That’s a low estimate of how many words exist in the English language today.  Spanish has something in the order of 200,000 words; Japanese word count (and this could contain archaic, medieval, and modern/contemporary words) is no less than 450,000 words in its arsenal; and if Korean contains just as many words derived from Chinese as Japanese then we should expect Korean to have a similar word count (roughly 400,000) as well.

A few questions come to mind almost immediately after reviewing these numbers.  First, why is it that every language needs literally hundreds of thousands of words in its dictionaries when, on a day-to-day basis, its users will almost never use more than a couple thousand? (maybe no more than 30,000 in their entire lifetime!) Second, if it is necessary to have so many words, why is it that every language in this day and age has about 300,000 words on average?  Why isn’t there a more diverse and varied range of vocabulary?  Last, if one language has more words in its dictionary than another language, does this mean that speakers of that language can express emotions that others can not? Can they think things that speakers of another language can not even fathom?

The First Folio
The First Folio

As you may already know, I am no expert in this field I am only asking the questions and posing my humble answers with high hopes of getting some feedback from you–the reader–and then standing happily corrected.  That being said, let’s address the first question: why is it that every language needs literally hundreds of thousands of words in its dictionaries when, on a day-to-day basis, its users will almost never use more than a couple thousand? If you want to get any idea for what it takes to have the largest vocabulary of anyone in the English language (and to hold that record for hundreds of years) look no further than to the many plays of William Shakespeare.  Within the pages of those (at least) 37 famous plays so eloquently written, are 31,534 unique words.  That means that we are not counting words like “and” or “or” more than once, ever. To go a bit deeper, statisticians have done a bit of research to try to determine the actual amount of words that Shakespeare knew but never used and have concluded that the Elizabethan playwright probably knew somewhere in the ballpark of 66,500 words.  Let me give you a moment to consider the magnitude of that number…66,500 words.

My point?  Simply this: The person with probably the highest vocabulary of anyone before or after him for hundred of years (who single-handedly invented thousands of words) knew no more than 15% of all the words in the English dictionary today.  If that is the case with the most eloquent man on earth, what is the case for the guy next door?  What about you?  What is the point of having so many words when we only need maybe 2% of them to function in society and 15% of them to be considered the most poignant and potent writer that ever graced the face of the earth? Continue reading