LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A U.S.-based language monitoring group crowned Web 2.0 as the one millionth word or phrase in the English language on Wednesday, although other linguists slammed it as nonsense and a stunt.
The Global Language Monitor, which uses a math formula to track the frequency of words and phrases in print and electronic media, said Web 2.0 appeared over 25,000 times in searches and was widely accepted, making it the legitimate, one millionth word.
It said Web 2.0 started out as a technical term meaning the next generation of World Wide Web products and services but had crossed into far wider circulation in the last six months.
Other linguists, however, denounced the list as pure publicity and unscientific, saying it was impossible to count English words in use or to agree on how many times a word must be used before it is officially accepted.
There are no set rules for such a count as there is no certified arbiter of what constitutes a legitimate English word and classifying the language is complicated by the number of compound words, verbs and obsolete terms.
“I think it’s pure fraud ... It’s not bad science. It’s nonsense,” Geoffrey Nunberg, a linguistics professor at the University of California at Berkeley, told reporters.
Paul JJ Payack, president of the Global Language Monitor, brushed off the criticism, saying his method was technically sound.
“If you want to count the stars in the sky, you have to define what a star is first and then count. Our criteria is quite plain and if you follow those criteria you can count words. Most academics say what we are doing is very valuable,” said Payack.
He has calculated that about 14.7 new English words or phrases are generated daily and said the five words leading up to the millionth highlighted how English was changing along with current social trends.
This list included “Jai Ho!” an Indian exclamation signifying victory or accomplishment, and “slumdog,” a derisive term for children living in the slums of India that became popular with the Oscar-winning movie “Slumdog Millionaire.”
The list also included “cloud computing,” meaning services delivered via the cloud or Internet, “carbon neutral,” a widely used term in the climate change debate, and “N00b,” a derogatory term from the gaming community for a newcomer.
“Some 400 years after the death of the Bard, the words and phrases were coined far from Stratford-Upon-Avon, emerging instead from Silicon Valley, India, China, and Poland, as well as Australia, Canada, the U.S. and the UK,” said Texas-based Payack.
Writing by Belinda Goldsmith, Editing by Miral Fahmy