Saturday, 24 August 2013

The Horrb Truth About Engih

Whilst wasting time at work the other day Youtube was kind enough to recommend some clips from The Ricky Gervais Show.  Which was OK, I guess, if you're not bothered about two immensely rich and famous people basing a show around being a dick to their mate.

Which is pretty unfair, really, because Karl Pilkington is clearly a genius thinker, whose mind is simply too far beyond our puny comprehensions to understand.  His fear, for example, that we are gradually running out of words strikes me as entirely reasonable.  Consider, for example, that with only 26 letters, there can be only 456 976 distinct words. With over a quarter of a million words in our language, that's... er, well, that's enough, I guess.

Except shut up!  Every word has to have at least one vowel, right, or a "y" at least.  That excludes fully 160 000 words, leaving us with just under three hundred thousand words... which is still enough.  But that's still not good enough.  I can't imagine four letter words with three consecutive consonants catching on. There's a possible 96 000 of those, which gets us down to 200 976. And that's insufficient

Or is it? Not every word would have to be exactly four letters long, after all.  If we allow three letter words as well, that gives us extra options. There are 17 576 three letter combinations, though 8 000 of them have no vowels and can be discarded. That gets us to around 21 000 words, which is still not enough. We could add in two letter words (276) and single-word letters (the six vowels, say), but that's still not enough.

Which means, people of the world, that the English language cannot be condensed into a series of (theoretically, at least barely) pronounceable words of fewer than five letters! And once you insist on at least one vowel and no more than three consecutive consonants, there's only 676 1376 of those.

So, really, we could replace our entire dictionary with words of five or fewer letters, many of which the human mouth would have some chance of pronouncing!  I recommend this happen as quickly as possible, to allow us to sensibly track the progress of the language, and to drastically shorten all books in existence. Yes, many will object, but since the word "object" won't exist by the time we're done, it doesn't really matter. Er, mattr.  Right?

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