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Vocabulary

Discussion in 'Snippets of Life (Non-Fiction)' started by jayasala42, Jul 26, 2017.

  1. jayasala42

    jayasala42 IL Hall of Fame

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    Of late we have been reading-only reading ,mostly not responding to the exchange of thoughts between Cheeniya Sir and Iravati with reference to Cheeniya Sir's ramblings on 'Quid-pro-quo with Gods.Out of 200 mails nearly 150 were penned by both the writers only.
    I have been simply scanning those mails with awe and wonder with a dictionary in my hand.I was wondering how many words would be in the vocabulary list of both.Will it be in millions? no, the dictionary is stated to contain nearly 5 lakhs words only.
    It is very difficult to compile a dictionary.The French Dictionary took 56 years to complete,Oxford English Dictionary took 71 years,German Dictionary took 106 years and
    the Italian Dictionary which was begun in 1863 is not complete even now.
    On any day have you made attempts to know approximately how many words you know in a language which you are capable of reading and writing well?
    Somehow we have the impression that English professors or people who love English will be great scholars with a rich vocabulary.With this impression we imagine that the originator of a dictionary would be a great scholar-uncompare-
    Amazingly Henry Murray ,the creator of Oxford English Dictionary Was the son of a tailor in Scotland.He had studied only upto class V111.He loved playing with words.He was able to recognize many words even when he was 18 months old.He could not attend school after 8th.But the entire village was aware of his intelligence and he was appointed as the headmaster of the village school.when he was 20..he knew twenty languages by that time his hold on English was remarkable.
    The philological society of England entrusted him with the job of preparing English-English Dictionary.This job had already started in 1857 and was kept untouched for the past 22 years.Murray thought that he might take around 10 years.But when he checked the reference materials he was stunned.There were millions of reference slips to be incorporated and edited,He had to build a separate shed to keep the slips.He spent all his time in writing the dictionary.All his 11 children helped him.Sometimes a single word took several months.The word'Do' took 6 months.
    Murray died at the age of 78 in 1915. By the time dictionary was written upto the letter'T' only.The complete dictionary was published in 1928 only with 4,14,825 words.Today with all definitions etc it
    will be much more.There have been dictionaries earlier even in 1400. Samuel Johnson's Dictionary had many short comings.
    Some interesting takes:-
    Normally we think that good English authors might know at least 50% of the words in the
    dictionary..But it is surprising to know
    Average native speakers at age 4 already know 5,000 words.
    Average native speakers at age 8 already know 10,000 words.
    Average adult native speakers know 20,000 to 35,000 words.
    Adult native speakers learn around 1 new word a day until middle age.
    Adult vocabulary growth basically stops by middle age
    More statistics about non-native English users:-
    Non-native English users have an average vocabulary size of 4,500 words.
    Non-native English users generally reach 10,000+ words by living abroad
    Non-native English users learn 2½ new words a day while living in an English-speaking country.
    While the vocabulary of even a great author of books living fully in India is likely to be around 5000 to 6000 at the most, I don't dare to estimate the extent of my vocabulary in English.
    No use of lamenting at 75.I will read what I can understand and leave the rest.

    When we see such exchanges of rich vocabulary which we have to understand only with a dictionary on hand,I am reminded of a book

    “ The Professor and the Madman “ by Simon Winchester. He writes of the origin of the Oxford English Dictionary.

    It is known as one of the greatest literary achievements in the history of English letters. The creation of the Oxford English Dictionary began in 1857, took seventy years to complete, drew from tens of thousands of brilliant minds, and organised the sprawling language into 414,825 precise definitions. But hidden within the rituals of its creation is a fascinating and mysterious story — a story of two remarkable men whose strange twenty-year relationship lies at the core of this historic undertaking.


    Professor James Murray, an astonishingly learned former schoolmaster and bank clerk, was the distinguished editor of the OED project. Dr. William Chester Minor, an American surgeon from New Haven, Connecticut, who had served in the Civil War, was one of thousands of contributors who submitted illustrative quotations of words to be used in the dictionary. But Minor was no ordinary contributor. He was remarkably prolific, sending thousands of neat, handwritten quotations from his home in the small village of Crowthorne, fifty miles from Oxford. On numerous occasions Murray invited Minor to visit Oxford and celebrate his work, but Murray’s offer was regularly — and mysteriously — refused.

    Thus the two men, for two decades, maintained a close relationship only through correspondence. Finally, in 1896, after Minor had sent nearly ten thousand definitions to the dictionary but had still never travelled from his home, a puzzled Murray set out to visit him. It was then that Murray finally learned the truth about Minor–that, in addition to being a masterful wordsmith, Minor was also a murderer, clinically insane — and locked up in Broadmoor, England’s harshest asylum for criminal lunatics.



    'THE PROFESSOR AND THE MADMAN' is an extraordinary tale of madness and genius, and the incredible obsessions of two men at the heart of the Oxford English Dictionary and literary history. With riveting insight and detail, Simon Winchester,the author, crafts a fascinating glimpse into one man’s tortured mind and his contribution to another man’s magnificent dictionary.
    The review writer of the book said


    “I found THE PROFESSOR AND THE MADMAN both enthralling and moving, in its brilliant reconstruction of a most improbable event: the major contributions made to the great Oxford English Dictionary by a deeply delusional, incarcerated “madman”, and the development of a true friendship between him and the editor of the OED. One sees here the redemptive potential of work and love in even the most deeply, “hopelessly,” psychotic.”

