Last night, I called Benjamin Zimmer to ask him about this elusive million-word milestone. Mr. Zimmer is executive producer of the Visual Thesaurus and a consultant to the Oxford English Dictionary. When I mentioned the subject of my call, I could hear his heart sink, the way your doctor sighs when you ask (again) about the health benefits of bull semen.
SOME NEW WORDS are extroverts – they want to be noticed. Just look at gobsmacked, currently in the spotlight along with Susan Boyle, the singing phenom from “Britain’s Got Talent,” and her 100 million YouTube hits. When Boyle told reporters she was “gobsmacked” at her reception, Ben Zimmer noted last week in his column at Visual Thesaurus, lookups of the word spiked sharply on Google Trends.