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...where was I?
Anyway, the other day, when I was out for my walk and thinking philosophical thoughts about nature, I also was trying to think of a way to determine how many words I actually knew, as of that moment.
Just because I was curious, you see. I wondered whether there would be a way to determine how many words I knew as of any moment, other than simply listing the words I knew, which wouldn't be a real test because then you're just checking on memory, not really knowledge, and my memory is shot: I can barely recall what kind of pizza I had for breakfast today.*
*It was delicious, though.
I was thinking about that because I thought it also might be fun to increase my vocabulary (outside of computer-ese, even) and that it wouldn't hurt for me to know more words than I currently know, except, again, I wasn't sure how many words I knew.
What if, I wondered, I know ALL the words?
It's possible, you know. It was thought possible, at one time, to know everything that there was to know in the world -- to take all of the human knowledge that had ever been, well, known, and learn it, a task that grew more impossibly Sisyphean every day, when you consider that each day we learn more and more and that the person who learned everything that was to be known at any one point would therefore create a new fact -- the existence of the person who knew everything, and the fact that he knew it all and then didn't, almost an instant later when someone discovered a new bug.
(People say there was a person who knew everything there was to know, but people are stupid. They also can't decide who that person was. Most say it was Francis Bacon, some say Goethe, and others say maybe it's Kant.)(It was nobody. There was nobody, I think, who knew everything there was to know.)
But you could know all the words, I suppose -- a limited subset of knowledge, just like you could know all the elements or all the prime numbers mankind has identified. (I have no idea how many there are but I did look up the largest one found. It's 243112609-1, and it has 12,978,189 digits in it.)
So I hit on this quest to learn how many words I know as of now, now being
and right now
and right now
and so on, and a method to learn that, by deciding I would learn myself 15,842 new words.
I hit on that number by determining how many days I had been alive as of the day I decided to do this.
And I decided I'd learn those words by going to the Oxford English Dictionary online, because as it turns out, I don't own a dictionary and don't want to pay for one, and I could access most of that one for free, because I don't want to pay for words if it turns out I already own all of them.
Once there, I decided, I'd start by beginning at the beginning (always a good place to begin) and reading until I came to a word I didn't know. That word would be my new word, and I'd have learned it and gotten a count of how many words I knew... so far.
So here's New Word 1, which came just seven words into the dictionary -- or one word, depending on how you count it.
I got as far as a, which seems like a word I should know as I use it all the time, but version 7 of a is ...
...hold on: I just noticed that my typeface is different for italics than for regular: If I type a, it comes up a but if I type a it comes up a... weird.
Anyhow, version 7 of a is that it is used, archaically, as a war cry, but only when prefixed to a proper name, with the last-known use of it (according to OED, which ought to know) being
1908 K. Grahame Wind in Willows xii. 284 Mole, black and grim, brandishing his stick and shouting his awful war-cry, ‘A Mole!, A Mole!’
When next you go to battle with someone, revive that tactic: "A Sweetie! A Sweetie! I am having this pizza for breakfast!"