While the Oxford Dictionaries admit it is impossible to make an accurate count, they allow that there are more than a quarter million distinct words in the English language. This doesn’t count the inflections, technical words, and regional vocabulary we use every day. If you add all the variants and forms of words, the slang and dialect popular in different regions and cultures, the count rises to close to three quarters of a million words. To say nothing of words coined daily by journalists, teens, and scientists, and writers.
According to the Global Language Monitor, the English language gained its one-millionth word on June 10, 2009. Their latest count on March 21, 2011 updates that number to 1,009,614 words.
If the average college graduate has a vocabulary of 38,000 dictionary words, there must be a reason to know and use that many words.
No matter how many words we humans have actually created, what counts is how we use them. If each word did not have a distinct and specific meaning, there would be no need to have more than a few hundred words in our vocabulary. Words with similar meanings would gradually disappear and the English language pared down to the minimum necessary for us to express our needs.
How are you using words in your scenes to create a specific reaction in the reader? How do you create a sense of discovery through careful word choice? What does your favorite author do that makes you re-read a paragraph to enjoy the sense and feel of the words?