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Update: The "English has 1 Million words" thing is a hoax

Language Log -- The “million word” hoax rolls along


Essentially it's just an author trying to sell a book.



In a previous installment of the Payack saga, I wrote that the Million Word March was "a progression that he turns on and off based on his publicity needs." So I can't say I was terribly surprised to learn that April 29, 2009 just happens to be the publication date of the paperback edition of Payack's book, A Million Words and Counting: How Global English Is Rewriting The World. What a stupendous coincidence that Global Language Monitor's word-counting algorithm has timed itself to accord with Payack's publishing schedule!


A quick review for newcomers to the story. Payack's million-word claim first popped up on our radar in early 2006. In February of that year, Payack told The Times of London that "the one millionth word is likely to be formed this summer." Then in August 2006 he said it would happen that coming November. In early 2007 I observed that the Million Word March seemed to have gotten stalled, and speculated that it might have had something to do with the serious debunkage the claims had received from Jesse Sheidlower on Slate and our own Geoff Nunberg on NPR's "Fresh Air." As it turns out, the more likely reason for Payack's slowdown had to do with rolling out his book to cash in on the lexico-quackery.