Depending on how you do the math, there are between a quarter-million and a million words in the English language. The 20-volume second edition of The Oxford English Dictionary boasts north of 291,500 entries. A Texas-based outfit, the Global Language Monitor, puts the number of words at 1,010,649—that's as of May 24, 2011—and growing at the rate of one new word every 98 minutes. Whatever the count, there are plenty of words to go around.
Of all these hundreds of thousands of words, only one do I hold in contempt. That word is "like"—not the tepid expression of mild appreciation but the parasitic form that now bleeds the mother tongue, marks the user as a dunce, and, were it truly understood, scandalizes our schools.
No word has less meaning or says as much about what has become of education.
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