John McCaslin

As downsizing continues in journalism, it's difficult to find a top-notch White House correspondent who can get the facts straight when filing a White House pool report, as in the one this week: "Correction: The UN seal was on the podium, not the presidential seal. And it's Elmo, not Elmer, on Sesame Street."


As attempted, unsuccessfully, in previous congressional sessions, a pair of pro-English language bills were introduced in the Senate this week, one by Sen. James M. Inhofe, Oklahoma Republican, to declare English as the official language of the United States while establishing a uniform English language rule for naturalization.

In addition, Mr. Inhofe and 14 other senators offered a bill to amend the United States Code to declare English as the national language of the U.S. government.


No wonder there are so many opponents of making English the official language of the United States - a million words are difficult to learn, not the least being "obamamania."

Now we learn that the English language, which currently stands at about 999,500 words, will pass the "million word" mark on or about June 10, according to the Global Language Monitor (GLM). The latest words under consideration: defollow, defriend, greenwashing, chiconomics and noob.

In William Shakespeare's day, according to GLM president and chief word analyst Paul JJ Payack, there were only 2 million speakers of English and fewer than 100,000 words. Shakespeare himself coined some 1,700 words.

Thomas Jefferson invented about 200 words, and former President George W. Bush created a handful, the most prominent "misunderestimate." President Obama's surname passed into wordhood last year with the rise of "obamamania."

There are three momentous trends occurring in the English language today," says Mr. Payak. "First, this is an explosion in word creation - English words are being added to the language at the rate of some 14.7 words a day. The last time words were being added to the language at this rate was during Shakespeare's time.

"Second, a geographic explosion has taken place where some 1.53 billion people now speak English around the globe as a primary, auxiliary or business language. And, three, English has become, in fact, the first truly global language. Never before has a single language had the extent and influence as that of English."

Noob, by the way (often spelled and pronounced as nooby or newby), is short for a newcomer to the Internet.


John McCaslin

John McCaslin is a contributing columnist on and author of Inside The Beltway: Offbeat Stories, Scoops, and Shenanigans from around the Nation's Capital .

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