The Internet Could Save Millions of Words From Extinction

It is no secret. I love language. Not so much the English language – but certainly language in general.

In recent years, the English and Chinese languages, two of the most ubiquitous  languages of our time, have all but lost thousands of words. The assumption was that simpler words and fewer of them would make it easier for people to learn new concepts quickly and that it would just make communication faster, easier, and clearer.

Instead we have become very reliant on context and tone of voice. And since tone cannot be heard in print we use ALL CAPS *stars* bold and all sorts of other vain attempts to disambiguate things that could be made perfectly plain with a larger vocabulary. At the same time we are inventing new words to fill in gaps of meaning left by lost words.

Don’t get me wrong I am not opposed to the natural evolution of a languages, and actually favor strategic modification to make them more internally consistent and to clarify terms that might have fallen into murky ambiguity. I am certainly no fan of English in its present state, and think it could benefit from some repair.

However, I don’t think the solution is vocabulary reduction. So, I was very excited to see this conversation in the comments section of the definition of wont:

Comment: I used it [the word wont] in something I was writing. Editor said this generation wouldn’t be familiar with the word.

Reply: Then they can look it up on their iPad

Funny I had never thought of it quite this way before. We can start using our full vocabulary again and just link to the definition of words that boomers and beyond are not likely to be familiar with.

Now to dig out those rusty old words, blow off the dust, add a little oil, and write a few sentences I can be proud of.

… but what have we lost? I can hardly recall any of those fading words of which I used to be so fond. Do you remember our dear old friends?

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