The Internet “has changed English more rapidly than any invention since paper,” said Ben MacIntyre in the London Times. Literally thousands of new words are invented every month, most of them on the Web, and most by non-native speakers. Hybrid words coined by, say, Chinese or Hindi speakers are moving inexorably into the mainstream. By November of this year, the language will log its 1 millionth word. That’s 10 times the number of words in French. The last time such profusion occurred was during Shakespeare’s time, when “the rapid absorption of new terms and ideas through exploration, colonization, and science enabled a great flowering.” The Bard himself invented around 1,700 words, including “besmirch,” “anchovy,” “shudder,” and “impede.” In our own time, George Bush has given us “misunderestimate.” Even this tradition-bound newspaper has contributed: Last year, we reported that there was a Bantu word ilunga, meaning “a person who is ready to forgive any abuse for the first time, to tolerate it a second time, but never a third time.” Turns out there was no such word in Bantu. But thanks to the bloggers who discussed our article, “it exists now in English.”
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