"Literary elites love to rep Shakespeare's vocabulary: across his entire corpus, he uses 28,829 words, suggesting he knew over 100,000 words and arguably had the largest vocabulary, ever.
I decided to compare this data point against the most famous artists in hip hop. I used each artist's first 35,000 lyrics. That way, prolific artists, such as Jay–Z, could be compared to newer artists, such as Drake.
35,000 words covers 3–5 studio albums and EPs. I included mixtapes if the artist was just short of the 35,000 words. Quite a few rappers don't have enough official material to be included (e.g., Biggie, Kendrick Lamar). As a benchmark, I included data points for Shakespeare and Herman Melville, using the same approach (35,000 words across several plays for Shakespeare, first 35,000 of Moby Dick).
I used a research methodology called token analysis to determine each artist's vocabulary. Each word is counted once, so pimps, pimp, pimping, and pimpin are four unique words. To avoid issues with apostrophes (e.g., pimpin' vs. pimpin), they're removed from the dataset. It still isn't perfect. Hip hop is full of slang that is hard to transcribe (e.g., shorty vs. shawty), compound words (e.g., king shit), featured vocalists, and repetitive choruses.
It's still directionally interesting. Of the 85 artists in the dataset, let's take a look at who is on top."
(Matt Daniels, May 2014)
"The Adventure of English is a British television series (ITV) on the history of the English presented by Melvyn Bragg as well as a companion book, also written by Bragg. The series ran in 2003.
The series and the book are cast as an adventure story, or the biography of English as if it were a living being, covering the history of the language from its modest beginnings around 500 AD as a minor Germanic dialect to its rise as a truly established global language.
In the television series, Bragg explains the origins and spelling of many words based on the times in which they were introduced into the growing language that would eventually become modern English."
[Complete eight part series available on YouTube distributed by Maxwell's collection Pty Limited, Australia]
"Image [&] Narrative is a peer–reviewed e–journal on visual narratology and word and image studies in the broadest sense of the term. It does not focus on a narrowly defined corpus or theoretical framework, but questions the mutual shaping of literary and visual cultures. Beside tackling theoretical issues, it is a platform for reviews of real life examples. Each issue features three parts: 1) a thematic cluster, guest–edited by specialized scholars in the field; 2) a selection of various articles; 3) reviews of recent publications. Image [&] Narrative is a bilingual journal, which publishes contributions in either English or French, and which fosters cross–cultural and interdisciplinary dialogue between linguistic and scientific traditions."
"Dying metaphors. A newly invented metaphor assists thought by evoking a visual image, while on the other hand a metaphor which is technically 'dead' (e.g. iron resolution) has in effect reverted to being an ordinary word and can generally be used without loss of vividness. But in between these two classes there is a huge dump of worn–out metaphors which have lost all evocative power and are merely used because they save people the trouble of inventing phrases for themselves. Examples are: Ring the changes on, take up the cudgel for, toe the line, ride roughshod over, stand shoulder to shoulder with, play into the hands of, no axe to grind, grist to the mill, fishing in troubled waters, on the order of the day, Achilles' heel, swan song, hotbed. Many of these are used without knowledge of their meaning (what is a 'rift,' for instance?), and incompatible metaphors are frequently mixed, a sure sign that the writer is not interested in what he is saying. Some metaphors now current have been twisted out of their original meaning without those who use them even being aware of the fact. For example, toe the line is sometimes written as tow the line. Another example is the hammer and the anvil, now always used with the implication that the anvil gets the worst of it. In real life it is always the anvil that breaks the hammer, never the other way about: a writer who stopped to think what he was saying would avoid perverting the original phrase."
George Orwell (1950). "Shooting an Elephant and Other Essays", Secker & Warburg Publishers, UK.
"Hundreds of thousands of Africans, Asians and Latin Americans have started blogging, opening up a library of human knowledge in local languages to those who are willing to listen, and making the internet a far more multilingual and multicultural place (Block, 2004). A recent Technorati study found that Chinese and Japanese have overtaken English as the dominant languages of the blogosphere, and that growing native–language communities are emerging all over the net.6 Thus, the language issue in the context of Web 2.0 technology is increasingly less about content–creation and access, and more about content–transfer. Translating between two languages requires an appreciation of the 'intellectual, ideological and social understandings upon which speech is based' (Powell, 2006: 522). This is certainly one of the areas where Web 2.0 faces some serious challenges. Specialised sites, such as Global Voices Online (see Box 2), however, have been developed to organise, translate and distribute this local knowledge. And even when people are not blogging in their native languages, they are sharing knowledge about their local realities. Knowledge–creation is itself a hugely empowering experience for any individual, and the benefits of such empowerment will become more diffused as more people from the developing world join the global online discussion."
(Alberto Masetti–Zannini, p.21,22)
Alberto Masetti–Zannini, Web 2.0 and International Development NGOs
Knowledge Politics Quarterly, Volume 1 Issue 1 (Oct 2007), edited by Craig Berry