    When I was just going through the exchange of correspondence between two high intellectuals, this anecdote just came to my mind.Whether ordinary mortals like me with not much scholarship may not be able to understand the ABC but the resultant is a shining product resembling'Oxford English Dictionary.Hearty congrats and kudos to both the eminent writers.
    Let this be a motivation to many others to reach atleast 25% of their knowledge,vocabulary and writing skills.
    I am only a silent spectator.

    Jayasala 42
     
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  2. girvani

    girvani Platinum IL'ite

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    Dear Jayasala amma.
    I am so humbled. I didn't know anything about the work behind d creating dictionaries and I read twice to grasp. You have done a detailed literature survey and enlightened us. Thank you so much. It is mind blowing. I am learning the eargerness to continue learning new things and analysing details from you amma.

    Vani
     
  3. HariLakhera

    HariLakhera Platinum IL'ite

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    Dear Jayasala,
    Great job. English is an universal language today. Over the period it borrowed words from many other languages too. So many new words were added. At the same time so many words went out of use also.
    In my opinion the very purpose of language is to communicate in way that it conveys the intent of the writer or the speaker. I was told H. G. Wells used only 500 words and just see the volumes he created. M. K. Gandhi is another example who was not only factual but simple also in his choice of words.
    For some writers words come to them without effort and Cheeniya and Iravati are like them.
    When I read a book, I know many words I may not be knowing and may have to consult dictionary to understand them but that happens rarely because even if I know them they may not come naturally to me when I am speaking or writing. Besides, I understand what the writer wants to say referring to the sentences before or after that particular sentence.
     
  4. joylokhi

    joylokhi Platinum IL'ite

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    Dear Jayasala maam,
    I am as often amazed at the depth of thinking, knowledge and insight in your posts/ responses. Kudos for a specially thorough detail into the origin of the Oxford English Dictionary.
    This line especially has really moved me" One sees here the redemptive potential of work and love in even the most deeply, “hopelessly,” psychotic.”
    Often society which includes all of us, dismiss a mentally/psychologically unwell person as having no worth at all and subject to derision or at the most 'pity'.
    And, as rightly said by you, have been only reading through many of the posts, including the ones of Cheeniah sirs and Iravati's. Their writings often require equally good responses which need some time and commitment to get into. Thanks for the reminder that their writings need far more responses. Thanks again for a wonderful post.
     
  5. Viswamitra

    Viswamitra Finest Post Winner

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    Dear Smt. Jayasala:

    Thank you for sharing the synopsis of "The Professor and the madman" written by Simon Winchester. But for you, we would have never come to know how Oxford English Dictionary was developed and how an incarcerated American surgeon who was prosecuted for murder contributed for years with 10,000 words and definitions. Sometimes, I feel the best of brains are locked up in the cells for years.One of my friends in the UK has been visiting cells for the last 40 years to meet and greet incarcerated people on the birthdays of each one of his family members and now I understand the secret.

    Cheeniya Sir's and Iravati's written exchanges are extraordinary and often makes me feel like hiking a huge mountain and not a simple ladder. They are incarcerated in the high security prison of vocabulary and even if they wanted to feel free like me to write in simple English (only way I can write), they can't. They are also reservoir of knowledge as it is the case with you. Even coexisting in this environment with all of you itself is a privilege.

    Often, I would like to think nicely roasted Dosa's Cheeniya Sir's wife makes for him and Iravati's inclination to eat burnt mushrooms increase their vocabulary. But when I tried them, they failed me. They have built a warehouse of vocabulary in their brains and all they need to do is to shake or tilt the head a little to rattle out words that are beyond my reach. They are like Chiti Robot built by Rajnikanth in a movie to have taken the entire Oxford English dictionary into their brain by reading so much. I am just kidding! They must have built the use of vocabulary and writing skill through pain-staking efforts over several years.

    I need another whole life to read and understand what they write to each other unless they write the definition of each vocabulary in their posts. I have to congratulate you for attempting to read their posts. :)

    Viswa
     
    Last edited: Jul 27, 2017
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  6. jayasala42

    jayasala42 IL Hall of Fame

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    Dear Shri Hari lakhera,
    Thank you for your first response.I am amazed at the way these two are contributing.I may very well say that the very purpose of communication is to make others understand what they say.But it may be interpreted as a pretext under which I cover up my poor vocabulary.Sometimes the essence is lost when we are referring the dictionary for each word.However i enjoy reading those texts more than twice just to have literary pleasure.

    Jayasala 42
     
  7. jayasala42

    jayasala42 IL Hall of Fame

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    Dear Joylokhi, Thank you for your appreciation.Sometime back one of our relatives who is Ph. D. In English, who has authored some ten books told me that he knew hardly 3000 words in English.I was astonished and this resulted in the snippet and Iravati's responses came in handy.
    Jayasala 42
     
  8. jayasala42

    jayasala42 IL Hall of Fame

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    Dear Shri Viswa,
    During college days we had a flair to write bombastic English and felt it a pride when the lecturer announced that she needed a dictionary to read my essay.when I told my father( English cum History Teacher)he bombarded me saying that the content has more value than expression and there is no merit in writing bombastic English.On each chiding, I decided to write only simpler English so that anyone can read and understand what is written."I was advised." If you want to write in a heavier style, write and enjoy yourself and don't show it to others."My son also started writing high sounding words in his college days, but now he has subdued his tone.
    But it is undeniable that it is quite enjoyable to read high sounding words, though it is rather difficult to follow.

    jayasala 42
     
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  9. Rihana

    Rihana Moderator Staff Member IL Hall of Fame

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    In that IL thread, who is Murray and who is Minor?
     
  10. Cheeniya

    Cheeniya Super Moderator Staff Member IL Hall of Fame

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    @jayasala42
    I really wonder if this is meant to be a compliment or a dig! Thanks anyway.
     
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